News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Fire relief bill dies in committee

A bill that would have provided property tax relief for fire survivors has died in committee amid concerns over the constitutionality of the proposal.

Senate Bill 1012 would have frozen assessed values to pre-fire levels for qualifying homes rebuilt after the Labor Day fires of 2020.

Under existing laws, assessed values for homes cannot increase more than 3% annually, but this does not apply to new or rebuilt homes, even those rebuilt after disasters. SB 1012 would have circumvented this by allowing county governments to charge property taxes based on assessed values recorded during the 2020-2021 tax year for qualifying homes.

The bill was approved unanimously in the Senate April 12 and then assigned to the House Committee on Revenue.

The committee held a hearing May 4 and received overwhelming public support, but did not send the bill back to the floor for a vote prior to the close of the 2023 legislative session on June 26.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Jami Cate (R-Lebanon) said SB 1012 and similar fire relief proposals came under scrutiny by House members concerned about their constitutionality. 

Cate told The Canyon Weekly there were “unresolved concerns” about how the bills would impact the state’s property tax system and she did not expect they would pass.

Cate said these concerns were a surprise because, when SB 1012 was in the Senate, their analysis raised no concerns about constitutional conflicts.

Cate is not a member of the House Committee on Revenue and said she did not know their specific concerns. The Canyon Weekly reached out to committee members for comment, including Chair Rep. Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene), but did not hear back before deadline.

The fate of SB 1012 was not affected by a recent Republican-led walkout of the Senate as the bill was already approved by the Senate when the walkout began May 3.

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