on a bill that would reduce speed
limits on residential streets.
HB 3150 passed out of committee yesterday, but not without some drama. The bill, which would give cities the authority to reduce speed limits on certain “neighborhood greenway” streets to 20 mph, survived the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee by a vote of 5 to 3 yesterday.
The eight member committee is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats and the three representatives that voted against the bill were Republicans (committee co-chair, Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) voted yes). According to freshman Rep. Shawn Lindsay (R-Hillsboro), the reason for their no votes had to do with a procedural issue centered around the terminology used in the bill.
“A greenway could be confused as a road full of shrubs, green trees, or whatever.”
— Rep. Lindsay
Lindsay does not like the term “neighborhood greenway” and wants the bill to be amended to call them “neighborhood byways.” Lindsay says he discussed the change with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Portland), and that Cannon agreed to the terminology change.
Committee Co-Chair Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) told Lindsay in the work session yesterday that he had seen the amendment with the “byways” change, but that he didn’t want to stall the bill.
“We do have the amendment, but we don’t have the fiscal and revenue statement [a document all bills must have]… While it seems unlikely to change those, we don’t have them and we’re interested in moving the bill forward.”
“Why don’t we just wait to get the amendments and then we can move that bill?” Lindsay asked Read. “I did speak with Rep. Cannon about this,” replied Read, “and he was deferential to the judgment of the committee… I would suggest if you’re not comfortable with that you are certainly welcome to vote no.”
I spoke with Rep. Lindsay this morning to learn more about his concerns. He says his no vote was based on procedural grounds.
“The only reason why I and the others voted against it was that Rep. Cannon, the sponsor of the bill, agreed to amend it… And for whatever reason the Co-Chairs didn’t want to amend it… Their refusal to amend it was the reason I voted no.”
When asked why he objected to the “greenways” name, Lindsay said, “It’s not descriptive of what it’s actually doing. A greenway could be confused as a road full of shrubs, green trees, or whatever.” [It should be noted that trees and vegetation are a key part of how PBOT approaches these streets. A PBOT staffer recently referred to neighborhood greenways as an attempt to “create trail-like conditions on neighborhood streets.”]
Lindsay also said that he’s “concerned about there being a greenwashing of everything” which “dilutes the true meaning behind it.” “The purpose for this bill, wasn’t energy conservation, it was for public safety. Let’s call it what it is.”
Lindsay said it’s a “good bill” and that it would have come out of committee 8-0 if it would have been amended. He wants Rep. Cannon to re-refer the bill the committee.
Rep. Cannon says he doesn’t care what the streets are called, he just wants the bill to move forward. “I gave the amended language [as per Lindsay’s request] to the committee chairs and said to them, ‘I don’t care, it’s a committee decision’… Whether it’s a byway or a greenway, it’s a trivial issue as far as I’m concerned.”
Cannon pointed out that the wording in the statute will in no way mandate what cities end up calling the streets.
“There are millions of examples where parlance is out of sync with the law. You wouldn’t want our speech and vocabulary to be defined by the ORS.”
Cannon says he has no plans to send the bill back to committee, in part because the name change wouldn’t change the substance of the bill at all.
“There’s not a single iota of policy difference in making that change. I’m not planning to send a bill back to committee that has [an amendment] with no bearing on the impact of the law. It would be purely symbolic… What they’re called doesn’t matter.”
From here, the bill will move to the House floor. We’ll keep you posted. See further coverage of this bill here