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Commision says short session isn't right time to grapple with emissions bill

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller called the short session attempt to pass cap and trade legislation a 'draconian legislative attempt.'Columbia County commissioners have voiced opposition to the cap and trade proposal currently working its way through the state Legislature.

Led by Commissioner Henry Heimuller, the three commissioners approved a resolution opposing SB 1530 at their Feb. 19 meeting.

SB 1530 is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions but, the local resolution stated, would "further burden the residents of Columbia County who are already burdened by the increasing costs of living in our communities through higher rents, increasing costs to purchase a home and additional tax burdens placed on them by the State of Oregon."

All three commissioners agreed that environmental protections are a priority for Oregonians but said the current cap and trade legislation isn't the right approach.

"It has nothing to do, as far as we're concerned, with whether or not we're environmentally stable or sound or concerned, but this isn't the right time," Heimuller said.

"It's the multiple amendments, it's the rush through in a short session, it's the ramifications and repercussions to rural Oregon," Commissioner Alex Tardif said of the issues with the legislation. Tardif said the legislation "comes down to creating a commodity where you're taxing the middle and lower class to make the 1% richer."

Commissioners voiced concern with the way the short legislative session has been used to grapple with particularly complex bills. The state legislature used to only meet in odd-numbered years. In 2010, voters agreed to allow annual sessions, with sessions of up to 35 days in even-numbered years. Some say the short sessions should only be used for "housekeeping" matters, like budget adjustments or minor revisions to bills from the prior session. The current cap and trade battle has become, critics assert, an example of legislators pushing bills through without adequate time for thorough examination and public input.

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