The 2021 session of the Oregon Legislature ended June 26. It was a difficult session, in part because Covid eliminated in-person hearings and opportunities to meet with lawmakers. Unfortunately, many proposals that would have been good for animals failed to get traction or stalled at the finish line. On the bright side, we helped stop several proposals that would have been bad for animals; and state agencies received funding to advance animal-friendly programs.
More than 80 proposals (bills) hit our radar at some point as potentially affecting animals. Among the most significant:
House Bill 2728, the bill to ban coyote-killing contests, was passed by the House of Representatives (thanks to the leadership of chief sponsor Representative Brad Witt) but Senator Lee Beyer, chair of the Senate committee, wouldn't give it a hearing in the Senate.
House Bill 2924, chief-sponsored by Representative Rob Nosse, and Senate Bill 583, chief sponsored by Senator Michael Dembrow, would have put a moratorium on factory dairies (2,500 cows or more). Senator Beyer's committee (Energy and Environment) held a hearing on SB 583 but did not schedule the bill for a vote.
Bills to ban fur sales, traveling animal acts, mink farming, and animal testing for cosmetics failed to get enough traction for a public hearing.
On the bright side, we helped stop House Bill 3167, which would have continued "predator control districts" to raise money for killing wildlife deemed a risk to private property. Special thanks to Senator Rob Wagner, who declined despite significant pressure to give the bill a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee and to Representative Pham, who advocated against the bill in the House Committee on Revenue.
Meanwhile, House Bill 3187, a bill to create a "Wildlife Council" to promote hunting and fishing (potentially at the expense of other enjoyment of Oregon's wildlife and fish) failed to move forward; and several bills to reinstate hunting of mountain lions with packs of dogs failed to get a hearing, unlike in years past where this issue has been a real fight.
The budget for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife includes a previously eliminated Habitat Division to focus on fish and wildlife for their own sake instead of just for hunting and fishing. Thanks to House Bill 2171 and some other budget measures, the Department also will have more money for its Conservation and Recreation Fund, which helps fund general fish and wildlife conservation not specifically connected to hunting and fishing.
House Bill 2548 would have directed a study to recommend ways to pay for more wildlife highway crossings (bridges and tunnels to get wildlife across highways without getting hit by cars and trucks). It didn't move forward, but one of the chief sponsors, Representative Ken Helm, set up a work group to study the issue and graciously included us in the group.
House Bill 2691, a bill directing a study of a promising technique to reduce the number of birds killed by wind energy turbines (painting one blade black) stalled after clearing its first committee, but an omnibus spending bill set aside money for the work. We are looking forward to seeing the results of an unbiased study on how wind energy turbines affect birds and other wildlife.
For a comprehensive list of bills we tracked, our positions, and the ultimate outcomes, click here. To see the full text of a bill, along with its history and how legislators voted if there was a vote, click on the bill number in our list.
You should feel free to contact your state legislators at any time about any of these issues - to thank them for sponsoring and/or voting for a good bill; or to tell them you are disappointed if they supported a bad bill or didn't do more to help a good one. Click here to find out who your state legislators are if you don't already know (click the "Senate" tab to see who your state senator is and the "House" tab to see who your state representative is; the "Congress" tab is for federal law, not the legislature discussed here).
Another great way to help give good bills a better chance in the future, and to give bad bills a harder time, is to attend your legislators' open houses and ask about animal welfare issues. Even asking simply, "what is happening on animal welfare issues?" helps to make animal welfare more important to policy makers. You can also ask about specific issues, too, of course. To find out about their open houses, sign up for their email newsletters by going to the same link that tells you who your legislators are (here), type in your address including the city, click on the tabs for House and Senate, and click on the link to the legislator's web page (second link). That page will have a box in the upper right to sign up for their email updates.
Thank you for helping us advocate for animals!