The bike bus bill wasn’t the only piece of legislation on our watchlist that moved forward on Wednesday. House Bill 2571, the e-bike rebate bill, was voted out of the House Committee on Climate, Energy & Environment by a vote of 9 to 1.
The only lawmaker to vote against the bill was southern Oregon Representative Kim Wallan, a Republican who represents District 6 in Medford.
As we reported earlier this month, HB 2571 has been significantly amended since it was first introduced in November. General Oregon residents can receive up to $400 toward the purchase of an e-bike and those who qualify for the low-income tier (80% of average median income) can receive $1,200. The bill also takes responsibility for processing the rebate away from bike shops and leans more heavily on the Department of Environmental Quality for administration.
The bill’s chief sponsor is Rep. Dacia Grayber (D-28). At the committee work session yesterday, bill co-sponsor Rep. Khanh Pham (D-46) asked Grayber’s Legislative Assistant Barrett Johnson how this bill would mesh with a Portland e-bike rebate that is likely coming as part of the Portland Clean Energy Fund grant program. Johnson said they’ve contacted PCEF and that, “We believe these rebates will be able to stack, similar to the way rebates for electric cars stack at the state and federal level. That’s something that we are hoping to see to help additionally alleviate cost burden and that the DEQ is in support of at an agency level as well.”
Rep. Pham, who sits on the committee, touch on affordability in comments she made prior to her “yes” vote:
“Particularly for low income families that can’t afford a car, these kinds of e-bikes can be a really critical replacement for trips to the grocery store. I bike my daughter to school [on ours]. We were able to avoid having to buy second car. So I think in many ways, particularly for lower income families, this can be a powerful anti-poverty measure.”
From here the bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. While this vote is a step forward, insiders know that many bills die at Ways and Means where final decisions are made about bills with budgetary implications. That committee will weigh the urgency of this rebate against many other statewide priorities.
In an email to supporters of the bill, Barrett Johnson wrote, “This is a point in which a number of great bills and popular policies lose steam. Not because of their quality, nor how well they were advocated for, but because there is simply not enough money for everything.”
Johnson said he’s “cautiously optimistic” it will move forward based on the fact that it has bipartisan support from lawmakers and public demand signaled by the “overwhelming success” of a new rebate program in Bend and the possible PCEF investment.
Stay tuned as this and other bills work their way through the legislative process.