hearts flickr praecepitum

Ask people what’s great about Oregon and you’ll get hundreds of answers (from bamboo bikes to the Country Fair to its vote-by-mail system). At Sightline, there’s nothing we love more than policies that remove the niggling obstacles that keep people from making smart, sustainable choices. So here’s an update on a few ideas we’ve been following, and a couple of reasons to love Oregon a little more.

This week, the Oregon House of Representatives approved a bill that would open the door to peer-to-peer car sharing companies. They allow an individual to rent his or her car to another driver when that vehicle would otherwise be gathering dust in a parking space.  Personal car sharing lets an owner recoup money on an expensive investment that sits idle for much of the day, and gives car-free residents another convenient way to rent a vehicle when they really need one.

But liability questions have been murky enough to keep many car owners from trying it.  HB3149, which passed the Oregon House 47-10, solves that problem by providing clear rules of the road on when different insurance policies apply. The bill gives insurance companies guarantees that they won’t be liable for dozens of different drivers on an individual’s policy (in an accident, damages would be covered by the car sharing company’s insurance). It also protects car owners who participate in a sharing program by preventing insurers from dropping them or arbitrarily raising rates. (For a broader view of why peer-to-peer sharing makes good sense, see yesterday’s Grist column on the topic.)

In other Oregon news this week, a program that grew from legislation passed in 2009 has created new construction jobs and helped 500 Portland homeowners make their homes more energy efficient. It’s such a success that it’s now expanding statewide (and offering a new rebate up to $3700). The Clean Energy Works initiative solves a lot of the problems that keep people from making energy efficiency improvements, even though the investments save money over the long haul and make homes more comfortable.

The program offers a critical service that too many other energy efficiency incentive programs lack – basic handholding. It helps homeowners at every step of the process, starting with an energy audit to pinpoint the most cost effective projects for a particular home. Then it connects homeowners with prequalified contractors that won’t leave them with gaping holes in their walls. And it loans homeowners the money to pay for the work and allows them to pay it back over time on their electric bills.

You can find good roundups of other Oregon bills to watch this legislative session here, here and here. But here are some highlights:

  • HB 2960 –  Would create jobs and provide funding for public schools in Oregon to achieve higher energy efficiency and savings throughout the State.
  • HB 3535 – Would promote energy efficiency by establishing a priority standard, a residential and commercial energy performance score program and tax abatement for high performance buildings.
  • HB3258 and SB 695 – Would prohibit the use of hormone disrupting BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula.
  • SB536 – Would ban single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and some other retail establishments.

Oregon Country Fair heart parade photo courtesy of flickr user praecipitum courtesy via a Creative Commons license.