SALEM, Ore. -- Several important new laws were passed this year, with many taking effect Jan. 1. Here are the ones that made our list.
No. 1 — Laws supporting victims of crimes (various House and Senate bills):
The Legislature passed a slew of laws intended to better protect victims of crime, particularly women and children. SB 3 increases the penalty for violating domestic violence restraining orders. SB 492 allows use of sick leave or personal business leave for victims seeking domestic abuse treatment, rather than only vacation time. SB 525 prevents someone with a restraining order or certain domestic abuse convictions from possessing a gun or ammunition. HB 2317 doubles the statute of limitations to 12 years for rape and other sex crimes; previously Oregon had one of the shortest statutes of limitations for those crimes. SB 759 requires universities in Oregon to keep written, public procedures for responding to sexual assaults of students, faculty or staff. The procedures must include notifying victims of their rights and resources available to them. HB 2356 makes nonconsensual "up-skirt" photography illegal and provides for jail sentences up to a year for offenders. SB 188 makes "revenge porn" illegal. HB 2234 boosts funding for Oregon's Child Abuse Intervention Centers and HB 2205 creates a fund to help curb child sex trafficking.
No. 2 — Paid sick leave (Senate Bill 454):
SB 454 mandates that employers with more than 10 employees provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to each worker. Oregon is only the fourth state to pass a mandatory sick leave law. Full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers are covered under the law. Only federal employees are excluded.
No. 3 — Motor voter (House Bill 2177):
HB 2177 changes Oregon's voter registration system from opt-in to opt-out. When someone eligible to vote gets or renews a driver's license, they will automatically be registered to vote. The bill is expected to increase the number of voters. According to the Secretary of State's Office, nearly 30,000 Oregonians were denied voter registration during the last federal election because they missed registration deadlines. Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins said her office expects about 10,000 voters to be registered each month under the new program.
No. 4 — Ban the box (House Bill 3025):
HB 3025 bans employers from inquiring about an applicant's criminal history prior to interviewing them. (There's an exception if getting the job requires a criminal background check.) If violated, the Bureau of Labor and Industries can take action under state civil rights law.
No. 5 — Expanded access to birth control (House Bill 2879 and House Bill 3343):
HB 2879 and HB 3343 expand access to birth control for Oregonian women. The New York Times called the bills "groundbreaking." The first bill provides a pathway for pharmacists to eventually prescribe birth control to women over 18 who don't have a primary care physician's note. The second bill requires insurers that cover prescription contraceptives also pay for prescription refills. State lawmakers have said the bill will hopefully reduce unintended pregnancies, a factor in whether someone stays under the poverty line.
No. 6 — Wage transparency (House Bill 2007):
HB 2007 makes it illegal for an employer to discipline its employees for inquiring about the wages of other workers or disclosing their own wage publicly. If an employee is disciplined for asking about or discussing wages, they'll be able to sue their employer for damages. The bill is meant in part to help close the pay gap between men and women.
No. 7 — Personal injury protection (Senate Bill 411):
SB 411 changes laws on uninsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection coverage. The law allows drivers injured in a crash to apply their uninsured motorist coverage to the at-fault driver's liability insurance. That means the injured driver will get all the coverage they paid for. The bill also changes the personal injury protection law. Before SB 411, personal injury damages were paid to the insurance company who was then supposed to transfer them to the injured person. Now, injured people can bypass the insurance company and have their damages paid directly to them.
No. 8 — Clean fuels (Senate Bill 324):
SB 324 extends Oregon's clean fuels legislation. The law aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels by 10 percent in 10 years. Some state lawmakers are trying to push Oregon into the forefront of states leading the charge against climate change. (In a demonstration that it's serious, the state sent a representative to the COP21 climate talks in Paris.) Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement earlier this year that she believes the law is essential in helping West Coast states form alternative energy markets.
No. 9 — Right to try (House Bill 2300):
HB 2300 gives terminally ill patients in Oregon the right to try medical treatments that haven't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The bill passed with largely bipartisan support making Oregon one of 24 states to now have a "right to try" law.
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