SALEM — Guns, gas, wildfires and clock-watching were on the Legislature’s agenda during a busy week in the Capitol. Activity has ramped up as lawmakers face a Friday deadline to have policy bills scheduled for debate and a vote in a committee. Those policy bills that aren’t put on the calendar automatically die. The work session where bills can be amended, approved or rejected has to occur by April 9 or bills die.
Some of the important or odd news from in and around the rotunda:
An estimated crowd of over 2,000 attended a rally Saturday in opposition to proposed gun control bills before the Legislature. The “Defend the 2nd” rally was organized in part by Redmond-based Radian Weapons.
The main focus for the group was Senate Bill 501, which calls for permits before buying firearms, limits purchases of ammunition to 20 rounds in a 30-day period, requires gun locks and bans the sale of gun magazines that hold more than five rounds.
The bill has been in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary since Jan. 16, with no hearing scheduled.
Legislative leaders have said they hope to pass other bills requiring gun locks and putting limits on transfer of weapons by licensed gun dealers before required background checks have been completed.
Bonham pushing for more self-serve gas pumps
Full-service at gasoline stations, one of Oregon’s signature quirks, is up for more changes in the Legislature.
Oregon and New Jersey are the last states that mandate some kind of full-service gas in most locations. House Bill 3194 would allow gas stations in Oregon to designate up to a quarter of their pumps as self-service. The bill is co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, and Rep. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles. Bonham’s district includes the northern-most portion of Deschutes County and all of Jefferson County.
During a hearing last week before the Joint Committee on Transportation, proponents argued that the bill would speed fill-ups but still requires gas stations to have attendants, preserving jobs. Opponents said the bill would lead to job cuts and was a stepping stone toward allowing self-serve stations in the future.
The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.
Tuition freeze proposed
A new bipartisan bill would bar any tuition increases at state universities and colleges for the next two years. House Bill 3381 was requested by the Oregon Student Association.
Budget proposals submitted by both Gov. Kate Brown and legislative leaders would likely lead to tuition hikes, according to university and community college officials. The bill would make an end run around the budget process, allocating an unspecified amount of funds to specifically hold the line on tuition. It would require the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to make a report to the Legislature on college costs to students, including loan debt, tuition and living expenses.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education with no hearing scheduled. If approved, it would have to go to the main budget-writing panel, the Joint Committee on Ways & Means, where it would compete with other measures seeking funds.
‘Revenge porn’ law update passes the House
A bill to update state law on “revenge porn” was unanimously approved by the House last week. “Revenge porn,” also known as “sextortion,” occurs when someone distributes sexually explicit images of another person without consent.
Though the term “revenge porn” indicates the crime being perpetrated by a scorned lover or spouse, the law includes third parties who may have no relationship with those appearing in the images. Under current state law, posting images without consent is only a crime when it is shared on a website. House Bill 2393 expands the law to include sending images by email and text message or making printouts.
The bill was requested by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. It now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to win easy passage and go to Brown to be signed into law.
Wildfire bill moves forward
A bill to push existing state law to help homeowners prevent wildfires won unanimous approval of the House Committee on Natural Resources last week. House Bill 2222, co-sponsored by Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, Bonham and others, requires the Oregon Department of Forestry to fully implement the Oregon Forestland-Urban Interface Act.
The 1997 law was supposed to give property owners incentives and tools to remove brush and other fire fuels around their properties to prevent a catastrophic wildfire. Zika said the Department of Forestry has failed to fully implement the law. After the wildfire last year that killed 85 people and wiped out the town of Paradise, California, Zika said it was time to head off similar events in Oregon.
A U.S. Forest Service report last year rated Bend as the fourth most vulnerable city out of 100 in Oregon and Washington to a be hit by a major wildfire. Redmond was seventh. Prineville, Terrebonne, Tumalo and Sisters also appeared in the top 25 Oregon communities at the greatest risk. An estimated 41,000 homes in and around Bend carry some risk of wildfire exposure. “There is no greater natural disaster risk to Central Oregonians than wildfire,” Zika said.
The bill now goes to the full House for a vote.
Helt attends Michelle Obama event
Helt tweeted last week that she and her daughter had gone to Portland on March 19 to see “Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama” at the Moda Center. Helt said she and her daughter went for inspiration — and got it. Though Obama is a Democrat and Helt is a Republican, Helt said the message of the evening transcended party lines.
“She had great wisdom to share around parenting, marriage & family values,” Helt wrote. “Regardless of politics, her life is an amazing journey full of lessons and inspiration.”
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, firstname.lastname@example.org