SALEM — With the finish line in sight, the Oregon Legislature put the pedal to the metal on Wednesday, voting a day early on a massive road-building plan, while more than 50 bills — everything from abortion to opiates, illegal GPS tracking and raising the age to buy tobacco — screeched across the desks of the Senate and House leaders.
Legislators would like to call it quits as soon as Thursday now that the biggest (transportation bill) and hardest (state abortion funding) votes are done.
After sitting idle in a joint committee for a month, the highway bill was resurrected by a deal involving Gov. Kate Brown, industry, environmentalists and lawmakers. The plan shed almost $3 billion in projects, simplified an array of taxes, and spread the money more evenly than the original Portland-centric plan. Over the next 10 years, Bend will receive $20 million and Deschutes County will get $50 million.
Because the plan raises taxes, it needed a three-fifths majority to pass. That left Democrats one vote short in both the House and Senate. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, called up the transportation bill when she was sure a coalition of Democrats and a few Republicans could pass the legislation.
The bill passed the House 39-20 and now goes to the Senate.
A state Office of Outdoor Recreation would be created under House Bill 3350, which was approved by the Senate 19-11 and now goes to the governor.
Backed by Bend-area hiking, kayaking, and mountain climbing businesses, the office will promote the kind of lifestyle that just landed Bend on the cover of Outside Magazine’s list of best places to live.
Housing for mentally ill
A bipartisan bill by Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, would tap into the Mental Health Fund for the building of community-based housing, including licensed residential treatment facilities, crisis intervention services, rental subsidies and other housing-related services for people with mental illness and substance abuse.
Keny-Guyer spoke of homeless in Portland who froze to death in the streets even though there were shelter beds available.
“They could not functionally figure out how to go find the shelter,” she said.
Oregon has consistently rated at or near the bottom of states for access to mental health help and other standards of psychological care.
“We are about 50th in mental health care,” Keny-Guyer said. “I hope we can move up from 50th … to 1st.”
The bill, HB 3063, was approved unanimously and now goes to the Senate.
Maybe you’ve watched that scene on so many television shows where a guy sticks a tracking device in the wheel well of a bad guy’s car and follows him to the drug kingpin’s house by following the signal of the Global Positioning Satellite device he hid.
Under Senate Bill 483, that is not just a no-no, it is becoming a Class A misdemeanor. If authorities can show the crime involved stalking or violation of a restraining order, it becomes a Class C misdemeanor.
The bill goes to Brown for her signature.
Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, co-sponsored a HB 3440 to require advanced training of medical professionals who prescribe opiate-related medicines and to better track prescriptions. Buehler said he was motivated by a report by the Oregon Health Authority showing Oregon has one of the highest rates of opiod misuse in the nation.
Buehler’s bill was folded into another by Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, that allows pharmacists to prescribe naloxone, the drug used to overcome heroin overdoses.
The bill passed unanimously and now goes to the Senate.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, co-sponsored HB 3458, which strengthens overtime rules for workers, but also erases a wrinkle in current law that allows for a double-dip by some workers on both daily and weekly overtime. Under the bill, employers would pay the greater of the two, rather than both. Knopp was also able to get waivers for companies involved in seasonal perishables after harvest, catch or slaughter. For example, workers at a fruit orchard could work, in some cases, 84 hours a week, but have to give their explicit permission. Knopp said the bill was the result of bipartisan problem-solving with Rep. Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland, the chair of the Senate Workforce Committee.
“Both sides agreed they would rather have a bill than walk away and fight another session or two,” Knopp said in a Senate floor speech supporting the bill.
The bill passed unanimously. It now goes back to the House.
Profiling, possession, deportation
A three-prong effort to reduce racial profiling, throttle back on prison time for simple possession of drugs, and a one-day change in sentencing that will protect undocumented workers passed the House 36-23. It now goes to the Senate.
The bill requires improved training for law enforcement to avoid racial profiling, reduced jail time for simple possession of controlled substances, and it reduced the maximum sentence for Class A misdemeanors from 365 to 364 days. Under federal law, a year sentence or more requires mandatory deportation of aliens, even green card holders and legal permanent residents.
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