SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown has been busily signing new laws, a clear sign that most bills born at the beginning of the 2019 session of the Legislature in January are now dead or on her desk in June. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, on Monday ticked off several items still on lawmakers’ to-do list: a carbon cap, affordable housing, paid medical leave and a possible tax on tobacco. That may not be all. “There’s always unexpected things,” Kotek said. But with lawmakers receiving memos on how to close down their offices, the end of the 2019 session is quickly approaching. Some of the action going on under the dome:
Electric-powered boats OK’d for some lakes
Boats with small electric motors could be allowed on Charlton, Devils, Irish, Lucky, North and South Twin, Taylor, Three Creek and Todd lakes in Deschutes County, under legislation Brown signed last week.
House Bill 3168 allows the Oregon Marine Board to authorize the use of electric motors that operate at slow enough speeds to not create a wake on the water. The law only affects the named lakes and waterways, all of which the marine board is authorized to regulate.
The law doesn’t become effective until 91 days after the Legislature adjourns, which is expected by the end of this month. That means the law won’t be in place for this summer. Electric motor boats could also be used on some lakes in Clackamas, Douglas, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Lane, Linn and Marion counties.
The governor signed a bill Thursday that clarifies what restraints can be used on disruptive students in public schools. Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, a chief co-sponsor of the bill, said it would also curb the mandated practice of “room clears.” That’s when a teacher must have every student other than the one who is being disruptive leave the room. The bill had the bipartisan sponsorship of 31 legislators. Helt said the law would “return autonomy and trust back to our teachers in the classroom while keeping students safe.”
FBI aided research into Bigfoot claims in Oregon
The Capitol was buzzing about revelations last week that the FBI had joined in the hunt for Bigfoot in Oregon during the 1970s. The FBI released 22 pages of new documents showing it used its state-of-the-art forensic laboratory to aid an inquiry into the legendary large, hairy human-like creature, also called Sasquatch. According to The New York Times, Peter Byrne, then director of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition in The Dalles, sent the FBI’s tufts of hair believed be from Bigfoot and asked to have them analyzed. The FBI agreed.
“Occasionally, on a case-by-case basis, in the interest of research and scientific inquiry, we make exceptions to this general policy,” responded Jay Cochran Jr., at the time the assistant director of the FBI laboratory division. “With this understanding, we will examine the hairs and tissue mentioned in your letter.” The FBI examined the hair’s root structure, structure of scraps of scalp attached to the tufts, and cuticle thickness. The result: deer hair.
Smith to Transportation Commission in September
Bend attorney Sharon Smith will take her seat on the Oregon Transportation Commission on Sept. 1, Brown’s office confirmed Monday. Under state statute, at least one member of the five-member commission that sets state transportation policy and priorities must live east of the Cascades. Smith was nominated by Brown and confirmed by the Senate in May. Her term runs from Sept. 1 to June 30, 2023. Smith will take over the east and Central Oregon spot from former Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney, the transportation commission chair who did not seek reappointment. Though Baney’s term ends this month Brown’s office has said she will stay on through September to assist the commission in choosing the new director of the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Buehler fires back
Former Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, pushed back on Democrats’ claims that a trio of campaign finance reform bills are needed because of alleged excesses in Buehler’s unsuccessful 2018 race to replace Brown as governor. While Brown and Buehler together spent a record-shattering $37 million, Democrats have focused on Nike founder Phil Knight’s $2.5 million in contributions to Buehler, the most spent by a single individual on a candidate in state history. “No one person should have a megaphone so large that it drowns out other voices,” Brown said last week.
Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, chief sponsor of the bills, has also pointed to Buehler’s campaign as an impetus to introduce the legislation.
Buehler recently took to Twitter, saying Democratic legislative leaders (“D”) crafted bills intended to hamstring Independent Party of Oregon (“IPO”) and Republican (“GOP”) bids for office: “Salem D leaders and hyper-partisan Rep. Rayfield stack the deck against IPO and GOP challengers w/ faux campaign finance reform. Union and dark money loopholes remain intact allowing insiders to control elections with even less transparency,” Buehler wrote.
Oregon is one of five states with no limits on campaign contributions. The campaign finance bills have passed the House and are now in the Senate.
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