SALEM — Hot-button issues are taking center stage this week in the Capitol as lawmakers vote on vaccinations and gun control. With a little over two months remaining in the 2019 legislative session, the conveyor belt of bills has filled up and sped up. Lawmakers will also be dealing with a bill inspired by the murder of a Bend college student and another to ban food served in Styrofoam containers. Some of the top stories and more this week under the rotunda:
Vaccinations dominate next 2 days
Legislation to remove personal, philosophical and religious exemptions for vaccinations required for children to attend school is up for a vote this week. It’s expected to draw large numbers of opponents to the Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday. House Bill 3063 would remove all but medical waivers for required vaccinations. Opponents are holding a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday. They are also expected to be a large presence at a key committee hearing on Wednesday.
The bill was approved March 14 by the House Committee on Health Care by a 7-4 vote. It was sent to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means to measure its fiscal impact. It has sat for over a month while supporters worked on amendments they say will make it easier for parents who do not want their children vaccinated to obtain medical waivers. Opponents are not satisfied, but the amendments are aimed at lawmakers who might be on the fence about the bill.
The panel’s Joint Subcommittee on Human Services has scheduled a public hearing and possible vote for Wednesday. Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, is one of the chief co-sponsors of the legislation.
‘Kaylee’s Law’ up for Senate vote
The Senate has scheduled a Tuesday vote on Senate Bill 576, “Kaylee’s Law.” It places restrictions on campus security forces so they do not look or act like law enforcement. The bill stems from the 2016 murder of Central Oregon Community College student Kaylee Sawyer by a campus security guard.
The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Judiciary earlier this month. Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, is a chief co-sponsor. Helt has testified in favor of the bill and has said she will sign on as co-sponsor if it gets to the House.
COCC board chair defends campus security
Though Senate Bill 576 would cover all colleges that do not have a sworn law enforcement force, much of the focus has been on COCC because of Sawyer’s murder.
Bend Police Chief Jim Porter and Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel testified in favor of the bill. Both were critical of what they said was COCC’s slow pace of cooperation on changes to its security force in the aftermath of Sawyer’s murder. Last week, COCC Board of Directors Chairwoman Laura Craska Cooper defended the school in a widely circulated newsletter emphasizing COCC’s Campus Public Safety program.
“Over the past several years, COCC has proactively initiated ongoing dialogue with the Bend Police Department,” Craska wrote. “Unfortunately, these efforts have been misrepresented to the public, and most recently, to the Oregon legislature.”
Craska said the college’s campus public safety force had already implemented many of the requirements in SB 576. Interior partitions, front bumper push bars and police-style roof lights have been removed from vehicles. Officers’ uniforms and security vehicle exterior design have been changed to look less like law enforcement. Officers have been told to stop making citizen’s arrests, carrying handcuffs and initiating vehicle stops.
“Protecting the campus communities we serve requires a delicate balance between creating an open and inviting environment and providing safety and security against growing threats,” Craska wrote.
Gun control bill up in the House
A major gun control bill will likely get a vote this week in the House. HB 2013 mandates that a person subject to certain court protective orders would be prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill’s chief sponsor is House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland. It’s scheduled for a Tuesday vote.
A rally at the Capitol last month against gun control bills drew about 2,000 people. It was co-sponsored by Redmond-based Radian Weapons.
Rare tie vote in the House
A bill to ban single-use polystyrene containers from being used to serve retail food and beverages failed to pass the House on Monday, Earth Day. The final vote on HB 2883 was 29-29. The bill needed 31 votes to pass in the 60-member House, and two lawmakers were absent. Helt and Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, both voted “no.”
Debate centered on whether to ban polystyrene — best known as Styrofoam — containers or try to increase recycling of products. A motion to reconsider the bill is on Tuesday’s House schedule.
Former lawmaker joins Secretary of State staff
Secretary of State Bev Clarno last week named former Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, as deputy secretary of state. Vial, elected to the House in 2016, lost his seat in November to now-Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville.
“His legislative experience, extensive knowledge of state and local government, and bi-partisan reputation for intelligence and integrity will allow him to immediately hit the ground running,” Clarno said in a statement.
Clarno, a Republican from Redmond who once served as House speaker, was appointed last month by Brown. She will fill the remaining 20 months of the term of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who died in office Feb. 26 from brain cancer. The day after Clarno was sworn in March 31, she dismissed three members of Richardson’s executive office team, saying she wanted to bring in her own people.
Help for homeless veterans wins vote
The House on Monday unanimously passed HB 2530, which requires that foreclosure or lien notices sent to military veterans include information on benefits and housing assistance programs. Zika is a chief co-sponsor of the bill.
“It is simply unacceptable as policy makers to see more and more veterans on the street without somewhere to live,” Zika said in a statement.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
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