HOUSE COMMITTEE ON

AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES

 

 

February 11, 2003   Hearing Room D

1:00 PM Tapes  23 - 24

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:            Rep. Jeff Kropf, Chair

Rep. George Gilman, Vice-Chair

Rep. Kelley Wirth, Vice-Chair

Rep. Terry Beyer

Rep. Dave Hunt

Rep. Donna Nelson

Rep. Patti Smith

 

STAFF PRESENT:                  Ray Kelly, Committee Administrator

David Peffley, Committee Assistant

 

 

MEASURES HEARD:                     HB 2188 – Public Hearing

                                                HB 2203 – Public Hearing

 

 

 

These minutes are in compliance with Senate and House Rules.  Only text enclosed in quotation marks reports a speaker’s exact words.  For complete contents, please refer to the tapes.

 

TAPE/#

Speaker

Comments

TAPE 23, A

003

Chair Kropf

Calls the meeting to order at 1:30 and opens a public hearing on        HB 2188.

HB 2188 – PUBLIC HEARING

023

Norm Miller

Timber Tax Operations Supervisor.  Submits (EXHIBIT A) in support of his testimony.  Remarks that amendments will be forthcoming after    HB 2197 passes out of the revenue committee so that both bills can work together.

060

Wally Rutledge

Director, Forestry Assistance.  Submits (EXHIBIT B) and discusses the conflict with HB 2197.  Reaffirms that we will need to revisit this legislation after HB 2197 passes.

068

Chair Kropf

Asks Miller whether the savings will be offset by HB 2197.

073

Miller

Addresses the privilege tax concern and notes that there will be some offset.

085

Chair Kropf

Asks if we will be reducing the FTE by two staff.

087

Miller

Confirms that this will be the net effect.

090

Chair Kropf

Closes a public hearing on HB 2188 and opens a public hearing on

HB 2203.

HB 2203 – PUBLIC HEARING

091

Ray Kelly

Committee Administrator.  Explains HB 2203.

105

Charlie Stone

Assistant State Forester, Department of Forestry’s Protection Division.  Introduces HB 2203, clarifying its legislative intent.

140

Pete Norkoveck

Legal Services Coordinator, Oregon Department of Forestry.  Submits (EXHIBIT C) in support of HB 2203, recognizing the discretionary nature of the forester acting under emergencies.

173

Bill Brickey

Oregon Department Of Justice (ODOJ).  Testifies that the costs have already been borne and that HB 2203 will save much money as it will eliminate frivolous lawsuits.

211

Rep. Nelson

Asks for specific examples.

218

Brickey

Responds with the Schoolhouse Gulch Fire.  Discusses the problems with the response time.

233

Rep. Nelson

Asks whether this is the only area of disaster relief which has to go through this process.

240

Brickey

States that he is not aware of any recovery which we can make for the state police.  Adds that the question is how much money which should be repaid.

251

Rep. Nelson

Asks who will pay for the bad debt.

258

Brickey

Responds that they could sue, but that these are professionals and thus the situation should not arise.

268

Rep. Nelson

Asks if the Department needs to carry insurance.

271

Brickey

Responds that they do.

273

Norkeveck

Discusses the types and frequency of such claims and adds that 99% of the time there is an insurance mechanism in place and that it is rare for the claim to be borne by the home owner.

293

Rep. Smith

Asks for examples of negligence.

296

Brickey

Responds that specific instances are rare, but cites the examples of starting a fire in a barrel, running a bulldozer incorrectly, or running machinery in dry area. 

310

Rep. Smith

Asks what the ORS 477.066 requires.

313

Brickey

States that it allows the state to recover its actual recovery costs.

318

Norkoveck

Adds examples of willfully malicious acts which would also be included in the negligence category. 

345

Rep. Hunt

Asks for clarification on the recovery procedure. 

350

Norkoveck

Explains the budgetary and fiscal procedures. 

370

Stone

Adds that this legislation should not add fiscal impact to the Department.

387

Rep. Hunt

Asks how the lessening of legislation would not be cost saving to the department.

390

Stone

Responds that it may save a little, but how much can not yet be ascertained.

393

Chair Kropf

Asks if it’s true that there are only two or three legal claims per year. 

403

Brickey

States that it’s generally two or three which go to trial, but presently there are seven pending. 

420

Norkoveck

Adds that those two or three are the fires which are most significant.

TAPE 24, A

004

Rep. Nelson

Asks if subcontractors are included in the actual costs.

010

Brickey

Confirms that is correct.

015

Norkoveck

Restates his intentions for inclusion in these figures.

023

Rep. Nelson

Asks about any present laws dealing with statutory limits.

031

Norkoveck

Explains the one exception to this rule.

043

Brickey

Adds that it would be rare to see such a claim. 

048

Stone

Points out that many fires do not include a responsible party, thus no collection is possible 

054

Rep. Smith

Asks if the state could be held liable if a fire were to get away from them.

061

Stone

States that if they’re negligent, they could be held liable. 

072

Brickey

Adds that the Department is responsible for putting the fire out.

075

Rep. Smith

References the case of the Multnomah Falls fire in 1991.

078

Stone

Adds that if there have been cases where damages have been paid for a fire that burned its way onto private lands.

084

Chair Kropf

Asks how much money the Department Of Justice (DOJ) has spent in court costs. 

090

Brickey

States that he doesn’t know, but that DOJ spends $30-40,000 prosecuting each fire case and another $20,000 if they have to defend every single decision made.

100

Norkeveck

Adds that outside of the two to three cases which go to court, the money is spent on legal costs anyway.

126

Chair Kropf

Asks for clarification on the language of the bill.  

131

Brickey

Clarifies that the heart of the problem lies with the discretionary decisions.

141

Chair Kropf

Asks for further clarification regarding legal costs.

145

Brickey

Affirms the procedural matter.

161

Chair Kropf

Confirms the intent of this legislation to limit the questioning of the judgment of the fire incident commander.

165

Brickey

Agrees with Chair Kropf.

171

Rep. Nelson

Asks if subcontractor costs will be taken into account.

178

Brickey

States that he can’t recall questioning a bill which has come in.  Asserts that the bills are properly paid.

184

Stone

Adds clarification to the process.

198

Rep. Nelson

Follows up with another hypothetical instance.

207

Norkeveck

Gives further clarification to Rep. Nelson’s concern.

223

Rep. Wirth

Asks for clarification regarding the discretionary judgments of the court, vis-à-vis  the factual determination of the court.

236

Brickey

Details examples which addresses Rep. Wirth’s legal concern.

283

Rep. Wirth

Asks for a worst-case scenario of a blatantly wrong court decision.

290

Brickey

Responds to Rep. Wirth’s question.

303

Rep. Wirth

Asks if a case could come to trial in which a judgment in error could clearly increase costs,

313

Brickey

Responds that it could and that this bill would address that issue.

335

Stone

Adds that adjustments to the bill are also possible.

363

Norkeveck

Adds understanding to the investigatory process.

401

Brickey

Adds that once it goes to the legal process, costs are incurred and that someone has to pay the bill.

TAPE 23, B

004

Rep. Nelson

Wants confirmation that this bill takes effect immediately.

013

Brickey

Confirms that it probably takes place the date it passes.  Asserts his belief that the bill is sufficient as is. 

031

Stone

Recommends checking with Legislative Counsel.  

036

Chair Kropf

Concurs with Stone.  Asks who is not going to like this bill.

040

Brickey

Hesitates to comment. 

044

Chair Kropf

Assumes that judges won’t like this.  

048

Brickey

Reiterates that he doesn’t want to speculate and that he doesn’t believe that there would be a problem.  

051

Chair Kropf

Asks if property owners might not like this.  

057

Stone

States that it depends on each individual case.

059

Rep. Wirth

Moves to clarify that she didn’t mean to give the impression that she disapproved or distrusted the Department, but that she was just bringing forth the worst case scenario. 

072

Mike Dykzeul

Oregon Forest Industries Council (OFIC).  Concurs with the expert testimony.  Illustrates the levels of oversight, including those which keeps cost down. 

113

Rep. Nelson

Asks how much money we owe from fighting fires.

116

Dykzeul

States that we are pretty much solvent, but warns that the hole in front of us is very deep.

139

Rep. Nelson

Asks what the burden is for fire insurance.

142

Dykzeul

Responds that they are still waiting for the figures.  Reiterates that the level of insurance is related to protection. 

161

Rep. Smith

Asks how many landowners OFIC represents.

164

Dykzeul

Answers that OFIC represents approximately six million acres and perhaps 175 landowners, small woodland owners and large industrials alike.

183

Chair Kropf

Remarks that we will await word from Legislative Counsel.  Closes the public hearing on HB 2203 and adjourns the meeting at 2:44.

 

 

 

The following prepared testimony is submitted for the record without public testimony for HB 2203.

 

William Brickey

Submits written testimony (EXHIBIT D).

EXHIBIT SUMMARY

 

A – HB 2188, written testimony, Norm Miller, 1 p.

B – HB 2188, written testimony, Wallace Rutledge, 1 p.

C – HB 2203, written testimony, Peter Norkoveck, 2 pp.

D – HB 2203, written testimony, William Brickey, 2 pp.