March 2, 2017 Legislative Update

Deborah Boone

Greetings from Salem!

Tuesday was generally the deadline to introduce bills for consideration this legislative session.  After introduced by a Representative, a bill is assigned to a house committee, where public hearings and work sessions are held, during which time amendments can be added.  Not all bills receive a work session, but this is when a proposed bill receives its first vote, and if approved by committee, is referred to the chamber floor.  If a majority of all members vote to pass the bill, it then moves across to the Senate, where the same committee process begins again.  If the bill is amended by the Senate, after approval on the Senate floor, it must come back to the House for another vote on the amended version.   A bill that is introduced by a Senator works through the same procedure, starting on the Senate side before moving to the House.   If the final version of the bill is approved by both chambers, it then goes to the Governor’s desk, where she can veto it, sign it, or let it sit on her desk for five days before it becomes law without the Governor’s signature.  

This week I testified in the House Revenue Committee on HB 2859 on behalf of small woodlands owners and farmers.  As introduced, HB 2859 would eliminate all special assessments on farm and forest land by 2024.  By removing special assessments on Exclusive Farm Use land, personal property and equipment, famers could see their tax bill rising by 700 to 800 percent.  As farmers noted during their testimony, this would be catastrophic and make family farming in Oregon unsustainable.  A similar scenario exists for small woodland owners, who, upon implementation of this legislation, might have to clear cut large tracts of forest lands in order to cover their tax bill.   Every two years, the Committee on Revenue introduces these types of bills so lawmakers can examine special assessments and tax credits, and determine the ones that are the most beneficial for our state.  I believe that farming and forestry are so integral to Oregon’s economy and culture that it is inconceivable that Oregon lawmakers will eliminate these farm and forest land special assessments.  At the end of the meeting, Committee Chair Phil Barnhart told the farmers, ranchers and foresters that they had made their case, and the special assessments for farms and forest lands would continue, we await that written legislative amendment.

There was a joint meeting of the House Energy and Environment and Senate Environment and Natural Resources committees on Wednesday to hold a public hearing on bills relating to Climate Change.  HB 2135, HB 2468, SB 557 SB748 and LC (Legislative Concept) 1242 were all scheduled for discussion. The bills address different ways to deal with reducing carbon emissions. There are many options, including cap and trade, cap and invest, even a tax on carbon.  There was a huge turnout for the public hearing with hundreds of people coming from all parts of the state to testify.   There is tremendous interest in these issues and people expressed concern for protection of both the environment and economy.  There is a lot of work being done regionally on various climate change legislation, and we have potential partnerships with other west coast states, and Canadian Provinces like British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. Every time we implement a new system, we create opportunities for new jobs, so there is the real potential for economic growth.  We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we will be working to learn from other jurisdictions, so when we move forward we do so in a way that benefits Oregon.   

The Coastal Caucus, Senators and Representatives that represent our coastal legislative districts, meets weekly, and this week we had a very informative briefing from Matt Garrett, the Agency Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation.  One of Governor Brown’s priorities this session is a comprehensive transportation package, and Garrett says lawmakers are working on four overlapping areas that need to be addressed: preservation, congestion, transit and multi-model.  Director Garrett has a difficult job, because as ODOT works to repair and enhance our transportation network, he has to keep resiliency in mind, preparing Oregon for natural disaster damage, and the subsequent recovery from catastrophic events.   It was clear from the discussion that coastal lawmakers agree that the immediate needs of maintaining and building our transportation network is key, but we also need to “armor” the infrastructure so it can hold up during major events, and then be available to facilitate our economic recovery.

My office has been receiving lots of postcards from constituents regarding a variety of issues, and I want you to know I hear your voice, and appreciate your opinions.   However, I cannot reply individually if there is no return address.

In many cases the comments I have been receiving bundle state and federal issues.  For instance, there have been many comments regarding the possible transfer of federally owned lands into state ownership.  Constituents are expressing concerns about public access, and also due to Oregon’s budgetary constraints whether we would have the resources to be able to adequately manage huge tracts of land.  I agree with those concerns, but feel it is premature to worry about what the federal government might consider regarding land grants.

It was so nice to see many constituents this week, farmers and future farmers, OSU students and faculty, Port officials, and concerned citizens.  I value the input I receive, as it helps me make decisions that best represent House District 32.   If you are planning a trip to Salem, let my office know so we can schedule an appointment.   My office is H-481 and my door is always open to constituents.   If you have a concern or comment about a state agency, or proposed legislation, you can write, phone or email my office.

It is my privilege to serve you in the House of Representatives and I look forward to hearing from you.


Representative Deborah Boone

House District 32

email: I phone: 503-986-1432
address: 900 Court St NE, H-481, Salem, OR, 97301