Image for Several New Oregon Laws Take Effect January 1
A law stiffening penalties for repeat shoplifters went into effect January 1, along with the Oregon Kids Credit and legislation dealing with converting offices to housing.

Oregon Kids Credit, DUII for Krakom and Tougher Repeat Shoplifter Penalties

Several Oregon bills approved last year went into effect on New Year’s day as legislatures across the country, including Oregon, prepare to reconvene for another round of lawmaking.

New Oregon laws expand the definition of intoxicant for drunk driving charges, add a new tax credit for low-income families with children, crack down on shoplifters, streamline housing conversions and prohibit insurance companies from using wildfire risk maps to set rates. Many bills passed by the 2023 legislature went into effect earlier.

Legislatures in Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island went into session Tuesday. The Washington legislature convenes next Tuesday and the Oregon legislature returns for its even-year short session February 5 and must adjourn by March 10.

Headline issues for Oregon lawmakers in 2024 include the ongoing struggle to deal with homelessness and a chronic housing shortage, an effort to retool Measure 110 that decriminalized possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, proposals to revitalize downtown Portland and transportation funding and tolling. Lawmakers also are expected to discuss how to revamp the state school funding formula in the wake of a month-long Portland teacher strike.

Other issues that may get air time during the short session include responding to a rising number of cyberattacks, creating an avenue for involuntary commitment, regulating firms that lease workers, deciding how to tax electric vehicle use of highways and sustaining local news media in the face of newspaper and radio station closures.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has challenged his state’s legislature to address homelessness, behavioral health, the opioid crisis, education and climate change.

Overview of Newly Effective Laws
The category of intoxicants under Oregon’s DUII statute was amended to include kratom, an herbal substance that produce effects much like opioids. Lawmakers reduced fines for bike riders pedaling under the influence. The change doesn’t apply to e-bike riders.

Measure 110 drew attention in the 2023 session as legislation was adopted to give the Oregon Health Authority a bigger role in distributing state funding to addiction services statewide in an attempt to reduce the number of drug overdoses.

The Oregon Kids Credit provides a $1,000 refundable tax credit for every child under six years old in families with annual incomes of $25,000 or less. Families with annual incomes up to $30,000 get a smaller tax credit.

Oregon cities with populations of at least 10,000 will be required to greenlight conversion of commercial buildings to housing without lots of bureaucratic barriers. The provision doesn’t apply to buildings in areas zoned for heavy industry.

Insurance companies are prohibited from using state wildfire maps to deny coverage or increase rates in affected homeowners.

It will be easier for prosecutors  to seek tougher penalties for repeat shoplifters. This legislation was part of a larger package aimed at curbing organized shoplifting.

House Bill 2572 allows the Oregon attorney general to investigate organized paramilitary activity and petition a judge to block activities. The measure also creates a right to sue for victims injured by paramilitary groups. A related bill, House Bill 2772, makes domestic terrorism a felony.

All Oregon cities are now able to install autonomous photo radar in an effort to reduce unsafe driving. Previously, photo radar systems were limited to 10 larger cities.

House Bill 2572 allows the Oregon attorney general to investigate organized paramilitary activity.

National Legislative Overview
According to Pluribus News, many state legislatures this year will focus on artificial intelligence regulation, online child privacy, renewable energy, school vouchers, Medicaid expansion, public health and access to abortion.

Most states head into the new year with rainy day funds, Pluribus News reported. The exception is California, which faces a sizable budget deficit and will consider spending cuts.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, vetoed a bill barring gender-affirming care and banning transgender women from competing in school sports. The GOP-controlled legislature will attempt to override his veto.

A Florida senator has introduced legislation to eliminate the state’s existing three-day waiting period to purchase a rifle or shotgun, but retain the waiting period for handguns.

Anti-abortion advocates in Missouri are pushing a bundle of 17 bills designed to make it harder to qualify ballot initiatives. One bill would require a ballot initiative to win a majority of votes in all eight of the state’s congressional districts to pass.

Wisconsin’s Republican legislative majority has appealed to the state Supreme Court to reverse its earlier decision to throw out redistricting maps. The high court ruled replacement maps must be submitted by January 12 and approved by March 15.