Legislative Session Wrap-Up: Bills we successfully supported

Mary Kyle McCurdy
Wed, 07/26/2017 - 6:00pm

The 2017 legislative session was a long and winding road. Early land use threats died easily, while new ones cropped up at the final hour.

1000 Friends of Oregon achieved success with two of our major legislative goals – providing statewide transit funding in the Transportation Package and conserving working lands and natural resources in the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Bill. We also made significant strides towards ensuring that every town and city provide for the housing needs of all; work we will continue in future legislative sessions. And, we successfully fought back legislation that would have severely damaged Oregon’s land use planning program, its farms and ranches, and its iconic landscapes. 

We could not have achieved this without you, both through your financial support to 1000 Friends and your outreach to Oregon senators and representatives. We cannot emphasize enough how much it means to legislators to hear from their constituents. 

Here is a recap of the some of the major bills 1000 Friends SUPPORTED during the 2017 legislative session. If you have questions or comments about any of these or any bill that is not mentioned, please do not hesitate to contact Mary Kyle McCurdy, Deputy Director, at mkm@friends.org

Transportation for Oregon's Future: HB 2017 PASSED with meaningful investments in transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure!

1000 Friends’ major transportation objective was to ensure that the 2017 transportation package included an ongoing source of funding, at a significant level, to meet long-neglected transit needs statewide. From meeting basic transportation needs in rural communities in eastern Oregon to restoring weekend service in Salem, 1000 Friends and our partners achieved a deep and expansive commitment to transit for Oregon with HB 2017.

All Oregonians deserve a modern transportation system that provides options for how to meet their daily needs – with safe places to walk and bike, convenient transit, and well-maintained roads and bridges.  Over ¼ of Oregonians do not drive, yet for too long, Oregon has neglected investing in safe and accessible ways for our youth, older people, the transit-dependent, and those with physical challenges to get to work, school, and stores.  Oregon spends less on transit that almost any other state in the US.

HB 2017 establishes an employee payroll tax of 1/10th of 1%, which will raise approximately $103 million annually. This is more than a 200% increase in state funding for transit, which will make a significant difference in rural and urban areas across the state.[1]

This transit funding will be allocated as follows:[2]

  • 90% to transit districts and tribes
  • 5% to public transportation service providers based on a competitive grant program
  • 4% to public transportation service providers to provide improved public transportation services between two or more communities
  • 1% to the Department of Transportation to establish a technical resource center, to assist rural public transportation providers with training, transportation planning, and information technology

In addition, legislators recognized that while the employee payroll tax is small, it will have a regressive impact on lower income Oregonians, especially those who already pay a transit fare.  So, HB 2017 requires that every transit provider funded through this bill implement a plan to mitigate the impact on lower income riders, through such things as reduced fares, increased transit service to communities with more lower income families, expansion of service to communities with more lower income households, or other methods.[3]

HB 2017 also dedicates significant funding to the Safe Routes to Schools program - $10 million annually to make walking and bicycling safer within 1 mile of schools, increasing to $15 million in 2022.

In addition, HB 2017:

  • Increases the gasoline tax by 10 cents over six years, and increases registration and title fees, with most funds going to repair roads and bridges.
  • Accelerates adoption of electric cars and transit buses, funded in part through a vehicle dealer privilege tax.
  • Transfers the jurisdiction of certain roads, including transferring outer SE Powell Blvd. from ODOT to Portland.
  • Earmarks spending on specific roadway projects around the state.[4]
  • Provides for congestion pricing in the Portland-metro area, on I-5 and I-205.
  • Funds planning for additional capacity on three “bottleneck” areas in Portland region: Hwy. 217, I-5 at the Rose Garden Arena, and I-205 in Abernathy Bridge area.

1000 Friends is deeply grateful for the hard work of the Transportation for Oregon Coalition. This group fought for meaningful transit funding, investments in active transportation infrastructure, and for the prioritization of electric vehicle and other climate friendly solutions for Oregonians. We are very proud to be a part of this coalition. We also express our appreciation for the tireless work of the bipartisan leadership on this bill: Senators Lee Beyer and Brian Boquist and Representatives Caddy McKeown and Cliff Bentz.

HB 3249: Oregon Agricultural Heritage Bill

HB 3249 establishes a program that adds tools to conserve Oregon’s farm land, protect natural resources, and aid younger farmers coming into the industry.  The average age of Oregon farmers is about 60 years. As they retire or die those lands will be transferred at an unprecedented rate into the hands of others. As much as two-thirds (10.45 million acres) of Oregon’s agricultural lands could change hands the next 20 years.[5] Lands that must be sold quickly due to an unplanned estate are increasingly bought for non-farm uses by investors who might be holding the land in hopes of future development, and who are less likely than resident owners to contribute to the well-being of surrounding rural communities. 

Oregon’s land use program has been instrumental in dramatically slowing the conversion of agricultural lands to other uses. However, we still lose agricultural land to development, conversion to other uses, or conflicts due to uses allowed on neighboring properties.[6] Without additional tools in place, the upcoming unprecedented shift in ownership of farmland would likely accelerate those losses.

To provide some of those extra tools, 1000 Friends was proud to be one of many partners working for passage of HB 3249. This bill establishes a framework in which willing property owners may take advantage of existing federal funds to place working lands covenants or easements on their own land, to provide long term assurances that the land will remain available for agricultural production in the future. The funds that come to farmers through these transactions can then be reinvested in their farming businesses. The bill passed, but Oregon’s budget deficit prevented the legislature from providing operational funding for the program. However, they did provide $190,000 over the next biennium to develop rules and establish a Commission that will administer future program funds. 1000 Friends will be working with partners before the next legislative session to find a sustainable source of funding to get this program fully operational as soon as possible.

Housing for All: HB 2007/SB 1051

House Speaker Tina Kotek, a tireless leader for affordable housing, introduced HB 2007, a bill that represented a significant step forward to ensure development of sufficient and affordable housing for all Oregonians. Oregon's land use planning stands for housing for all, in all communities, as reflected in land use Goal 10, Housing:

“[P]lans shall encourage the availability of adequate numbers of needed housing units at price ranges and rent levels which are commensurate with the financial capabilities of Oregon households and allow for flexibility of housing location, type and density.

Yet, we have fallen short on this Goal - in supply, affordability, and diversity. The state economist estimates that Oregon is short 100,000 homes for middle income Oregonians, and over 110,000 homes for low income Oregonians, and this gap is growing.

We are not meeting the types of housing that many Oregonians need. Every community in Oregon has a similar profile, in which approximately 2/3 of all households are 1-2 people in size, a long-term trend and a percentage that is growing. These are the young couple who has not yet started a family, an older couple whose children have grown, the 20-something just starting out, the 70-something widow, the single parent with 1 or 2 children – they are nurses, teachers, electricians, medical technicians, the person who waited on you somewhere today. They want to live in walkable neighborhoods with good schools, age in the neighborhood they raised their children, live near the place they work. Yet, the vast majority of residential land in our towns and cities is zoned for single family, detached housing on lots of 5000 sq. ft. or more. And our neighborhoods have been zoned this way since the 1950s. We have zoned most of our residential lands in ways that functionally exclude a large percentage of Oregonians at any price point by not offering the type of housing they need, and certainly economically excludes many.

Failure to increase both the supply and diversity of housing for lower and middle income Oregonians will increase the price of all existing housing, regardless of its condition. HB 2007 took important steps to better ensure our towns and cities are providing for the housing needs of all, in every neighborhood. We supported HB 2007’s objectives to: ensure that every city provides clear & objective standards for all residential development on land zoned for residential use; provide more opportunities for “missing middle” housing types of ADUs and duplexes; and ensure that decisions about development in historic districts are made by an elected body that balances all policies in a transparent and public process.

While some of these key elements were removed from HB 2007 at the end of the legislative session, important elements were kept and moved to SB 1051, which passed.

Senate Bill 1051 will:

  • Expedite affordable housing permits
  • Strengthen requirements for clear & objective review standards for housing developments
  • Streamline local government procedures to make it easier to provide more housing, and especially affordable housing, in all Oregon communities
  • Allow additional dwelling units (ADUs) in single-family neighborhoods
  • Allow religious institutions to use their property to develop affordable housing
  • Define “needed housing” as all housing

1000 Friends of Oregon celebrates the good that will come from the policies promoted in SB 1051. We especially appreciate the support and collaboration of over 20 organizations, including nonprofit affordable housing providers, environmental organizations, small businesses, home builders, and community groups. Next session, we will be working to support additional mechanisms that strengthen these policies to fully address Oregon’s housing needs. Please join us in thanking the following legislators for their leadership in HB 2007/SB 1051: Representatives Tina KotekDuane StarkSusan McLain, and Pam Marsh.

Other bills we successfully supported include:

HB 2012
HB 2012 was a bipartisan bill focusing on real economic development issues in southeastern Oregon.  The bill defines the “Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region” and establishes a structure to examine economic and work force development issues in this region and recommend for improvements in education, work force training, land use, and other programs and regulations. It offers an opportunity for integrated, multi-agency evaluation of economic development issues in southeast Oregon.

1000 Friends hopes to remain involved in these conversations, and more, in support of a strong eastern Oregon economy and community.

HB 2745

This bill authorizes a funding mechanism and structure that local intergovernmental entities, most immediately applicable in central Oregon, can use to fund local transit.

 

More links and descriptions of these and other bills this session can be found on our 2017 Legislative Session Page.


[1] See Better Transit Oregon for descriptions of the transit improvements expected in rural areas, including communities served by Kayak Public Transit (Pendleton, Hermiston, La Grande and Walla Walla in eastern Oregon), Northeastern Oregon Transit (Baker City, La Grande, Enterprise), Rogue Valley Transportation District, and The Wave (Tillamook County)

[2] HB 2017, section 122(n)

[3] HB 2017, sec. 122(p)

[4] HB 2017, sec. 71(d)

[5] See Oregon State University, Portland State University, and Rogue Farm Corps, The Future of Oregon’s Agricultural Land, 2016.

[6] See Department of Land Conservation and Development, 2014-2015 Oregon Farm and Forest Report, January, 2017.