Some bills fall by the wayside as legislature reaches halfway point
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Oregon farmers can continue to experiment with giant cane, and water rights holders will not have to pay a $100 annual fee for each of their water rights -- at least not in the near future.
And folks changing water withdrawal points of diversion will not have to start evaluating whether the change will result in a loss of fish habitat.
Bills stipulating giant cane as a noxious weed, establishing a new water right management fee and requiring environmental evaluations for points of water diversion changes are among dozens of proposals laid to rest in the Oregon Legislature.
The death knell sounded when lawmakers failed to move the bills out of their committees of origin by April 18, a self-imposed legislative deadline.
Also a bill to label food with genetically engineered ingredients apparently has died, as has a bill allowing employees to put a lien on an employer's property when filing a wage claim.
As lawmakers hit the halfway point of the 2013 legislative session, many bills to impose new regulations and fees on agriculture were left behind. Others, however, still survive.
"There are a lot of bad bills that are still alive," said Ian Tolleson of the Oregon Farm Bureau.
"It is definitely a mixed bag," said agricultural lobbyist Roger Beyer, when asked to rate the session. "There is probably still more bad than good here."
"There still is a lot of work to be done and a lot of uneasiness," said Katie Fast of the Oregon Farm Bureau.
Paulette Pyle of Oregonians for Food and Shelter said OFS is keeping a close watch on several bills to regulate GE crop production, including four that were recently moved into the House Rules Committee:
* House Bill 2319 allows the Oregon Department of Agriculture to impose safeguards on crops to prevent the spread of GE materials.
* House Bill 2715 authorizes counties to establish control areas for commodities containing GE materials.
* House Bill 2736 exempts farmers from liability for inadvertent acquisition or use of GE plants or seeds.
* House Bill 3476 prohibits importation of GE fish into Oregon.
Other bills still alive that are causing concern among the farm lobby include a bill Beyer has called "public enemy number one for agriculture."
House Bill 2504, which is in the House Revenue Committee, calls for the state to end property tax breaks on, among other property, farm machinery, irrigation equipment, livestock, grain, hay and seed.
Other bills of interest that are still alive include:
* Senate Bill 633, which would bar counties and other government bodies below the state level from imposing regulations on the production of GE crops.
* Senate Bill 833, which would create a pathway for undocumented immigrants to obtain Oregon driving privileges.
* Senate Bill 839, which would create a development fund for future water supply projects.
* House Bill 2624, which would allow counties to opt out of a ban on the use of dogs to hunt cougars if voters approve the exemption in a county election.
* House Bill 2427, which would create a three-year moratorium on the production of canola in the Willamette Valley.
* House Bill 3452, which allows ranchers in zones of chronic wolf depredation to kill wolves attacking or chasing livestock without first obtaining a permit.
* House Bill 2259, which gives authority to the Oregon Water Resources Department to raise fees up to 2 percent annually, or at the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.
* Senate Bill 841, which regulates winery activities in exclusive farm zones.