The Oregon legislature is now under a one-hour notice for committee activity, a sign adjournment is near and budget bills will move. The biggest budget bill, $9.3 billion for K-12 public schools, has already passed and is awaiting Governor Brown’s signature. The other waiting game is when Oregon will hit the 70 percent vaccination threshold, which will trigger the end of mandatory masks and physical distancing except in high-risk places.
Committees racing to move the last viable bills now can schedule a meeting with one hour notice. This crimps the opportunity for public comment and forces lobbyists to stay glued to their computer screens. In normal times, lobbyists would camp outside committee hearing rooms.
Joint Ways and Means subcommittees were directed to ramp up this week to consider budget bills within their jurisdiction. Unlike many sessions when cuts are required, lawmakers this session have a glut of money to spend, thanks to an influx of federal stimulus dollars and better-than-expected tax revenues that have created a budget surplus unlike anything seen in the state before. Subcommittees will work four or five days a week to complete their work, which then goes to the full Joint Ways and Means Committee and eventually to the House and Senate floors.
Roughly 127,000 more Oregonians need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for the state to reach Brown’s 70 percent target to relax emergency mandates, except at airports, public transit and healthcare settings. Brown announced last week reduced restrictions in three counties where new infections, hospitalizations and deaths continued to decline.
Roughly 127,000 more Oregonians need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for the state to reach Brown’s 70 percent target to relax emergency mandates, except at airports, public transit and healthcare settings.
TV ads are running showing medical professionals encouraging unvaccinated Oregonians to consult with their doctor or pharmacists to get answers to the questions causing vaccination hesitancy.
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Juneteenth. The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2168 that declares Juneteenth an official state holiday, starting next year. The holiday, named after June 19, commemorates the emancipation of slaves. It marks the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to ensure the freedom of former slaves, which was more than two years after adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment freeing slaves from bondage. Also called Freedom Day, it is observed as a holiday in 45 other states.
College Athlete Compensation. The Senate approved Senate Bill 5, a pet project of Senate president Peter Courtney, that would allow college student athletes to retain an agent and receive compensation for their names, images and likenesses in endorsement deals. The bill, which passed on a 23-6 vote, now goes to the House. Eight other states have passed similar measures, upping pressure on the NCAA to revise its current rules on compensation.
Police Oversight. The first five series of bills to tighten police oversight passed the Senate and now head to the governor’s desk. Four of the five bills passed with bipartisan support. The vote was closer on House Bill 3164, which limits the ability to charge protesters with interfering with peace officers. The other bills that passed add gender to the list of bias crimes, modifies unlawful assembly statutes, prohibits police agencies from accepting certain military weapons from the federal government and requires officers to intervene and report on police misconduct.
Further votes will occur on bills requiring officers to seek immediate medical assistance for restrained persons showing respiratory or cardiac issues, requiring identification on uniforms of officers working crowd management and mandating a statewide background check process for police officers.
Legalizing Prostitution. Sex workers testified at an information hearing before House Judiciary in support of decriminalizing prostitution, commercial sex solicitation and promotion of prostitution. Witnesses said making prostitution a crime hasn’t prevented it from occurring and may contribute to sexual exploitation. One witness said sex work is sometimes the only option for some people to make money. No opponents were invited to testify at the hearing. While no legislation will move in this session, there is the possibility of an initiative.
Backyard Chickens. Legislation laid an egg in the Senate last week that would have allowed planned community residents to grow gardens, keep bees and raise hens despite homeowner association bylaws preventing those activities. Four Democrats joined Republicans in defeating House Bill 3322, which had passed the House on a 53-2 vote. The Charbonneau County Club Board of Directors distributed a flyer in opposition to the bill that said, “We believe that small-scale agriculture and food production has a place in some communities, but not in our well-planned and managed landscape.” The flyer noted that Charbonneau’s 1,600 residents are permitted to have vegetable gardens.
Witnesses said making prostitution a crime hasn’t prevented it from occurring and may contribute to sexual exploitation. One witness said sex work is sometimes the only option for some people to make money.
Legislative Misconduct. Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, was officially reprimanded by the House Conduct Committee for sending inappropriate text messages to a legislative colleague. Witt contended he did nothing wrong, but committee members concluded, based on an independent report, that his texts were subject to misinterpretation. Republicans and Democrats on the committee disagreed on Witt’s punishment, which will be decided later.
The committee will receive a report this week that concludes Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Dallas, “More likely than not intentionally assisted demonstrators in breaching security and entering the Capitol.” A video surfaced last week that appears to show Nearman coaching a group of people on how they could enter the Capitol if someone strategically opened a door near where they were standing, which is what happened, as evidenced by Capitol security video.
Secretary of State Hires. A Ways and Means subcommittee voted 7-1 to approve a $97.5 million budget for the Secretary of State’s office, but it limited new hires to five staff positions. Following her election last year, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan hired 10 new staffers, tapping unused funds that were set aside in the event of anticipated pandemic-related budget cuts. One of the staffers that lawmakers targeted for departure was the constitutional law attorney Fagan hired to assist in a court fight over her office’s role in redistricting. The attorney received an annual salary of $165,936, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office.