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On the kicker, BPA and the reworked bottle bill

by: Spotlight file photo Rep. Brad Witt (D—Clatskanie) represents House district 31 and can be reached at www.leg.state.or.us/witt/ or at 503-986-1431

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been getting a lot of letters on several 'hot-button' issues, so I thought I would give you an update on those bills. The first one is HB 3543, the back-to-the-future 'kicker' refund proposal that changes the way taxpayers will receive their refund, should they be entitled to one. When income tax receipts exceed the state economist's projection by 2 percent, the entire amount gets kicked back to the taxpayer. In 2007 (the last time the kicker kicked), the refund amounted to $1.1 billion, and although my mail is evenly split as to whether or not we should be 'kicking' this money, that is not the reason for the bill. HB 3543 helps the state save significant taxpayer money by returning to the original kicker refund method.

Prior to 1995, taxpayers received their kicker refunds in the form of credits on their following year's taxes. In 1995, the Legislature changed that process to the issuance of kicker checks, usually in December. Although well received, this change did not come without a cost. In 2007, the price tag was about $1 million to process the checks, and $2.1 million to borrow the money in advance of receiving the tax receipts in April. Even with the best of intentions, this doesn't make any fiscal sense, hence the need for HB 3543. The bill has passed both the House and the Senate and moves on to the Governor for his signature.

An-other bill that has generated a lot of interest is SB 695, which would ban Bisphenol-A (BPA) from children's drinking containers and reusable water bottles. BPA, an endocrine disrupting chemical, has been shown to leach into our bodies and thereby interfere with both male and female hormones causing, among other things, early puberty, breast and prostate cancer, low sperm count, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

In a poll conducted just this month, 75 percent of Oregonians were found to support this legislation. The bill passed the Senate 20-9, in a bipartisan passage of the bill. It is now in the House Energy, Environment and Water Committee and it is running into trouble. Since the House is split 30/30, every committee has two chairpersons and both must agree on the progress of a bill assigned to it. Right now, there isn't agreement and some members are talking about introducing another bill and having it assigned to another committee. I will keep you posted.

Finally, many of you have written about HB 3145, the expansion of Oregon's iconic bottle bill. That bill passed the House 47-12 on May 4, and on Wednesday, MAY 25, it passed the Senate 19-11. The bill sets up a pilot redemption center and establishes convenience zones that would further facilitate the return of containers.

Some of you have written to object to the increased bottle deposit, from 5 cents to 10 cents per bottle. I want to emphasize that an increase would only occur if the redemption rate falls below 80 percent, which has never happened. The new law does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2018, so there is lots of time to fine-tune the redemption process.

Literally scores of stakeholders worked on this bill, including beverage distributors, grocers, recyclers and consumer organizations.

It now goes to the Governor for his signature.