2007 Legislative Session

HB 2620- Solar Energy Investment Act. Governor Kulongoski signed this important bill into law on June 11. The bill requires that 1.5 percent of the total contract price for the construction, reconstruction, or major renovation of a public building be allocated for the inclusion of solar energy design and technology. The bill also allows public contracting agencies to determine whether the solar systems are appropriate for the project and to bank the 1.5 percent contract amount into a future project. I introduced this bill because Oregon needs to be at the forefront of developing and encouraging investment in solar technologies. By integrating solar technology into buildings, we help the environment and grow Oregon based industries while saving taxpayers money through increased efficiency.

HB 2468- Expansion of the Forest Legacy Program. In the last legislative session I introduced a bill to include Oregon in the federal Forest Legacy Program. This bill was enacted with a major restriction requiring the Forest Legacy Program be limited to properties wholly within urban growth boundaries. I introduced HB 2468 as an enhancement of legislation passed in the 2005 Oregon Legislature allowing Oregon to fully participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Legacy Program.

Established in 1990, the Forest Legacy Program provides federal moneys to assist in the protection of forestlands for the purpose of timber production, recreation, conservation, or other forest uses. In 2007, total allocations will be approximately $61.5 million. The conversion of forestland to non-forest uses is a great threat to Oregon’s economy and environment; and these pressures have increased greatly in a post Measure 37 Oregon. This program is designed to be flexible in meeting the desires of our state and local communities in the use of our forests.

HB 2617- Helping small businesses label their goods under their own label. This bill was developed out of the concern of a constituent who had problems with an existing statute. Under current law, only one business can be licensed at one physical location. This limitation makes it difficult for start-up businesses to share facilities and market their product under their own name because any new businesses are only able to conduct business under the original license.

HB 2617 helps small businesses in Oregon bring their products to market and promote their own business, using their own label. Originally this bill only applied to meat production, but as I worked with the Department of Agriculture, the department recognized that this same fix could be used in other areas. Working with the department and members of the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, I amended the original bill to apply to other food producers. This bill allows the Department of Agriculture to license a primary operator and additional users of custom slaughtering establishments, meat sellers, slaughterhouses, milk processors, manufacturers of dairy products, and bakeries.

Consumer Protection

HB 2871- 36% annual interest rate cap. The pay-day loan industry has been the focus of much attention in recent years over the outrageous interest rates and compiling debt that many consumers have fallen into. After a special session last year that attempted to solve the problem of 500% annual interest rates on the loans, the pay-day loan industry found a loophole in the law and continued their predatory practices. This new cap will correct this problem with a more universal annual interest rate cap. After discussing this bill in committee it became clear to me and the members of my committee that the practices of this industry are clearly predatory and that these outrageous interest rates must be stopped to protect the welfare of Oregonians. It is my hope that the industry will recognize the message that has been sent by this legislature through the passage of this bill: Oregonians will not tolerate predatory lending.

SB 117- Reinstating Oregon’s “No-Call” list. Oregon initially instituted a statewide “no-call” list where Oregonians could request to not receive telephone solicitation from businesses. Any business that violated this law was subject to penalties through the Oregon Attorney General’s office. This system worked well for Oregonians, but Oregon’s law was preempted by the federal no-call statute in 2003. During the time the Oregon law was in effect, it proved to be very effective at protecting consumers from unwanted telephone solicitation. This bill fixes the problem of the federal preemption and will allow our Attorney General to follow up and prosecute violations. This bill also condenses two no-call lists into one, making it easier for businesses to comply with the law. This is a good bill for Oregon consumers and businesses. This bill is expected to be signed by the Governor Kulongoski shortly.

Construction Claims Taskforce Bills. The Construction Claims Task Force was created to identify problems with current building practices and suggest ways of updating state law to address these concerns. This board recommended legislation to fix problems with issues such as water intruding into homes, untrained contractors, and unscrupulous contractors who sell defective products. The board’s recommendations included legislation that will require contractors to be trained in certain areas of construction, make sure that consumers know their rights with contractors, that consumers know about how to address maintenance issues, and contractors will be required to offer warrantees on their work- consumers can shop for different warrantees offered by different contractors. All of these bills are in various stages of the legislative process and it is my hope that they will be signed by the Governor before the close of this legislative session.

SB 684- Businesses that have going out of business sales must actually go out of business. We have all seen businesses that say they are going out of business by having a huge going out of business sale, and the sale lasts for several years or the business somehow doesn’t close. This is clearly a deceptive practice that can have major implications for stores in the same market. These sales undermine competition, as the store that is supposedly going out of business will sell goods at below cost, creating a rift in the market and disadvantaging other stores selling the same products legitimately. This is a simple bill that will help consumers and businesses by forcing businesses to behave honestly.