Gov. Kate Brown trimmed her veto list down to just two line-item vetoes on Friday, the deadline for the governor to decide which if any bills to kill after the 2019 session.
The governor vetoed a provision in House Bill 5050 that would have provided $500,000 to the Association of Oregon Counties to issue grants for Eastern Oregon counties to plan expansions of cities’ urban growth boundaries. In a letter Friday, Brown said a state agency should handle that process.
Brown also vetoed part of House Bill 2377 that would have cut $5 million in funding for the Oregon Medical Board’s rainy day fund.
The governor’s decision not to veto a bill to relax wetland protections, an action she had considered, angered some conservationists on Friday. House Bill 2437 will allow a 60-fold increase in the amount of material farmers can excavate from agricultural ditches without a state permit and allow the material to be dumped in wetlands. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose.
In a letter, Brown acknowledged the bill “significantly increases the allowed removal and disposal of materials in wetland areas without scientific basis for the new limit …” However, Brown said she also heard from lawmakers, conservationists, the Oregon Farm Bureau and county commissioners “that the current system is completely unworkable and unused, and that is the greater risk to wetlands and wildlife habitat.”
Two of those lawmakers, Rep. Susan McLain, D-Forest Grove, and Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, praised Brown’s decision to sign the bill into law. They described the law as “the product of a long, thorough workgroup process where conservation groups, farmers, state agencies, and others came together to figure out how to best resolve confusion over whether farmers need a fill and removal permit to maintain their drainage ditches.”
Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Portland Audubon Society, said the new law will pare back Oregon wetland regulations that could have allowed the state to counteract some of the environmental deregulation advocated by President Donald Trump.
He pointed out the governor made a point of criticizing Trump for rolling back environmental regulations, at a ceremony at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in May where she signed House Bill 2250. Under that law, Oregon government agencies will track any weakening of federal air and water protections and recommend changes to state law to compensate.
“As we sign the Oregon EPA into law, we send a signal to Washington, D.C., that rolling back federal environmental laws only creates uncertainty,” Brown said in a press release at the time. “By working together with other states, we can take a leadership role in preventing the erosion of core laws that protect our environment.”
Sallinger said he spoke with Brown’s staff at the event about the importance of rejecting the wetland and ditch bill.
“It’s pure hypocrisy for her to now turn around and buckle under pressure,” Sallinger said. “This is exactly the kind of stuff the Trump administration is going after.”
Brown also decided not to veto $4 million in state funding to help replace dams in Newport, as she was considering doing earlier this week.
That news was first reported earlier Friday by the Newport News-Times, which cited an interview with Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, who pushed back against the governor’s plan to line-item veto the money. Gomberg told the newspaper that Brown called him Thursday evening to deliver the news.