Friday, March 02, 2007

Ted Spills, Mac Confirms: M37 "Time-out" Bill on Life Support

From the "quiet bombshell" file, this uh-oh from the S-J's Steve Law:
In comments to reporters on Thursday, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said that his proposal to put a freeze on many Measure 37 claims -- contained in Senate Bill 505 -- appeared to be off the table.

"I thought that was an easy push, and I was mistaken," he said.

Instead, a joint legislative committee on land use likely will consider bills that combine "substantive" changes to Measure 37 with proposals to streamline smaller claims and extend the deadline for processing claims, Kulongoski said.

Addressing Measure 37 likely will take all session, he said, making it one of the thorniest issues before lawmakers this year.
Well, that certainly seems unfortunate to me. Nothing on the surface appears to have changed; counties are still begging for more processing time, claimaints are still bleating "property rights" at every hearing, and sensible people think a temporary moratorium will provide the stable state of affairs necessary to get in and muck around with the law. The bill itself has not proved particularly popular; the "fast-track" carrot Kulongoski provided for single-home claims failed to divest opponents of the sense that they were being screwed by bad faith and political pandering.

Given the somewhat cryptic comments from Ted, I felt it necessary to get closer to the process and ask Joint Special Land-use Fairness committee Co-chair Greg Macpherson (HD38) about it:
SB 505 is still pending in the Joint Special Committee on Land Use Fairness and could be moved forward at any point that it appears necessary to do so. The Committee is now looking at the longer term issues in how to fix Measure 37.

The concept of SB 505 was to apply a temporary hold on Measure 37 claims with an opportunity for small claims (for one additional rural dwelling) to move forward in an "express check-out line". It's quite limited in scope and designed so our committee has time to consider the longer term issues. In the hearings we held on SB 505 much of the comment from the public was on the longer term issues and not the effect of a temporary hold.

Since we were being presented with those issues already, we are now focusing on them to see if it's possible to craft the fix promptly without needing a temporary hold. But if that effort does not proceed at the pace it needs to, we continue to have the option of pursuing SB 505.
Hmmmm. Well, that certainly confirms that the committee is no longer focused on SB505, but rather the underlying problems that 505 was intended to let them work on. I agree that most testifiers seemed more interested in M37 itself rather than the implications of the time-out--supporters considered it a no-brainer before getting to the substance, while opponents dismissed it as an end-around prelude to gutting the law or even repealing it.

But so what? Either redirect testimony specifically to 505 in that case, or ignore the M37 sidebars and make a decision on the time-out before moving on. If the committee has decided that there's no political benefit to passing the bill, that's one thing. But there's plenty of PRACTICAL benefit, and I'm still a little unsure as to why the committee doesn't see a bad situation getting worse if it doesn't pass.

Without a time-out, the counties and cities are still on the clock for the deluge of claims that came in late last year. Without a timeout, claimaints will continue to move through the process and assume positions in different stages of approval, permitting and development. And that means that when substantive changes ARE made to the law, the legislature will have to deal with already-sticky wickets such as how to apply it to claimants in those different stages. Who gets grandfathered and who doesn't? Which is to say, who gets the rug pulled out from under them on behalf of the greater good?

I've followed up with Rep. Macpherson on these points; given the pending weekend I'm not sure I expect a reply until Monday rears its head again. But pending some unknown turn of events it sure looks like there will be no moratorium, and the legislature will attempt to fix Measure 37 on the fly, as it were. Greg Macpherson is one of our very best public officials in any corner of the state, so I'm not climbing the walls with worry. But either I'm missing something or this is an example of political expediency rather than policy will.