SALEM — The Capitol acted like a giant lawmaking percolator on Tuesday, pouring out bills from committee and onto the floor of the House and Senate. While the Legislature unveiled its higher education spending plan, voted on two key environmental bills and debated a carbon pollution cap, several other actions of importance to Central Oregon were going on elsewhere. Some of the votes and events on Tuesday:
Cannabis legislation moves
A trio of bills dealing with cannabis were sent to Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday. The House voted 43-16 for Senate Bill 582, which authorizes the governor to negotiate interstate trade in marijuana.
The bill was actively supported by the marijuana production industry in Deschutes County. Neighboring California, Washington and Nevada have some form of legalized marijuana. Idaho does not. Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, and Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, voted “no” on the bill. Brown has said she will sign the legislation, but believes Congress must first decriminalize marijuana and allow for interstate commerce for any real deals to be struck.
The governor was also sent Senate Bill 420, which allows individuals with marijuana convictions for a now-legal activity to have their records cleared. Brown also got Senate Bill 975, which allows people with marijuana convictions to ask a court to reduce the offense classification on their record if the same crime has been reduced in classification since legalization.
Recreation industry, search and rescue bills likely stalled
A pair of outdoors-oriented bills backed by Bend-area lawmakers appear to have run out of time as the 2019 legislative session approaches its end.
House Bill 3251 would create an outdoor industry incubator program. House Bill 2503 reforms the way wilderness search and rescue operations are coordinated.
Both are mired in the backlog of bills in the Joint Committee of Ways and Means.
“I don’t think they will make it out,” said Erik Kancler, lobbyist for the city of Bend, which supports both bills. “But they are well-positioned to come back in the 2020 session.”
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend was a sponsor of the incubator bill, along with Helt and Zika. Helt was a chief co-sponsor of the search and rescue bill. She championed the legislation in memory of her friend and former employee, Ben Newkirk, who went missing while hiking on Middle Sister in November 2014.
Deschutes and Lane counties had to discuss who should lead the search since the county line ran right down the peak of Middle Sister.
Newkirk was found dead four days later.
Late attempt for affordable housing in Bend
Helt has two new bills aimed at affordable housing in Bend. It’s a long shot they will make it through the House and Senate before adjournment. It’s a chance Helt said she wants to take.
“Voters sent me here to work hard for them, and I will do it up to the last minute,” Helt said.
House Bill 3450 is a new bill that would change state law in a way to allow the city to tear down old strip malls along the Third Street corridor and build new structures with shops on the ground floor and apartments in additional floors.
The bill is on the desk of the House speaker, who will decide whether or not to assign it to one of the few committees still meeting.
A pending amendment to House Bill 3242 would accelerate the state’s sale of surplus land on Stevens Road. Though the State Land Board voted in October 2017 to dispose of the land, the laborious bureaucratic process currently wouldn’t allow a sale to the city for housing until 2022 or later.
Helt is planning a “gut-and-stuff,” where the contents of a stalled or dead bill are amended into a bill that is still active.
The bill is in the House Rules Committee.
Zika endorses top Democrat’s housing bill
Zika testified Tuesday in favor of an affordable housing bill that’s a top legislative priority of House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. Zika endorsed House Bill 2001 during an appearance before the Joint Committee On Ways and Means Subcommittee On Transportation and Economic Development.
The budget-writing committee is considering a $3.5 million request for state assistance to help cities implement the bill, which requires cities with a population greater than 10,000 to allow duplexes in areas zoned for single-family dwellings.
Zika, a Central Oregon conservative, is not a natural ally for Kotek, a Portland liberal. But Zika said that Kotek had worked with him and other Republicans to fashion a bill that was truly bipartisan.
“We all have an affordable housing crisis in our areas,” Zika said.
“This is not the silver bullet, but it will address some of the needs all our constituents have with affordable housing. It is not mandated, and it does not get rid of single-family residences — that was the big, bad thing everyone thought it did at the beginning.”
The bill is scheduled for a vote Wednesday to send it to the full committee.
Brown seeks new Deschutes County judge
Brown announced Tuesday that she is accepting applications to fill an opening on the Deschutes County Circuit Court created by the retirement of Judge A. Michael Adler, effective June 30.
Applicants should send interest forms to Misha Isaak, general counsel, in Brown’s office in Salem.
Forms must be received by 5 p.m. July 1.
Brown said she fills vacancies on merit and encourages applications from lawyers with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.
Under state law, at the time of appointment, candidates must be a citizen of the United States, a member of the Oregon State Bar and have their residence or principal office in the judicial district.
For questions, contact Shevaun Gutridge in Brown’s office at 503-378-6246 or email@example.com .
—Reporter: 541-640-2750, firstname.lastname@example.org