SALEM — Loopholes in gun control, public employee pensions and state ethics filings were all considered Tuesday as the Legislature moved toward the midpoint of its 35-day session.
Gov. Kate Brown appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify in favor of House Bill 4145, a bill to close the “boyfriend loophole” in state gun control legislation. Brown said the recent Florida high school massacre of 17 students by a man using an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle had riveted the attention of parents of Oregon schoolchildren.
“Parents are writing my office wanting to know what’s being done to keep their children safe and to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” Brown testified.
Among those wrong hands, Brown testified, are those who are able to possess guns despite convictions for domestic violence or stalking. The “loophole” in the state law allows abusers and stalkers to possess guns if they were not married to, living with, or have children with their victims.
The bill, requested by Brown, passed the House last week with the support of Republicans Knute Buehler of Bend, Julie Parrish of West Linn and Richard Vial of Scholls. Democrat Caddy McKeown of Coos Bay voted no.
The full Senate is expected to consider the bill before the Legislature adjourns in early March. Brown urged lawmakers to make a stand.
“This time, we say no more, this must stop,” Brown said. “Gun violence must end.”
In other action Tuesday, the House unanimously approved legislation offered by Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, to ensure that outside work by public university and college staff is not included in an employee’s salary when determining pension benefits.
The bill was inspired by the case of Mike Bellotti, the former University of Oregon football coach and athletic director, who receives $45,000 per month in retirement benefits.
Bellotti’s pension is based on his final salary of $1.3 million a year. But $1 million of that came from outside sources (Nike, television deals) that were “approved” by the school and lumped in with his $299,000 salary for determining his state-paid benefits. Though it closes the loophole, the legislation is not retroactive and will not impact Bellotti’s pension.
The House approved a bill to allow class size to be subject to collective bargaining between school districts and public school teachers. It also voted to require coordinated care organizations, which handle the state’s version of Medicaid, to hold their meetings in public. Buehler and Whisnant voted “no” on both bills.
The bills now go to the Senate.
Legislation nicknamed “The Buehler Loophole Bill” by opponents of the Bend lawmaker running for governor, did a U-turn in the House, being sent back to the House Rules committee. It’s unlikely to reappear on the House floor this session.
The bill would require public officials and candidates to declare income paid by companies doing business with the state to businesses they owned — with certain exceptions — in addition to income they received directly.
Democrats introduced the bill in 2017 after the Oregon Government Ethics Commission decided Buehler had not broken the law when he did not include about $90,000 paid to a company he owned by medical and medical parts companies.
That bill died in committee, but a new version moved forward with the same sponsor, Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis. Rayfield said the bill was not targeted at anyone, but an attempt to upgrade transparency in ethics filings. Buehler, who is running for governor, said he would vote for the bill if it came to the House floor.
But House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, denounced the bill as a partisan attack. After discussions between House leaders of both parties, the bill was quietly sent back to committee on a voice vote.
Activists in favor of the bill said McLane had threatened to use his right as House Minority Leader to demand that all bills going forward be read in their entirety, a move that would grind progress on legislation to a snail’s pace. Both sides agreed to shelve the debate — for now.
Ben Unger, executive director of the progressive group Our Oregon, tweeted his frustration: “@KnuteBuehler got his House GOP cronies to do his dirty work, and successfully hid his financial ties…again.”
Buehler spokesman Jordan Conger said Buehler did not request the action and would have voted “yes” if the bill came to the floor. McLane said Buehler had not requested that he take a stand against the bill, but he did because the bill was “poorly crafted” and created new loopholes and bureaucracy.
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