The 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature adjourned on Monday evening — and for nurseries, the things that didn't happen were just as significant as the things that did.
"The OAN was successful this session with over 90 percent of the issues we pushed becoming law," OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said. "The OAN agenda in Salem received strong bipartisan support and demonstrates the respect and voice the industry has in our state capitol. We were able to prevent a minimum wage increase, while working successfully to protect plant health and get more funding for water supply development, agricultural research and pollinator health."
Bills that would have raised the minimum wage to either $13 or $15 failed to gain support. The OAN argued that such bills would further harm Oregon's ability to compete against growers in other states who already pay less than Oregon's current minimum wage of $9.25 per hour.
There are, however, several good bills awaiting the governor's signature.
House Bills 5005 and 5030 passed on the last day of the session, and will provide $50 million for the critical issue of water supply development. Senate Bill 266 supports community water planning, and also passed. "This funding is a good first step toward addressing the larger drought issue that is facing state water users including agriculture," Stone said.
House Bill 3362 will provide for outreach on pollinator health. The association worked with several organizations to secure an additional $14 million for Oregon State University Statewides program, dollars for outreach and education for pollinator health and funding for an OSU bee diagnostic center. The association is also pleased with the continued investment by the state in the natural resource agencies that serve the industry.
House Bill 5024 will increase extension funding for Oregon State University by $14 million. This will allow the filling of several extension faculty positions that have gone vacant for years, and also pay for creation of a pollinator diagnostic center at OSU.
Finally, an update to the state nursery license program passed in the form of Senate Bill 256. The bill was supported by the OAN and allows the state to revoke shipping permits of nurseries in extreme cases of negligence, when the grower violates plant health standards. This is necessary to stop the spread of pests and pathogens as plant material moves through the industry. The bill permits nursery license fee increases if they are needed at a later date. All fees are used exclusively to support nursery-related programs by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
The OAN consistently meets with lawmakers through the association's Government Relations Committee. The association has been invited by legislators to discuss minimum wage with labor, business and low income advocates.