Oregon’s environment scored a number of important wins, but also took some hits in the GOP-walkout-shortened 2023 legislative session.
Your Oregon Chapter Sierra Club’s Legislative Committee was active, in conjunction with allied organizations, in advocating for key legislation via a contract lobbyist, members’ testimony and lobbying, and legislator meetings. If you want to get involved in our efforts for the 2024 session, send an email to Legislative Committee member Kyle Huth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oregon’s environment scored a number of important wins, but will be remembered primarily for the 42-day walkout by several Republican and 1 Independent Senators.
Your Oregon Chapter Sierra Club’s Legislative Committee was active, in conjunction with allied organizations, in advocating for key legislation via a contract lobbyist, members’ testimony and lobbying, and legislator meetings. The Committee also organized a lobby day, where volunteers and Sierra Club staff lobbied for priority legislation (read more about the lobby day here!). If you want to get involved in our efforts for the 2024 session, send an email to Legislative Committee member Kyle Huth at email@example.com.
With the Senate unable to supply a quorum as established by the state constitution due to the walk-out, legislation was stymied from May 3 through June 15, a time when many bills typically are finalized.
That resulted in a frantic, 10-day sprint to get bills passed, including most notably a state budget.
Among the most significant victories for the Sierra Club and other environmental groups:
- The Climate Resilience Package (HB 3409 and HB 3630), which included the Building Resilience and Natural Climate Solution bills, and provides $90 million in funding for an array of bills focused on climate. It also allows the state to vie for billions of dollars in Federal Funding through the Inflation Reduction Act. This package included provisions to accelerate deployment of heat pumps, update Oregon’s building code to make buildings more energy efficient, and extend the Solar + Storage rebate program, among other important steps.
- Two bills intended to cut waste in packaging: the Styrofoam Phase Out (SB 543), which also banned highly toxic PFAS chemicals in food packaging, and Legalizing Reusable Containers (SB 545), which allows for use of reusable containers in the bulk and produce sections of supermarkets and grocery stores.
- House Bill 2531 phases out fluorescent lights, which are less efficient than other alternatives and introduce toxic mercury into the environment.
- A weakened version of the Factory Farm Moratorium (SB 85), which created limits on the amount of water that can be used for livestock and increases oversight of factory farms. The Oregon League of Conservation Voters considered it a “significant first step” toward regulating these massive farms and potentially scaring off big corporate farming players, like giant chicken farms, from further expansion in the state. But more can be done.
- The Toxic Free Kids Modernization Act (HB 3043), which added more toxic chemicals to the list of banned substances, and Toxic Free Cosmetics (SB 546), which requires cosmetics companies to list all ingredients on their websites, and phases out use of toxins like formaldehyde.
- HB 2659, a bill that would have undone the Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities act, was defeated.
Unfortunately, several important bills that could have helped the environment didn’t make it to the finish line, including:
- Right to Repair (SB 542), which would have reduced electronic waste, and Reducing Plastics at the Source (SB 544), which would have cut use of single-use packaging by 25 percent within a decade.
- House Bill 3597, which would have prevented the permitting of new or expanded “chemical recycling” plants in the state.
- Senate Bill 426, which would have increased transparency about pesticide use at Oregon schools.
- House Bill 2903 would have increased funding for the state’s marine reserves program, to protect sea life off the Oregon coast. But instead the Legislature reduced its funding.
We hope that these and other missed opportunities can be addressed in 2024.
Following the walkouts, there is expected to be a judicial challenge to determine if those who missed more than 10 floor sessions can run for re-election, a limitation passed by the voters by a ballot measure in 2022. To prevent a future walk-out, it is possible a referendum or ballot initiative to update the quorum rules may occur. On Tuesday, August 8th, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade directed that legislators with 10 absences will not be allowed to file to run in 2024. Our Committee will continue to follow this story as it progresses.
We at the Chapter greatly appreciated the efforts by Speaker Rayfield and Senate President Wagner, along with several other key legislators, who were quite helpful on most environmental priorities. Although a large majority of those were Democrats, a small handful of Republicans supported a few of the bills that passed.