Pressure is on for legislators to move on several large policy bills. This session, legislative leadership has set its sights on 1. funding Medicaid; 2. increasing investment in education; and 3. creating a carbon cap and trade program.

As a major portion of the Medicaid funding package has cleared the finish line, focus has shifted toward the education investment and revenue package which was recently unveiled, leaving the carbon discussions to linger a while longer. While this policy has been pushed to the back burner and policy won’t be making it to the floor by the original committee goal date of Earth Day (April 22), interesting legislative action has continued, including the introduction of a high volume of amendments to the bill and elements of cap and trade surfacing in other legislation.

Amendments to HB 2020

At the end of March, the long awaited amendments to cap the cap and trade legislation HB 2020 were released. The -31 amendment has been the basis for committee discussion, but that hasn’t stopped legislators from introducing additional amendments. The highest numbered amendment released thus far is -60, and while not all have been submitted into the record, we know that at least 60 amendments have been created in this process. Because of the complexity of this issue and detail to the bill and amendments, committee staff have created a comprehensive grid identifying amendment numbers, dates, requesting legislator, and summaries. To learn more about what has been proposed to the committee, click here.

Oregon Climate Authority

One item front and center in the carbon policy discussion where the program would be housed. Legislators have been looking at a comprehensive restructure to the Department of Energy for the last few sessions, and while this is interlinked with cap and trade, the newly proposed structure is not addressed in the bill. In Governor Kate Brown’s recommended budget, she calls out plans to create the Oregon Climate Authority – which would cease operations of the Carbon Policy Office and the Oregon Department of Energy, and house a cap and trade market. On April 9, the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources passed SB 928 the Oregon Climate Authority bill out of committee with a request for the bill to go to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

Gas Rebate Program

One of the complex issues the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction took up in the newest proposal for the cap and trade program was the creation of a program that would give rebates to low-income fuel users. The committee has now introduced a separate bill, HB 3425 that if passed would go into effect only if a cap and trade program passed. The committee plans to hold a public hearing and possible work session on the bill on April 15.

Association of Oregon Counties Engagement

As discussions are evolving, Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) Interim Executive Director Mike Eliason is continuing to work with many other stakeholders on issues in the bill, including ensuring 50 percent split of fuel tax revenues between state and local government remains a part of the overall policy and that public contracting provisions are not onerous. In the current proposal, there are still many troubling issues, both with the transportation sections of the bill and the overall construction of the program.

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate