Mid-Session Update

Kim Wallan


It has been a hectic few weeks here in our Capitol. As quickly as things change during long session, the compressed, 35-day short session moves even faster. Read on to learn which bills have already been passed over, and what we're still anticipating in the final two weeks.

Prescription Drug Re-importation

I was excited to introduce a bill, HB 4147, that would have allowed Oregonians to order their prescription medications from Canada for less than they're offered here. Unfortunately, the Chair of the House Healthcare Committee had concerns about Canada's reaction to this bill, and it did not progress pass the first week. We will continue to introduce legislation that will put pressure on insurance companies and drug manufacturers to provide life-saving medications at affordable prices. 

Ambulance Funding

My second short-session bill, HB 4060, would allow private ambulance companies like Mercy Flights to receive full reimbursement for Medicaid patients. Unfortunately, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) waited until the day of the scheduling deadline to voice their concerns about this bill. Had they communicated with us earlier, we could have worked to incorporate amendments that would have moved this bill forward. Despite OHA's protest, this is a common-sense legislative fix that I hope to see passed in the next long session. 

SB 1530, Cap and Trade

The bill that everyone is watching with the most attention, SB 1530, creates an emissions-pricing program that will increase costs of everything from food to home heating. The following is a list of state agencies that will have responsibilities to administer some part of this program: 

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD)
Housing and Community Services Department (HCSD)
Special Districts, Cities, Counties
Department of Administrative Services (DAS)
Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS)
Department of Energy (DOE)
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
Department of Forestry (ODF)
Department of Justice (DOJ)
Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD)
Employment Department (OED)
Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC)
Legislative Revenue Office (LRO)
Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA)
Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)
Oregon Judicial Department (OJD)
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB)
Public Utility Commission (PUC)

These agencies already have legislative directives and jobs to do. This adds complicated layers on top of those duties. It's a massive list and this bill is moving fast. So, it should not be any surprise that the agencies don't have the time to know with any certainty what this program will cost taxpayers immediately or in future years. The idea that paying for this with "future revenue from the program" still means that it will be paid for with money from Oregonians, obviously. 

Hospitals, nursing homes, schools, colleges, mom and pop businesses, and everyday Oregonians are the ones who will pay through higher gas prices, higher costs to heat and cool buildings--all for an imperceptible benefit to our climate. 

That is the most shocking fact that has come out through testimony last year. Expert testimony, on the record: Oregon's entry onto the global scene as a leader in the climate marketplace would produce an imperceptible impact on global emissions. An imperceptible benefit while we scrimp to cover the higher costs of everything we use daily. 

For those still with me--the first year of the program will COST a probably vastly-underestimated $20 Million to prop it up. But the truth is, no one knows what it will cost. And with all of the roadblocks to transparency ground into this legislative sausage, we may never know. The bill creates a black box that we can't have access to. It stops us from even tracking spending in a way that is accountable to Oregonians. As a member of the Transparency Commission, I am very offended by this. It's hard to believe so many poor decisions could be piled into one piece of legislation. 

As for the impacts on this latest version of the plan on funding for roads, we don't know. The revenue analysis is basically a blank sheet of paper. We also don't know whether the plan is constitutional in the way it was drafted and moved through the legislative process. There is now a Legislative Counsel legal opinion stating that the bill constitutes a tax. All revenue-raising measures, according to the Oregon Constitution, must originate in the House. SB 1530 originated in the Senate. The supporters are willing to pass it and let the courts sort this out.

This is not good government. This is absolute power. No republicans in the legislature support this bill and even a few democrats oppose it. No one knows enough about the impact of this legislation, but I know how to judge this bill: I have to decide if the balance between its stated public policy goals and its impacts on my constituents is worth it. It is not. I choose to serve my community, to serve others, to stand up for you. I am in Salem to represent you and share your burdens. That is my job. And because that is my job, I can't--I won't--just sit back and do nothing to stop this bad bill from becoming the law of the land for the next 30 years. 

I am proud to be joined in opposition by our Jackson County Commissioners and Commissioners from 25 other counties in Oregon. Over 66% of Oregon County Commissions have signed proclamations in opposition to cap and trade. They understand the devastating financial burden this bill would place on the citizens in our districts, and we are united in opposing it. 

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1406
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, H-376, Salem, OR 97301
Email: Rep.KimWallan@oregonlegislature.gov
Website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/wallan