2018 Legislative Session Preview

Mary Kyle McCurdy
Tue, 01/30/2018 (All day)

The 2018 Oregon Legislative “short” session will get underway on February 5 and will end no later than March 9.  1000 Friends will be tracking about two dozen bills dealing with farm and forest lands, transportation, and housing.  These include bills we support and bills we strongly oppose.  Here are highlights of the most significant land use bills.

MAJOR THREATS TO OREGON'S LAND USE

These three bills all undermine the integrity of the Oregon land use program. They sacrifice working farms and forests for the financial gain of a few individual landowners, and compromise thoughtful policies that discourage sprawl.

SB 1502 – Open up Eastern Oregon to Development

HB 1502, introduced by Senate President Peter Courtney, would effectively remove most of the land use planning program from large swaths of Eastern Oregon – it applies to 15 of the 18 eastern Oregon counties.  The bill would allow any commercial and any industrial uses on lands outside urban growth boundaries that consist of agricultural soils of Class VI and above, declaring them to no longer be “resource” lands. Yet, these are the same lands, covering hundreds of thousands of acres, on which Oregon’s #1 agricultural product is raised – cattle and calves.  Of Oregon ‘s top 20 agricultural products, many are grown primarily in Eastern Oregon, including hay, wheat, potatoes, onions, mint, and, increasingly, dairy cattle. 

Land is the most critical asset for farmers and ranchers, supporting an industry that has been increasing in value steadily for decades, including through the recession. This industry is also a critical part of Oregon’s resiliency and ability to provide food for everyone. The iconic places and natural resources of Eastern Oregon also support a thriving, diverse, and growing tourism and recreation economy, including fishing, hunting, bicycling, hiking, camping, bird watching, boating, and more.

SB 1502 would allow any industrial and commercial uses “notwithstanding” the land use laws or any other law, except those related to sage grouse habitat and areas of critical state concern.  What uses could we expect to see?  More destination resorts, event centers, mining, race tracks, office parks, golf courses, and more. These uses are already allowed in areas where they would be appropriate and not in conflict with productive ranches, farms, and forests, and where they are regulated to reduce environmental and land use conflicts. Oregonians do not need to sacrifice the working lands and natural resources of Eastern Oregon for private development.

Share your opposition to SB 1502 with your own Senator and with Senate President Peter Courtney at sen.petercourtney@oregonlegislature.gov.

HB 4075: Allow Development on 1700 acres of Rural Reserves

Private land development interests are asking the legislature to change 1700 acres of high value exclusive farm use land in Washington County from rural reserves to urban reserves. Thousands of people in the metro area spent years participating in the designation of the region’s urban and rural reserves.  When Washington County did not follow the reserves law (which Multnomah and Clackamas did follow), residents and farmers appealed the decision, and the Court of Appeals agreed – Washington County broke the law.  Therefore, rural and urban reserves in Washington County were decided through a legislature-driven settlement almost 4 years ago. That's a settlement to which Washington County and Hillsboro agreed - by pledging their agreement before the Legislature in a public hearing. They need to keep their promise, and the people’s trust. If the Legislature upends the land use program for these 1700 acres, all the farm land protected by the reserves program is in jeopardy. 

It is time to stop talking about how to sprawl over some of the world’s best farm land and instead focus on affordable housing, better transit service, and walkable neighborhoods inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Share your opposition to HB 4075 with your Representative and Senator.

HB 4092: Aurora Airport

HB 4092 would supersite expansion of the Aurora Airport, impacting high value farm lands in the fertile French Prairie area of Marion and Clackamas counties.  A local land use process exists which, if the airport used it, could accommodate the needs of the airport, farmers, and nearby communities.  However, the airport has not even tried the local application, instead going to the legislature to try to get its own special bill.

BILLS WE SUPPORT

HB 4034: Technical Fix to Housing Bill

HB 4034 makes a technical fix to SB 1051, a bill we strongly supported last session. It passed and is now the law.  SB 1051 included provisions designed to increase the production of housing, including affordable and “missing middle” housing types.  One provision of SB 1051 requires that accessory dwelling units (ADUs) must be allowed in areas zoned for detached single family housing.  Previous versions of SB 1051 stated that this provision applied only inside urban growth boundaries.  However, due to a technical error, that “inside the UGB” language did not appear in the final bill.  HB 4034 fixes that error.

Without this fix, there will be confusion and pressure to allow ADUs outside UGBs, adversely impacting resource lands.  Most importantly, SB 1051 is about increasing housing options in areas where people need homes – close to jobs, schools, retail needs, and transit.   

HB 4001 / SB 1507:  Clean Energy Jobs

The Clean Energy Jobs (CEJ) bill is also known as the “Cap and Invest” bill. While there are two bills that vary a bit from one another, the main elements are the same.   The goal of the Cap and Invest program is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, counter climate change and mitigate its effects, and transition Oregon to a cleaner, healthier, sustainable, and more equitable economy.

The CEJ “caps” climate pollution from the state’s largest emitters – those emitting 25,000 tons or more of greenhouse gases per year. The cap will decline over time through 2050 to ensure Oregon reaches climate targets already set by the legislature.  The largest emitters would pay for the climate pollution emitted into the air, at a rate adjusted over time to incentivize reducing emissions while allowing flexibility to do so efficiently and at least cost. 

The legislation provides that the payments – hundreds of millions of dollars each year - would be invested in clean energy solutions – such as energy efficiency upgrades to irrigation and other infrastructure, homes, and businesses; investments in carbon absorbing forestry and agricultural practices; more transportation options; affordable solar; wildfire prevention; drought protection; clean energy technology; and job training programs. Investments will be focused on an equitable and just transition to clean energy, and in particular on rural and lower income communities.  

Join our partners at the Clean Energy Jobs Lobby Day on February 12 in Salem to help move Oregon to a clean and sustainable place for our children.

HB 4100:  Equine Therapy

An equine therapy facility in Bend (Healing Reins) was having difficulty permitting its uses, which include physical, occupation, and mental health therapy using horses (an outright farm use) but also related counseling and therapy off the horse (combined, this is called hippotherapy). We have been working with Farm Bureau and the operator to make this a conditional use on EFU land with some limited restrictions. These operations are state licensed and serve both disabled children and veterans. We will likely support this bill if it goes through with our suggested sideboards. 

BILLS TO WATCH

HB 4031: “Relating to the Use of Land”

HB 4031 has been introduced by Rep. Brian Clem. The current bill language is intended to make some small modifications to bills passed in the previous session. However, it has a very broad “Relating to” clause, meaning that those wanting to damage the land use program might try amending this bill to add their pet project.  We will be watching this bill closely and let you know if any mischief is proposed.

1000 Friends is participating in other bills, so please feel free to e-mail us if you have questions about any of the bills here or others.  mkm@friends.org