Legislative Wrap-Up: Bills Passed In Wake Of Walkout

Oregon State Capitol at Sunset

After Republicans returned to Salem following their nine-day walkout, the legislature tried to pass as many pieces of legislation as they could before the end of the constitutionally mandated end of the session on Sunday, June 30. Some of the bills that managed to pass are headed to Governor Kate Brown, but others have been referred as ballot measures.

Budget Bill:

Funding for 347 new foster care caseworkers, an effort to address ongoing reports of neglect or abuse against Oregon foster children held in private, out-of-state facilities.

$100 million increase to higher education, allowing some public universities to keep tuition increases below 5%.

Oregon State Police receives funding for more state troopers – currently, only 380 troopers patrol more than 6,400 miles of highways in Oregon.

More details available in July.

To the governor’s desk:

Affordable Housing: Localities with exclusionary, single-family zoning codes will be overturned by Oregon to allow for the production of less expensive, multi-family housing options like townhomes. $150 million will go toward affordable housing development and $50 million to state programs for people experiencing homelessness.

Paid Leave: The 8th state to offer paid family and medical leave, Oregon’s generous plan, for all employees making at least $1,000 annually, offers 12 weeks paid leave for family or medical reasons. It is the first paid leave plan in the country to offer low-income workers 100% wage replacement.

Anti-Harassment: After years of sexual harassment allegations and a report earlier this year which found the Capitol to be a hostile workplace, lawmakers passed a pair of bills to create a Legislative Equity Office to independently investigate conduct complaints and hold training for lawmakers and lobbyists.

Death Penalty: Hoping to limit its use, Oregon legislators changed the definition of the only crime eligible for capital punishment. “Aggravated murder” will now only be applied to terrorist acts that kill two or more people, killings by imprisoned murderers, or killing police officers or children younger than 14.

Free Ballot Postage: $1.7 million will go towards prepaid postage on mail-in ballots. Governor Brown supports the measure, saying low-income and younger people often don’t have access to stamps, which could become a barrier to voter access. Washington state and California both cover their ballots’ postage costs.

Driver’s Licenses: Oregon will be the 14th state to allow immigrants living here illegally to get driver’s licenses. They no longer have to show proof of citizenship, but still have to provide proof of Oregon residency and pass the exam. According to bill sponsor Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn), being barred from a driver’s license prevents many immigrants from being able to engage in work or their communities.

To a statewide ballot:

Tobacco Tax: A bill to raise tobacco taxes will now be decided by statewide ballot measure, including increasing cigarette taxes from $1.33 per pack to $3.33 and a new tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products at 65% of their wholesale price.

Campaign Finance: Oregon voters will get to choose next year whether they wish to remain one of only five states with no limits on campaign contributions. Up for vote by statewide ballot next year will be a constitutional amendment allowing the legislature the authority to enact campaign finance reform.

By Ian MacRonald