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House Bill 2745B will allow communities to pursue voter-approved funding to form new transit district

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - House Bill 2745B received support from all Central Oregon communities as well as Central Oregon Intergovernment Council, which operates the Cascade East Transit regional public bus system.

New legislation was signed into law two weeks ago that will provide a new approach to funding public transportation in communities throughout the state.

News that Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2745B was well-received by the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, which proclaimed the occasion in a news release issued last Tuesday.

COIC calls the legislation an innovative approach to funding transit in Central Oregon, and notes that it was specifically designed to meet the needs of Central Oregon. Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles introduced the bill, which the House passed 53 to 7 and the Senate passed 22 to 8 earlier this spring.

COIC operates Cascades East Transit (CET), which spans nearly 100 miles north to south and 50 miles east to west, providing transit service to rural and urban communities including Crook County. Formed in 2008, it is currently the largest transit provider in Oregon, but it has no dedicated, stable funding.

HB 2745B will enable COIC to pursue voter-approved funding, which it could not do before since the organization was formed under state statute ORS 190. The legislation amends state statute ORS 190 and allows COIC to seek voter approved funding when and if communities choose to pursue transit funding.

An advisory committee was formed in 2012 to research transit funding options and recommended this model. HB 2745B was supported by all Central Oregon cities and chambers of commerce.

"This provides the opportunity to fund transit reliably and efficiently while assuring local control and flexibility for each community," said Karen Friend, COIC Executive Director. HB2745B ensures local control, so each community decides when they need transit and how much it's willing to pay for it.

"While this is a big win for Central Oregon, there are no immediate changes to CET service as a result of the House bill," Friend said. "We look forward to working with each of the Central Oregon communities to determine if their voters desire to expand transit service. Simply providing Central Oregon the option to fund transit at a level most appropriate for each community is a huge milestone for our regional transit service."

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