Posted By Curt Kipp,
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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The Oregon Legislature concluded its 2014 session last Friday, March 7, and according to Executive Director Jeff Stone, it was a mixed bag for the Oregon nursery industry.
"It was up and down," he said. "We reached compromise on the pollinators issue, and we had a seat at the table in the important land use planning debate, but we fell short on the driver's card issue."
In every odd-numbered year, the Oregon Legislature meets for a session no longer than 160 calendar days, starting on the first Monday in January. The bulk of the Legislature's work still takes place in these odd-year sessions. In 2010, even-year sessions were added, so that legislators could tackle matters that may require more immediate action, such as year-to-year fiscal adjustments. This was the third such session since the change. By statute, the even-year sessions can be no longer than 35 calendar days.
Here's a summary of major bills affecting the nursery industry during the 2014 session:
Driver's Card Ballot Title Rewrite — The driver's card bill was a landmark achievement in the 2013 session. It directed the state to create a limited four-year driver's card as an alternative to the regular, eight-year license. The bill is a public safety measure designed to make sure all qualified Oregon drivers are identified, tested and insured. It requires all applicants to prove they are Oregon residents. An anti-immigrant group fought the bill, securing enough signatures to delay implementation and force a referendum in the 2014 general election. After Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum wrote a poorly worded ballot title focusing on the legal status of driver card applicants, bill backers proposed a bill to substitute a more accurate description. The state House of Representatives approved the bill by a bipartisan vote of 36-24, but it died in the state Senate. "The driver's card bill is an important bill for the nursery industry and its workers, and we will continue to fight for it," Stone said.
Pollinators Task Force — House Bill 4139 was approved overwhelmingly by the House and Senate, and signed into law on March 6 by Gov. John Kitzhaber. It creates a Pollinator Health Task Force to look at effective ways of protecting pollinator health in the wake of a few highly publicized bee kill incidents last summer. It came after an initial proposal to reclassify neonicotinoids as “restricted use pesticides” drew objections from agricultural users, including the nursery industry. The classification would have meant that only licensed applicators could use the class of chemicals. The compromise bill had the support and participation of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Oregon Association of Nurseries, the insect advocacy group the Xerxes Society, and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley).
Land Use Grand Bargain — The House and Senate approved House Bill 4078, which removed legal uncertainty surrounding urban reserve and rural reserve designations that Metro made in Washington County. The bill is a short-term fix which leaves the Legislature more work to do when it reconvenes in 2015, but for now, it protects the designations that were made, and gives nursery owners greater certainty over the long-term regulations affecting their land. OAN members Rod Park and John Coulter, along with Jeff Stone, were involved in the negotiations that led to the compromise bill.
The 2014 session followed a highly successful 2013 session, which was deemed one of the association's best in its history. In addition to the driver's card bill, the OAN won the creation of a landmark water bill which will result in greater opportunities for conservation and water source development.
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