The newly amended version of HB 2020 unveiled last week included too many changes to count, many technical or semantic and some that are consequential to Oregon manufacturers. Unfortunately, the amendment retained one of the most indefensible provisions in the last sentence of the proposal.

The new language continues to include an emergency clause, which means it would become law as soon as Governor Kate Brown signed it. That, of course, means that voters would not have the opportunity to weigh in on whether this proposal was good for Oregon through the referendum process.

Applying an emergency clause to HB 2020 goes counter to the intent of emergency clauses in several important ways:

  • HB 2020 is a highly complex, technical law that will affect the Oregon economy, family budgets and the way Oregonians live. Many details of the law have been left for regulators to define and implement. Making it law before the rule-making process risks handing over too much influence to unelected bureaucrats.
  • Even without an emergency clause, the key provisions of the bill will not be implemented until 2021, when emissions caps would go into effect and a carbon market would be established. Rushing the bill into law not only is unwise, it is completely unnecessary.
  • There is bipartisan agreement on the need to reduce greenhouse gases, and, in fact, Oregon already has an impressive record of reducing carbon emissions – an effort that has included innovative approaches to environmental stewardship from many manufacturers. The 90-day standard waiting period between passage of a bill and enactment into law would show goodwill and make it easier for businesses to integrate new requirements with existing programs. A more collaborative approach ultimately would lead to better environmental practices.

Beyond the specifics of HB 2020, applying an emergency clause to this bill illustrates the reasons members of both parties have supported efforts to curb use of the emergency clause.

  • Since at least 2012, well more than half of all bills have carried emergency clauses. The definition of “emergency” has been vigorously debated by members of both parties, but no reasonable definition could be applied to more than half of legislation.
  • The Oregon Constitution guarantees citizens the ability to challenge legislation through referendum, except for bills that take effect sooner than 90 days because of emergency. The real reason for this emergency clause is obvious: Supporters of the bill do not want those who have concerns about it to have a chance to refer the bill to voters.

Lawmakers should do right by the people of Oregon and honor the integrity of the legislative process by removing this unnecessary provision.