by Senator Bill Hansell
I knew entering the 2022 Session that one of the most important bills, we would have before us, was HB 4002 or what was known as Ag Overtime. Representative Levy, asked if I would try and get a meeting with Senate President Peter Courtney, prior to the session. President Courtney agreed, and we met via zoom with farmers and ranchers from my district.
The meeting went very well, especially when Senator Courtney told the group, “You can have a win or a victory in the legislative process.” He went on to explain, “A win is when one side crams something through, without a vote from the other party. A victory is when the two sides negotiate and come up with legislation with bipartisan support.” He indicated he wanted a victory.
I pledged to work for a victory on Ag Overtime. But when HB 4002 was before Senate for a final vote, it was anything but a victory. It became the biggest disappointment in my legislative career thus far. It did not have to be that way, We could have had a victory. In my floor speech, I urged a “No” vote and stated why. What follows is that speech.
“THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT
It breaks my heart to rise in opposition to HB 4002. I was so optimistic we could come to a negotiated agreement, and we did not. Here is why I was optimistic.
- You, Mr. President met with some of my farmers and listened.
- In January you graciously met with farmers and ranchers from my district via zoom. You didn’t have to do that, but you did, and all of us were very grateful.
- You heard the concerns and said the time was very helpful to you.
- You told those hard-working family farmers “in the legislative process, you can have either a win or a victory.”
- You went on to say a win is when one side, the majority, has the votes to do whatever they wish, and there is not a single vote from the other side.
- A victory is when you negotiate in good faith and come up with a policy that generates support from both parties, making it bipartisan.
- You indicated you wanted a victory, and I pledged to do all I could to get a victory.
On this Senate Floor, at my first opportunity to remonstrate, I referred to that meeting and committed to you to work for a victory. And I believe over the past month I have done that in each and every opportunity I have had concerning HB 4002, or ag overtime.
- Support from many of my Democrat Senate Colleagues
Following my first, and then my subsequence remonstrances, many of you, came to me and said you wanted to work towards a victory as well. You came on your own, and I was encouraged. I believed we would have the votes to pass a meaningful negotiated outcome. Actually, I still do.
- We had other states that adopted ag overtime providing models of workable legislation. Of the seven, only two did not. California and Washington. It wasn’t a one-size-fits-all.
- HB 4002 is a very, very, critical bill for Oregon Agriculture. Surely, we would be able to do it “The Oregon Way”, and come to a victory.
- Agriculture is a significant driver of Oregon’s economy
- No one would want to destroy family farms and ranches
- No one would want to harm, with negative impacts, farmworkers.
- Colorado provided a model where they did just that with their legislation.
- We did not need to reinvent the wheel
- What Agriculture was asking for was very simple and reasonable.
The asks were not complicated nor were they unique to Oregon. Every other state except California and Washington had done it.
- Peak or seasonality consideration
- Some kind of flexible schedule
- The unique difference between livestock and crop production.
- All of the major agriculture commodities were on the same sheet of music.
They spoke with one voice in the negotiations.
And that colleagues, was why I was optimistic. Why I believed we could create a workable ag overtime bill. Why I believed we could craft legislation that would meet the needs of family farmers and those who worked on those farms.
But it didn’t happen. HB 4002 is not a victory. So, what happened this past month?
I will share from my perspective.
- Predetermined OutcomePredetermine is defined as “established or decided in advance”. The most important items, and again I remind you other states implemented them in their laws, were in essence, off the table. We will take testimony, but the outcome was predetermined.
- Most of the substantive negotiations went on between Democrats in the Oregon House and Senate. What was offered, the agriculture community did not ask for nor did they want.
The big items, which will be phased out, refundable tax credits, were never asked for by agriculture. Someone characterized it this offer as a “stay of execution.” Nice to have but really doesn’t help in the long run.
- Politics Over Policy. I soon realized my Democrat Colleagues were in a very precarious position. I could not figure out how one farmworker union that represented a relatively small percentage of the total agriculture workforce in Oregon seemed to be driving the bus. They seemed to be calling the shots. Why?
- I believe I found the answer.
- And I understand the precarious position in which this bill puts many of my Democrat friends.
- And why you most likely have to vote aye for whatever bill comes to the floor.
- There is a huge well-funded coalition of liberal progressive organizations and unions that have made ag overtime their number one priority for the 2022 Session.
- Organizations such as Planned Parenthood, OEA the teacher’s union, Oregon Nurses Association, and the Oregon Foodbank have made this their 1# Priority!
- No wonder the outcome was predetermined before the 2022 short session began.
So, there you have it from this farm boy’s perspective. Why there is a win and not a victory.
In closing I want the record to show, that the co-chairs of the Ag Overtime joint committee Senator Taylor and Representative Holvey were gracious, hardworking, and listened. They extended every courtesy to both sides. And I thank them for that.
I am saddened that, in this the last Session of your very distinguished career Mr. President, in what many believe will do irreparable harm to both family farms and to farmworkers, we were unable to get a victory. A victory for you, Mr. President, for the Oregon Legislature, and most important of all a victory for all of Oregon Agriculture.
I urge a no vote on SB4002
Thank you, Mr. President”
Senator Bill Hansell is in his 10th year representing the seven counties that makeup Senate District #29. He grew up on the family farm north of Athena, now farmed by his nephews, the fourth generation of Hansells on the land. He is proud to be a voice for Oregon Agriculture in the Oregon Legislature.