Our elected representatives have returned to Salem. Every session they consider thousands of bills designed to modify or delete existing laws or create new ones to address current and emerging issues. This year there are a handful of bills related to invasive species. If you care about any of them, or if you care about protecting Oregon's economy and natural resources, now is the time to let your legislators know how you feel.
Bills come from a variety of sources, including citizens, lobbyists, business groups, etc. State agencies also propose legislation, usually to fix perceived problems with existing laws. Our ideas are vetted by the Department of Administrative Services and the Governor’s Office. If they survive, they become agency bills. State employees, like me, are officially neutral on all proposed legislation with the exception of “agency bills.”
A good example is HB 2247. This is an agency bill proposed by the Department of Agriculture. HB 2247 would delete obsolete statutes related to gorse, aquatic weeds, and experiment stations. Another section would get rid of a widely ignored law requiring farmers to post copies of the state weed law on all their farm machinery. All of these oldies predate the first edition of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) published a whopping 60 years ago! It is time they were retired.
The final section of HB 2247 would correct an error from two sessions ago when Oregon's weed statutes were consolidated into ORS chapter 569. Previous to that, our weed laws were scattered across three different chapters related to agriculture. When the consolidation occurred, the existing civil penalty provisions didn’t migrate to the new chapter. HB 2247 would fix that. I drafted the legislative concept that became HB 2247, and I’m allowed to tell you I think it would be a good idea if it passes.
SB 571 would add the Marine Board to the Oregon Invasive Species Council as well as another at large seat. This is not an agency bill, but it has the blessing of the Governor’s office, the Marine Board, and the Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC). ODA is neutral on this bill, but as the current chair of the OISC, I testified in favor of it on behalf of the Council. The Marine Board has been a valuable member of the Council and has had an at-large seat in recent years. It is especially important they be at the table now as we attempt to keep zebra and quagga mussels and other boat hitchhikers out of Oregon.
Other bills related to invasive species include:
SB 116 – reinstates the Shipping Transport of Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force, an important group that focuses on potential invasives associated with shipping pathways.
HB 2813 – bans Arundo donax (giant cane), a species currently being cultivated for biomass production to replace coal at the Boardman PGE plant. This species has been known to be invasive in warmer climates in the United States.
HB 2188 & HB 3364 – create mechanisms to enhance cooperation, coordination, and communication amng agencies that implement integrated pest management.
ODA is neutral on these bills, and I have to keep my opinions to myself, but if you’re not a state employee, you can speak up, join the legislative process, and let your voice be heard. One thing I’ve learned about the legislative process is that our representatives like to know what their constituents are thinking and relatively few people take the time to tell them.