Two bills related to Washington County were heard in the opening days of the 2014 Oregon Legislature.

On Wednesday, the House Revenue Committee heard a bill introduced by state Rep. Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro) to exempt property taxes for public schools and education service districts from the exemptions granted to companies for economic development projects and cities for urban renewal areas.

Unger said HB 4141 would improve schools by providing hundreds of millions of dollars of additional funding in the future.

The bill was supported by current and former teachers and school board members from Washington County. It was opposed by the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce and various city and county officials, who said such waivers had attracted businesses that created jobs and generated additional taxes.

A number of county assessors said the bill as written was too difficult to administer, and Unger said he is preparing amendments for the bill because it will not pass in its current form. Committee Chairman Phil Barnhart said another hearing will be held when the amendments are ready.

The day before, the House Committee on Rural Communities took testimony on two bills to speed final approval of urban growth boundary expansions in the county. Metro approved around 2,000 acres for development in 2011, but a final decision is tied up in the Oregon Court of Appeals. HB 4078 would ratify the expansions. A proposed amendment would require the appeals court to rule on UGB expansions within 150 days.

Supporters, including sponsor state Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville), said something needs to be done to fix Oregon’s broken land use planning system. Opponents, including former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-Ore.), argued the appeals process must be allowed to run its course. Furse is running against Washington County Commissioner Bob Terry.

A second hearing is scheduled Feb. 11.

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