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Lawmakers try to fix rural reserve law

Mateusz Perkowski

Capital Press

An update on agriculture-related bills winding through the Oregon legislature.

Lawmakers in Oregon have hammered out a proposed legislative fix to resolve a land use dispute.

The deal relates to designations for urban and rural reserves developed by Metro, a regional government for the Portland area.

The plan, which was intended to guide development and protect farmland in the Portland region for the next 50 years, was approved by Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Commission in 2012.

However, the boundaries of the urban and rural reserves came under fire from property owners, municipalities and nonprofits, who challenged the plan in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

On Feb. 20, the appellate court ruled that LCDC committed several errors in approving the plan and sent it back to the agency for revisions.

After the decision, Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, said he was optimistic the ruling would galvanize support for a legislative fix proposed earlier in the 2014 session.

“What looked like dropping a bomb will bring people together,” he said.

Disputes over the boundaries for urban and rural reserves aren’t insurmountable, said Clem. “People aren’t that far off.”

On Feb. 25, the House Rules Committee held a work session on proposed amendments to the previous land use bill.

The amendments primarily focus on urban and rural boundaries near Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove and other areas within Washington County.

The Metro regional government, which previously opposed the legislative fix, has changed its mind due to the court decision and now backs the amended version.

“The court’s ruling would send the region back to the drawing board, creating much greater uncertainty at a time when predictability and progress are needed,” said Randy Tucker, its legislative affairs manager, in submitted testimony.

Metro supports the legislative fix because the region needs a final map for planning development now, he said.

The amended bill continues to be considered in the House Rules Committee.


Crop donation bill


A bill that would extend and increase tax credits for crop donations appears to be headed for a vote in the House.

SB 1541, which increases the tax credit from 10 percent to 15 percent and extends it until 2020, was previously approved by the Senate.

The House Revenue Committee recommended passing the bill at a Feb. 25 work session.

During a previous hearing, farmer John Zielinski urged the committee to adopt an even higher tax credit rate because 15 percent would barely cover the cost of accounting paperwork.

“I would love to see it where it would actually incentivize people at 25 percent,” he said.

However, the committee approved the bill at the 15 percent rate, which would cause Oregon to forgo roughly $2.5 million in total revenue while the credit is in place.

The bill now awaits a second reading, which typically precedes a vote before the entire House.


Pollinator health


Legislation that would require Oregon State University and a task force to study pesticide effects on pollinator health has passed both the House and Senate.

On Feb. 24, the bill passed the Senate 27-2 after previously being approved by the House, and now awaits the signature of Gov. John Kitzhaber.

A previous version of the bill would have restricted the use of certain “neonicotinoid” pesticides but those provisions were dropped in favor of an eight-member task force that may recommend legislation for the 2015 session.



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