Saturday, March 30, 2013

Legislative Update, Week 8 - conversations about the gas tax

Contemplating the gas tax
Monday brings a hearing on changing the gax tax to "allow revenue from taxes on motor vehicle fuel and ownership, operation or use of motor vehicles to be used for transportation projects that will prevent or reduce pollution and congestion created by use of motor vehicles." This would require a amendment to the Oregon Constitution and commensurately higher voting totals.

An Oregonian headline writer showed the systemic bias against which the proposal will struggle: "How can Oregon cyclists help pay their way?" as if they don't already, and missing all the ways that people on bike and other non-drivers and non-driving activity actually subsidize people driving cars - free parking, using property taxes and other non-gas tax revenue to fund roads, and so on. A better question is how can Oregon drivers better pay for the roads?  And maybe the best question of all is, how can we create a better system to fund the total transportation system.

Active transport
and smoking
But as we see with the studded tire debate, the question for drivers runs into the wall and gets a flat tire! It is question on which the optics wholly trump truth and reality.  We aren't yet ready to look at the legacy of a mid-century monoculture that subsidized and built out a transportation system based on the drive-alone auto trip.  The drive-alone trip and the system behind it is the clear-cutting solution to the forest and thickets of a transportation ecosystem.  Monoculture is easier to grasp and looks more efficient, but it's not.

BikePortland has more on Representative Jules Bailey and House Joint Resolution 9 and the uphill struggle. KATU also filed a story:
“We’re opposed to any further dilution of the state highway fund,” said Mike McArthur, the executive director of the Association of Oregon Counties.

McArthur argues highway funding is thin to being with as gas tax revenues decline.

“We’d have more deterioration of the roads we have now,” he said. “We’re not keeping up with what we’ve got.”

McArthur said he supports bicyclists and owns three bikes himself, but argues more bikes do not necessarily take cars off the roads.
The House Committee On Transportation and Economic Development will talk about the gax tax (House Joint Resolution 9) and hold a public hearing on Monday, April 1st at 3pm in Hearing room E.

The Joint SubCommittee On Transportation and Economic Development will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 9, on cell phone use in cars, on April 1st at 1pm in Hearing room 174. I still find this bill as amended very confusing and it takes too much brainpower on a sunny Saturday morning to parse it out. (Maybe someone can help?)

More updates after the jump.

Paying for the Roads

  • ConnectOregon V reform -  House Bill 2310 to fund "ConnectOregon" has moved out of committee after last week's hearing and will go to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.  Amendments to include bike/ped projects were adopted in committee and it's now in the Ways and Means Committee.   Senate Bill 247 and House Bill 3348 looks to be dead.
  • Studded tires.  House Bills 2277, 2278, and 2397 would add fees to offset the damage studded tires cause. Still no amendments or movement.  Look stalled.
  • Tax on Carbon: House Bill 2792  "Imposes tax on each fuel supplier and utility based on amount of carbon in carbon-based fuel that is sold by fuel supplier to consumers in state or that is used to produce carbon-generated electricity supplied by utility to consumers in state."  "Sustainable" City of Salem opposes this billNo action.  Also:  SB 537, HB 2874, HB 2497.  No action on these.
  •  House Joint Resolution 9 -"Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to allow revenue from taxes on motor vehicle fuel and ownership, operation or use of motor vehicles to be used for transportation projects that will prevent or reduce pollution and congestion created by use of motor vehicles."  Big talk!  See above.   Hearing on Monday.
  • House Bill 2276 would increase the gas tax.  No action.  
  • House Bill 2453 - "Requires persons operating certain high-mileage motor vehicles to pay per-mile road usage charge or flat annual road usage charge." There was a public hearing on Wednesday, and two amendments mostly about privacy were adopted.  The bill with amendments hasn't been posted to the web yet, and there's not a next hearing scheduled for the House Revenue Committee.
  • House Bill 2500 looks to expand the "types of costs that qualify as approved transportation costs for purposes of State School Fund distributions."  These would include "Expenditures made to improve  safety for students traveling to school by means that are not provided by the school district and that:
    (i) Include walking or using a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or similar device..."  Still no movement.  May be stalled?
  • Senate Bill 756 would allow "Department of Transportation to accept donations to State Parks and Recreation Department Fund for purpose of improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Permits registered owner of vehicle to make donation to fund when registration is renewed." Public hearing last week, no amendments adopted or other movement.   But the prevailing sentiment, again one that is counterfactual - seemed to be that people on bike needed to have "some skin in the game." 
  • Senate Bill 769 "Requires registration of bicycles. Imposes $10 registration fee. Creates offense of failure to register bicycle. Punishes by presumptive fine of $25. Provides exemptions. Creates offense of failure to ensure bicycle registration. Punishes by presumptive fine of $25. Provides exemptions. Creates offense of failure to report change of ownership or change of address to Department of Transportation. Punishes by presumptive fine of $25. Establishes Bicycle Transportation Improvement Fund. Continuously appropriates moneys in fund to Department of Transportation for bicycle related transportation improvement projects."  No action. 
Road Safety (and "Safety")
  • Celphones, texting, and distracted driving - Senate Bill 9 filed by Senator Courtney would "increase the penalty [for using a cel phone while driving] from a Class D violation to a Class B violation, which means the maximum fine would increase from $250 to $1,000. The minimum fine would increase from $60 to $130."  The amendments are still baffling.  Hopefully folks will chime in with some clarification.  I have no idea what this bill really means.  Senate Bill 294 would create an exception in existing law for taxi-cab drivers to use a hand-held celphone while driving. It passed the Senate and is in the House. No action.
  • House Bill 2732 is a ban on headphone while on bike and allows mopeds on multi-use paths.  No action.
  • Senate Bill 332 would establish a "Task  Force  on  Bicycle  Safety."  Senator Jackie Winters proposed this, and the bill as introduced is mostly procedural and otherwise content-free at the moment.  No action.  
  • Senate Bill 741 would require persons "of any age to wear helmet when using bicycle, skateboard, scooter, in-line skates or roller skates when participating in organized exhibition, competition or contest." Senate Bill 742 would require kids "under 18 years of age to wear protective headgear while operating or riding on bicycle, riding on skateboard or scooter or using in-line skates or roller skates, on public or private land." Hearing held last week, and BikePortland has more.  The committee chair apparently said "We will allow Senator Edwards to think about it" and perhaps there will be amendments, or perhaps the bills will stall and die.
  • House Bill 3320 would create a new residential speed limit of 20 mph.  No action.
  • House Bill 2115 would broaden the definition of intoxicating substances for the purposes of DUI citations.   A public hearing and work sessions have generated three proposed amendments, but none were adopted and so there is no formal action yet. 
  • HB 3047 would double the length of a motor vehicle license suspension from 10 to 20 years.  Hearing held, but no action or amendments yet.There is a work session now scheduled for Wednesday, April 3rd.
Other Stuff
  • House Bill 2338 "Creates Task Force on Extending the Westside Express Service Commuter Line to Salem."  I think this is dead.   Somewhere I read that because of the Oregon Passenger Rail study currently in process, it was felt this would have set in motion a redundant study.  
 It's gloriously sunny and if I have missed anything - please add a comment!

All of this year's legislative updates are tagged 2013 Legislative Session.


Anonymous said...

"But bike taxes don’t make philosophical sense. When drivers see a bicyclist on the roadway, they shouldn’t see someone who is using transportation facilities without paying for them. Instead they should see someone who won’t be competing for a parking space, won’t add to time- and fuel-wasting congestion, won’t contribute to the need to build more highways and won’t pump pounds of pollution into the air.

A government that wants less of something should impose a tax on it. But governments, and the people who support them, should want more people on bicycles, not fewer."

Register Guard editorial today.

Anonymous said...

From the Oregonian:

"'Oregon Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, introduced his proposal to open up the highway trust fund by saying this is the third time he’s sponsored the bill and the first time he's received a hearing on it.

"We'll call that progress," he said....

A public hearing on the resolution in House Transportation and Economic Development this afternoon was brief, orderly — and most likely the last of the session.

"It's unlikely there will be another hearing," said an aide for committee chairman Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, after the hearing....

The proposal will die in committee, without another hearing or work session planned.'

Doug's Transportation Ramblings said...

I am convinced that it is a waste of time to fiddle with the highway fund. Even if the legislature were to pass a bill, it would have to go on the ballot. It was not that long ago that Oregon voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure to fund the State Police from the highway fund. We should instead be looking at all the other monies that are going to support motor vehicle travel and be thinking about ways to use them on a truly multi-modal system. That would not require a constitutional amendment.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks, anon x2!

We miss your commentary on the legislature, Doug! Clearly, from Read's comments on the hearing, it is, just as you say, a waste of time. A classic "non-starter."