2017 Environmental Scorecard for the Oregon Legislature

Oregon's 2016 Legislative Session

Short and Not-So-Sweet – but with a Big Win for Clean Energy

As the 2016 session approached, OLCV and our allies in the environmental community were once again focused on climate change. We helped build a statewide coalition in support of the Healthy Climate Bill, which would place a cap on emissions and allow for increased investment in greenhouse gas reduction strategies throughout the state.

Meanwhile, we were working on a ballot measure to remove coal from Oregon’s energy supply and replace it with renewable energy. Weeks before session started, the environmental community and Oregon’s public utilities reached an agreement to avoid a costly ballot fight - and it had to pass during the short session.

The environmental community also chose to prioritize inclusionary housing during the short session. Our state’s ban on local government policies to require affordable housing in new developments – allowed in 48 states – was an obstacle in addressing Oregon’s housing crisis. Oregonians were being forced to move further from jobs, amenities, and transportation options. That meant more greenhouse gas emissions.

Session started with a thud. The minority parties in both the House and the Senate refused to suspend rules that make it possible to efficiently run the Legislature. The tone of that first day continued until the bitter end of session. It became clear that bipartisan support was a requirement to avoid delay tactics and high drama.

With the public utilities and environmentalists working together on the Coal Transition and Clean Energy Plan, we were able to secure bipartisan votes and even bipartisan leadership from Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D – East Portland), Rep. Mark Johnson (R - Hood River), and Sen. Lee Beyer (R – Springfield). While the drama was inescapable, the bill passed – a big win for clean energy. Unfortunately, despite an impressive grassroots campaign led from all corners of the state, partisanship sunk the Healthy Climate Bill.

Meanwhile, an affordable housing package reflected the stark realities of the session. The inclusionary housing policy – while a step in the right direction - became simply too weak for us to actively support. To pass the inclusionary zoning bill, the Legislature also had to pass a pilot program to expand urban growth boundaries for affordable housing in two Oregon communities. We opposed this bill, but it passed with the barest of majorities in both chambers.

Finally, a bill that ratified the recent delisting of wolves from Oregon Endangered Species Act protections passed into law, ending chances for judicial oversight of the delisting decision. We are grateful to Senators Floyd Prozanski (D – Eugene) and Michael Dembrow (D – Portland) for nearly stopping the bill– but partisan rancor brought it back to life as session closed. The passage of the wolf bill set a dangerous precedent, bringing politics into decisions best left to science.

 
 

About OLCV

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters is a non-partisan organization with a simple mission: to pass laws that protect Oregon's environmental legacy, elect pro-environment candidates to office, and hold all of our elected officials accountable.

For more information about OLCV, visit our website at olcv.org.

About the Scorecard

For more than 40 years, OLCV has protected Oregon's natural legacy. An essential part of our work is holding our elected officials accountable. The OLCV Environmental Scorecard is not only one of our most important accountability tools, but also a tradition. The first scorecard was published in 1973.

By sharing how each member of the Legislature voted on the most critical conservation bills, we help Oregonians understand whether legislators listened to their constituents, or if they listened to special interest groups instead. It also serves as a summary of environmental bills and includes special recognition of the legislative champions.