Nursery News: News

Walkout throws Legislature into uncertainty

Thursday, June 27, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Beth Farmer
Share |

The proposed carbon cap-and-trade bill appears dead, and the fate of several other bills is uncertain at best, in the wake of the Oregon Senate’s failure to achieve the quorum it needs to do business.

Republican senators left the chamber for the second time this session on June 20, when it became clear the Democratic majority would bring House Bill 2020 to a vote. Without at least two Republicans present, the Senate can't conduct business. Gov. Kate Brown exercised her right to send the State Police to retrieve absent senators, but none have been found and most indicated they had gone out of state.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Courtney (D-Salem) announced Tuesday the Senate lacks the votes to pass the carbon bill, but the Republicans have neither returned nor indicated when they will. Meanwhile, the Legislature’s constitutionally mandated date of adjournment is June 30. Any bill that is not passed by both chambers by then will die.

Gov. Brown has indicated she will call a special session on July 2 if the Legislature can’t finish its work by June 30, but any bills not passed by then would have to be reintroduced, complicating matters. About two-thirds of the state's budget hangs in the balance, as many of the large budget bills are awaiting a Senate vote.

Bills of importance to the Oregon Association of Nurseries include the House Bill 2020 aka the carbon bill (oppose), House Bill 2015 aka the driver’s license bill or Equal Access to Roads Act (support), and House Bill 2005 aka the paid family leave bill (oppose). The carbon bill does include an Oregon-grown plant procurement requirement, but would have also imposed much higher costs for fuel and natural gas that nurseries rely on.

“This carbon bill puts Oregon's businesses and economy at great risk, without any guarantee that it will make a perceptible difference in the climate crisis,” said OAN Government Relations chairwoman Leigh Geschwill, F&B Farms and Nursery. “The plants we produce help sequester carbon. Unfortunately, the Democrats in charge were unwilling to consider modest amendments to the bill that would make it possible for businesses to afford to comply."

Summing up the session, OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone noted that the gross receipts tax passed by the Legislature will have the greatest impact on growers.

“On balance the outcomes of this legislative session will present challenges to the nursery and greenhouse industry,” he said. “We did get a couple of issues across the finish line by securing two years of funding for Oregon State University statewide and experiment stations and Oregon Department of Agriculture’s nursery program. The driver’s license bill, which passed in a bipartisan vote in the Oregon House of Representatives, may suffer a delay. That is disappointing.”