State Lawmakers Pass 22 Bills, Focus on Police Reform, Pandemic Relief

  On Friday, June 26, Oregon legislators concluded a special marathon lawmaking session which covered 22 bills relating to a plethora of issues including policing reforms, COVID-19 relief, and other measures not passed in the regular 2020 session  

This session was different from the many that have come before it, as legislators had to socially distance from one another, slowing the process, and the public were prohibited from observing the session inside the Capitol.   

The 22 bills covered will now be sent off to Governor Kate Brown. The following are a few of the most important bills reviewed in this legislative session.   

Police Reform  

A total of six police reform bills were looked at by legislators, taking the spotlight, as protests against police brutality and racial injustice have now reached the one-month mark in Portland.   

Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, who has played a key role in police reform for years, was at the forefront of crafting these bills, highlighting that the following six bills are only a start.   

The measures include  

Senate Bill 1604: This bill, strongly opposed by state police unions, makes it more difficult for arbitrators to overturn police disciplinary findings if arbitrator makes finding that misconduct occurred consistent with agency’s finding of misconduct, and disciplinary action imposed by agency is consistent with provisions of discipline guide.”  

House Bill 4201: Establishes a panel tasked with making recommendations for additional legislative action, called the Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform. This is the altered form of the bill, which was initially created to place the responsibility of police shooting investigations into the hands of the Oregon Department of Justice.   

House Bill 4203: This bill bans the usage of chokeholds by police unless the situation justifies using deadly force.   

House Bill 4208: Requires that police must declare a riot is happening before using tear gas. When they do use tear gas, they must first announce their intent to use it and give individuals time to back away before usage.   

House Bill 4205: Requires that when an officer knows a fellow officer is involved in misconduct, they must take action to prevent or report them.   

House Bill 4207: Requires that the state maintain public records on police discipline, which law enforcement agencies must look at when considering a new hire.  

COVID-19 Relief  

Another substantial point of contention, the subject of COVID-19 relief was largely a failure for Republicans, who were unable to halt many of the provisions they didn’t agree with.   

The measures in this section include:  

House Bill 4213: This bill extends the state’s ban on residential and commercial evictions, which was originally supposed to expire on June 30. Now, evictions will be banned in most cases until September 30, and renters will have until March 31, 2021 to pay back unpaid rent but will be expected to pay the current rents accumulated beginning on October 1.   

House Bill 4204: Prohibits lenders from pursuing foreclosures against homeowners through September 30, with Gov. Kate Brown given authority to extend the ban past that date. Missed payments as a result will be due at the end of the borrower’s loan term, unless another arrangement is agreed upon between the borrower and lender.   

House Bill 4212: Many provisions are included in this bill, including allowing state courts to delay jury trials while a defendant is in custody, alleviating the requirements for siting homeless shelters, and making certain that taxpayers’ payments under the CARES Act will not be garnished.   

Senate Bill 1606: This bill protects disabled patients, making sure that they are not forced to sign end-of-life agreements when entering hospitals, as well as securing their access to personal support.   

Other Measures  

Measures besides police reform and coronavirus relief were covered – many that failed in the 2020 regular session passed in this special session.   

Senate Bill 1602: Part of a watershed deal between Oregon timber companies and environmental groups, this bill will create new requirements for aerial pesticide spraying by timber companies.   

Senate Bill 1603: Broadens an existing tax on phone service to cellphone providers, which will allot up to $5 million annually for broadband service in rural areas of Oregon.   

Senate Bill 1605: This bill will increase the current state standards for out-of-state residential facilities to house Oregon foster children. It will allow children who are sent out of state to utilize Oregon financial assistance for community college.   

House Bill 4210: Set to be in effect on October 1, this bill makes sure that an individual’s driving privileges in Oregon can’t be suspended due to a failure to pay traffic fines. This ensures that low-income citizens are not negatively impacted because of an inability to pay their dues.  

By Cara Nixon