Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015 Legislative session.....OVER!!!!

Salem - capitol calling it quits for 2015!
Well, there you have it - in a nutshell....done deal. As of July 6th the the legislature adjourned for the last time - Tom Wolf, Executive Director of Oregon TU forwarded the latest updates. in general it was described as a tough session - between Governor changes and contentious bills much work was done through big distractions. Tom did note all the ODFW bills have passed and the key TU interest bills; we should all look forward to helping direct ODFW in the future.

So here is the breakdown per Tom...........

Greatest Achievement 2015:
Passage of HB 2402 , a bill which would set up a task force to look at long range funding and reform of ODFW.

With the right task force - including TU representation - we can really make some important changes in ODFW both in funding and reform. Hopefully the task force will look at cutting unnecessary programs that don't have benefit and are too expensive (such as a few hatcheries), look at creative ways to fund ODFW, get money from wildlife viewing segment of ODFW user groups, get more General Fund dollars, avoid raising license fees for many years and maybe even lower them and finally make some real changes in ODFW that could allow them to focus more on their conservation message. If ODFW funding was tied more to the general fund and other money, then ODFW could worry less about money from license dollars and focus more on conservation.

HB 2402 came out of conservation discussions that I and a couple others had with Governor's Natural Resources office - I testified on it several times, talked to many legislators about it and helped write amendments that made it a better bill.

This could be the most important bill I ever worked on in all my years in Salem.

HB 3012 [creates stable funding for the Hatchery Research Center] - passed June 30 in the Senate 28-0; on it's way to Governor to be signed. The hatchery Research Center has been doing some great research and now will have adequate funding to continue.

HB 3315 [allows ODFW to bill other state agencies for work done on the behalf of the other agencies] - bill appears to lighten the budgetary load of ODFW; passed and headed for signature to the Governor's office.

HB 3333 [use of moneys from salmon registration plate surcharge] - requires that portion of surcharge moneys from salmon registration plate program directed to fund controlled by Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board be used only for projects to protect or restore native salmon habitat or to remove artificial obstructions to native salmon migration; a result of the MISAPPROPRIATION OF THESE FUNDS in the past. Passed and looking for Governor's signature.

SB 5511 [appropriates moneys from General Fund to State Department of Fish and Wildlife for certain biennial expenses. Limits certain biennial expenditures from fees, moneys or other revenues] - will provide needed funding with long term stability for conservation positions and programs for ODFW to carry out their conservation mission; passed and headed to the Governor for signature.

SB 247 [ODFW license fee increase] - includes in part the Western Oregon Stream Restoration program [$1m]; passed in the House 34-26. Now it goes to Governor.

SB 202 [creates task force to look at creating science advisory body for independent scientific review of Oregon Natural Resource policy; replaces Independent Multidisciplinary Science Team]. It is also going to Governor.

HB 2182 [requires ODFW to develop a predator management plan and report back to legislature on it - including pinnipeds and seabirds that feed on salmon]. This is a good bill and TU supported it. Passed and looking for signature from the Governor.

SB 175 [strengthens penalties for fish and wildlife violations] - supported strongly by TU; passed and on the Governors desk for signature.

SB 830 [Suction Dredge mining] - removes the moratorium from the bill passed 2 years ago; keeps and adds various restrictions on suction dredge mining and raises fees. It is a good bill and provides very good protection for fish. Recreational mining interests could not work with the restrictions and have allowed the bill to die; this means a complete moratorium will be in place after 2016.

HB 3217 [so-called Artificial Beaver Dam bill] - promoted as a bill about stream restoration, the broad wording would allow large, permanent dams on systems without “removal-fill” permits from the Department of State Lands and without the fish passage required by Oregon law. This bill would prevent future restoration by allowing large permanent dams that disrupt stream flows, increase stream temperatures and prevent fish passage. Opposed by TU, WaterWatch, Native Fish Society, American Fisheries Society, and Northwest Steelheaders. Bill is dead in Senate. Governor Brown had promised a veto should it pass as currently written.

HB 3225 [Relating to the safe transport of hazardous materials] - requires State Fire Marshal to adopt plan by rule for coordinated response to oil or hazardous material spills or releases that occur during rail transport. Requires office of State Fire Marshal to annually coordinate with certain persons to prepare report on coordinated response plan. Establishes Oil and Hazardous Material Transportation by Rail Action Fund. Continuously appropriates moneys in fund to Department of State Police for use by office of State Fire Marshal for development and implementation of coordinated response plan. Did not pass out of the Senate.

So that wraps it up for 2015....what does Tom have to say about 2017?

Tom Wolf, Oregon Council Executive Director
State and private forest pesticide reform - this is an issue which this years legislators missed out on - the attempt HB 613 - died. I know Dean Finnerty has been working on this issue and working with conservation/fishing/hunting groups. TU can be a real leader in creating a good bill that could actually do something on this issue.

River access/navigability - I know this is an issue that is near and dear to TU members hearts in Oregon. It would be a good time to create a bill which would end the confusion of the process in Oregon, which requires State Land Board, to actually designate a river or segment of river in Oregon as navigable [this despite the fact that in the Oregon Constitution, Oregonians are supposed to have access to any river deemed navigable]. The current system is not effective and hopefully we can pass legislation that clears up the process.

Hatchery reform - how do we reform how hatcheries are managed and update them, as well as get rid old state hatcheries; or acquire funding to up date them. Maybe this is something we do with ODFW or maybe we need to pass bill.

Creating Department of Natural Resources - the current coordination of all the state NR agencies is very pathetic and maybe it is time to create a DNR in Oregon, as many other states have. This could help greatly with efforts to protect wild native salmonids and their habitat.

Fish and wildlife enforcement reform - currently Oregon is one of only 2 states in the nation which uses the state police to enforce fish and wildlife laws, instead of game warden method. through fish and wildlife agency. The state police can't dedicate their whole time to enforcement and because of their union are very expensive. ODFW is interested in doing this as well and we need to work on this reform.

TU WSI - working on a bill that help's with TU's wild Steelhead Initiative. I have no ideas off the top of my head but I am sure others might.

THANK YOU Tom for all your expertise and effort in Salem!