Low-carbon fuel standard passes House

Contentious bill is headed to Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

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The Democratic majority in the Oregon House passed the Carbon Fuels Program despite staunch opposition by Republicans.

The bill will become law once Gov. Kate Brown signs it, which is expected to happen, the Portland Tribune reports:

Senate Bill 324 would make permanent the fuel standard set out in a 2009 bill. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality spent several years writing rules to implement it, but the existing law is set to sunset this year before the agency can implement the regulations.

Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson, D-Portland, said in a floor speech that a survey recently commissioned by the Portland Tribune showed a “wide majority of Oregonians believe that the state should be doing more to limit greenhouse gas emissions.” Vega Pederson said a majority of respondents also wanted the state to do more to make alternative fuels available.

Legislators spent more than five hours debating as Republicans did what they could to derail the bill.

The Portland Business Journal reports that GOP lawmakers were intent on connecting the bill to former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s alleged ethical missteps.

Kitzhaber resigned over allegations Hayes leveraged her public role to enrich her private business advocating for clean energy policy. The couple is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.

“I don’t believe this body should at this time make this decision to make permanent this controversial program because of what we know was going on in the executive branch, and what we don’t know,” said Rep. Mike McClane, the House Republican leader, who unsuccessfully called for the House to put the vote off until later in the session. “It’s important to let these investigations take place. The credibility of our executive branch will take decades to recover.”

Cities, counties press Oregon legislature to revise legal pot law

Local governments want to be able to levy their own taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana in their jurisdictions.

OregonLive.com reports on the pressure being put on state lawmakers.

“Frankly, I would prefer to work with you than go to court,” Rob Bovett, legal counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties, told legislators studying the implementation of Measure 91.

Bovett presented an eight-page legal memoalso signed by Sean O’Day, general counsel of the League of Oregon Cities, arguing that both state and federal law could trump the new law’s provisions. Sponsors of the initiative say they banned local taxes to ensure that retail prices stay low enough to compete with the black market. And they argue that only local voters – not a city or county council – should be able to decide to ban local pot sales.

The passage of Measure 91 could be a boon to entrepreneurs as it has created a modern-day Green Rush, as reported in the March issue of Oregon Business.

Bills requiring insurance for ridesharing companies being considered

An alliance of Portland taxi companies is backing a bill that would require companies like Uber and Lyft to carry commercial insurance at all times.

Willamette Week reports:

The bills have garnered broad support in the legislature: the cabs’ proposal, House Bill 2995, is sponsored by Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Portland) and eight co-sponsors, while the insurer-backed bill, House Bill 2237, has seven sponsors.Uber is urging lawmakers to wait until the city rules are written. 

“We think the Portland process is going very well,” says Uber regional manager Brooke Steger, “and could be a model for the state.”

Cab companies have been urging lawmakers to force the new companies to operate under the same rules to even the playing field.