SALEM, Ore — Oregon lawmakers adopted a range of reforms, policy changes and civil rights protections during this year’s five-month legislative session, including new laws designed to promote affordable housing, improve police oversight and make it explicitly illegal to intimidate others by displaying a noose.
Those new laws, and many others, take effect Jan. 1. While some were contentious, many passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support.
Here’s a look at some of the changes in store:
POLICE REFORM: George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer triggered a national reckoning on civil rights. Oregon lawmakers responded with several bills aimed at improving police conduct and oversight. Here are some of those that take effect Jan. 1:
· Senate Bill 204 gives civilian oversight board access to a database of police encounters and arrests. The bill passed the House 34-22, and the Senate 18-11.
· Senate Bill 621 gives local jurisdictions the ability to set law for community oversight boards that oversee police discipline. Lawmakers took up this bill at Portland’s request. It passed the Senate 20-7 and the House 37-19.
· House Bill 2513 requires CPR training for police certification and requires police to call for emergency medical aid if a restrained person suffers respiratory or cardiac crisis. The bill passed the House 58-2 and the Senate 24-4.
· House Bill 2929 requires police officers to report misconduct or fitness standards and mandates investigation into such a report with 72 hours. Investigators must report misconduct findings to a state board. The House voted 58-2 for the bill; the Senate approved it 27-2.
· House Bill 2936 creates a background checklist and standardized personal history questionnaire for aspiring police officers and exempts law enforcement from a prohibition on employer access to personal social media accounts. While the law takes effect on Jan. 1, it cannot be used to hire corrections officers until July 1, 2023. It passed the House 54-4 and the Senate 20-8.
· House Bill 3145 requires police departments to report officer discipline to the state within 10 days. The state will publish those reports in an online publicly accessible database. It passed the House 58-1 and the Senate 26-2.
· House Bill 2932 requires Oregon law enforcement to participate in the FBI’s national use-of-force database and directs a state commission to analyze the data and report its findings to the Legislature every year. The bill passed the House 58-1 and the Senate 20-7.
· House Bill 2986 requires police officers be trained to investigate and report bias crimes. It passed both the House and the Senate unanimously.
· House Bill 3059 requires any arrests associated with “unlawful assemblies” to be based on crimes other than a failure to disperse. It also passed the House and Senate unanimously.
· House Bill 3273 limits the circumstances in which law enforcement officers may release booking photos, commonly known as mugshots. Supporters said online publication of mugshots were impinging on people’s privacy and preventing them from moving on with their lives, whether or not they were ultimately convicted of crimes. It passed the House 54-4 and the Senate 17-13.
PUBLIC MEETINGS: House Bill 2560 makes permanent a pandemic-era change. It requires government agencies, whenever possible, to stream their meetings online and give the public the opportunity to testify remotely. The bill passed the House 42-5 and the Senate 25-2.
COLD MEDICINE: Oregon was one of just two states (Mississippi was the other) that required a prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a restriction established to limit people’s ability to buy large quantities and use it to make methamphetamine. But lawmakers concluded that a multistate system for tracking purchases, and meth production shifting to labs outside the country, made Oregon’s law obsolete. So House Bill 2648 repealed Oregon’s restriction. Now, people can buy cold medicines by asking a pharmacist, who registers the transaction with the database. The bill passed the House 54-4, and the House 27-2.
ELECTIONS: House Bill 3291 requires Oregon to count ballots mailed the day of the election. Previously, counties would count only ballots actually received on or before Election Day. It passed the House 39-21 and the Senate 16-13. This will delay how quickly election results can be determined but is likely to lead to higher election turnout.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Senate Bill 8 requires local governments to allow development of affordable housing even on land not zoned for residential use, with some exceptions for lands designated for heavy industry and publicly owned properties next to sites zoned for school or residential use. It also lowers the duration for which such housing must be classified as affordable, from 40 years to 30. The bill won overwhelming legislative support, passing the Senate 25-5 and the House 46-3.
HATE CRIMES: Senate Bill 398 makes it a crime to intimidate people by displaying a noose. Violators face up to 364 days in prison and a fine of $6,250. The bill passed the Senate 27-1 and the House 54-0.
RACIAL EQUITY: House Bill 2935, known as the Crown Act, bans discrimination in schools or the workplace “based on physical characteristics that are historically associated with race.” The law specifies hair style and hair texture are among those newly protected traits. It passed the House 58-0 and the Senate 28-1.
JUVENILE SUSPECTS: Senate Bill 418 establishes that if a police officer intentionally uses false information to elicit a statement from someone under age 18, that statement will be presumed to be involuntary. The bill passed the Senate 24-4, and the House 53-2.
TEACHER UNIONS: Senate Bill 580 requires school districts bargain with teacher unions over class sizes at schools with high concentrations of low-income students. The bill’s original version would have applied more broadly, potentially requiring schools to lower class sizes in high-income schools and raise them in schools with a concentration of low-income students, who have greater learning needs. The Legislature narrowed the bill’s scope after The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that it could undermine the state’s efforts to provide more equitable outcomes for students of all backgrounds. The House approved the bill 36-21; the Senate voted 18-11 in favor.
HOMELESSNESS: Senate Bill 850 requires that death reports for homeless people list the person’s residence as “domicile unknown.” Supporters hope the bill will help track the number of people who die while experiencing homelessness, something that already happens in Multnomah County. The bill passed 22-5 in the Senate and 52-0 in the House.
MARIJUANA: House Bill 3369 allows nurses to discuss possible medical use of marijuana with their patients. It passed the House 47-5 and passed the Senate 21-6.