What got done and what didn't in Salem
SALEM — The Oregon Legislature has wrapped up its legislative session, and during its 32-day duration, lawmakers passed about 120 of the 248 bills that were initially introduced.
The most significant pieces of approved legislation place Oregon at the forefront of national debates on issues of low-wage workers and climate change.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1532, which raises Oregon's current $9.25 hourly minimum wage to nearly $15 in six years through an unprecedented tiered system based on where the worker is employed. That same day, lawmakers gave final approval of Senate Bill 1547, which made Oregon the first state to phase out coal from its energy supply by legislative action.
Here's a recap of some other key issues lawmakers addressed during the session that ended Thursday, and also a couple that died somewhere in the process.
- Housing: Four bills address various aspects of Oregon's housing affordability crisis. The bills protect month-to-month renters from rent increases during their first year of tenancy, and require landlords give 90-day notices thereafter; allow cities to require that new developments include a portion of units for low-income families; implement guidelines for rolling out the state's $40 million bonding investment last year to build affordable housing; and revamp an assistance program for homeless individuals who are unable to work.
- Marijuana: A handful of bills work to iron out Oregon's legal marijuana laws. When Oregon's recreational dispensary program launches next year, one bill will allow consumers to continue buying recreational and medical pot under the same roof as they do now under an early sales program that began in October at medical dispensaries only. The other bills allow out-of-state investors to enter Oregon's pot industry by rescinding the two-year residency requirement; remove state criminal liability to banks doing business with the pot industry; and drop the annual price for medical cards from $200 to $20 for veterans.
- Rape crimes: Two bills knocked down courtroom barriers for rape victims. One bill removes the 12-year statute of limitations on the most serious sex crimes if there's additional corroborating evidence, including non-DNA evidence. The second measure requires law enforcement to test all future rape kits and also the state's backlog of untested kits by mid-2018.
- Lodging tax: House Bill 4146 boosts the state's tax on hotel stays. Starting in July, the state's current 1 percent lodging tax will go up to 1.8 percent for four years, then decline to 1.5 percent. The bill, among the most contentious of the session, helps create a $25 million subsidy for the 2021 World Track and Field Championships in Eugene as well as generating other funds for state tourism business.
- Gray wolf: In another contentious measure, House Bill 4040 upholds last year's decision to remove the gray wolf from the state's endangered species list. The measure intends to block an ongoing lawsuit filed by environmentalists, who are seeking to challenge the scientific merits of that delisting decision through judicial review. But by upholding the delisting decision in state law, the judicial review being sought in the lawsuit could be rendered moot, subsequently thwarting the case.
- Gun control: HB 4147 began as a vehicle for closing the so-called "Charleston loophole" by requiring background checks to clear before guns can be purchased, however long it took. But after testimonies from gun rights advocates, HB 4147 was scaled back to no longer close the loophole, but instead simply extend the existing three-day waiting period on pending background checks to 10 business days, after which time it'd be up to the sellers' discretion to sell the gun. The amended version of the bill narrowly passed the House before dying in the Senate, where it never moved out of committee. The bill's failure disappointed Gov. Brown, who said in a statement Thursday that she'll work on gun safety legislation next year "and explore what might be achieved using my executive authority."
- Police identity: HB 4087 would've allowed a judge to conceal the identity of a police officer who uses deadly force for up to 90 days if there's an imminent danger to their life. It was introduced at the request of Oregon State Police to specifically shield the identity of the officer who killed LaVoy Finicum, a member of the armed group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Law enforcement officials say Finicum was reaching for a gun in his jacket when he was shot. The bill cleared the House, but also never moved out of committee in the Senate.