Some potentially influential bills die a quiet death
By MITCH LIES
Oregon legislators last week ended the 2010 special session, only 25 days after it started.
The question on many minds is what happened? But more important may be what didn't happen.
Left by the wayside in the second special session in three years were several bills involving major policy changes that critics say didn't belong in a short session.
Among them was an attempt to resolve a decades-old question over the rights and responsibilities of river users and riverfront property owners.
Backers of the navigability bill, Senate Bill 1060, failed to gain support for even forming a task force.
Suffering a similar fate was a bill granting the state authority to step up regulation of ground water. Like the navigability issue, the exempt well provisions of Oregon law have been debated frequently and at length in recent sessions.
Like SB1060, House Bill 3661 failed to advance.
Bills that passed include one clarifying the rights of wineries in exclusive farm use zones to sell non-wine items. Senate Bill 1055 caps revenues the wineries can generate from non-wine items at 25 percent of a winery's retail sales.
The bill, which sunsets Jan. 1, 2013, is headed to the desk of Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
Also headed to the governor's desk is a bill allowing field burning on 11 Linn County fields that originally were intended to fall under the exceptions to last year's field burning ban.
The fields, which total 231 acres, inadvertently were included in the banned acreage, according to Oregon Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Lisa Hanson.
Upon the governor's signature, farmers will be free to burn that acreage under the steep terrain and identified species exception to the ban.
Lawmakers cleared the way for wholesale fuel distributors to blend fuel additives to prevent biodiesel from gelling in cold weather. House Bill 3693 gives distributors authority to dilute the biodiesel below Oregon's 2 percent standard during winter. Oregon initiated its biodiesel standard last year.
And in the midst of cutting some natural resource agency budgets in the final week of the session, lawmakers included $225,000 for monitoring and researching the emerging insect pest Drosophila suzukii.
Also in the final week, lawmakers exempted 14 farm families from paying $480,000 in estate taxes that the state assessed after changing a law in 2008 and making it retroactive to 2007. Among provisions in House Bill 3696, estates stung by the change in law are eligible for a refund. The provision applies to estates of decedents who died on or after Jan. 1, 2007, and before March 11, 2008.