THE STATE LEGISLATIVE session in Salem kicked off last week and already our representatives are pitching more than 1,600 new laws for Oregon. From that pile of policy proposals (most of which don't stand a chance) here's a sampling of bills that jump out as important for Portlanders.
IMMIGRANTS! THEY BE VOTING?
Oregon immigrant-rights group CAUSA waited all of three days from the start of session to blast a batch of immigration laws proposed by Keizer, Oregon, Representative Kim Thatcher as "Arizona-style" legislation that will hurt immigrants and create a divisive culture in the state. None of the Republican's bills are as racial-profile-y as Arizona's infamous law. But among the bills, the one that jumps out is HB 2804, which would require proof of citizenship to register to vote. That would likely mean needing your birth certificate or passport on hand when registering. Thatcher responds that the bills are not meant to be divisive, but rather would provide "sensible reforms to hold people accountable who are breaking the law."
Another pair of bills, one from a Democrat and one from a Republican, propose making it easier to register: The Democratic bill (HB 2885) would require apartment complexes to hand out voter registration forms along with move-in info; the Republican twin (HB 2998) would do the same—for anyone who signs up for a hunting or fishing license.
• Making it a crime to "traffic illegal immigrants." (HB 2760—Representative Brian Clem, D-Salem)
• Require all new sentencing laws to include a racial impact statement that would examine whether the stiffer laws would disproportionately affect certain races. (No bill number yet—Senator Chip Shields, D-Portland)
Portland Representative Mitch Greenlick got himself into a firestorm last week, after bikeportland.org posted about the Democrat's HB 2228, which proposes hitting parents with a $90 ticket if they carry children younger than six years old on their bikes or in bike trailers. Greenlick worries that biking with kids is dangerous. But hundreds of parents who bike with their kids emailed and called representatives to say it's perfectly safe—and healthy to boot.
• A ban on studded car tires, which tear up roads (HB 2333)
• Criminalizing the sale of bikes with scratched-off serial numbers (HB 2824—Representative Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis)
• Studying requiring a bike license statewide (HB 2331)
DRINKING AND DRUNKING
The Oregon State Fair canceled its 22nd annual home-brewing competition last summer after the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) finally started enforcing a long-ignored law banning the sharing of homebrew outside the home. No less than three bills propose nixing that law, legalizing homebrew competitions as long as the beer isn't actually sold. Another bill, HB 2716, would allow cities to regulate the number of liquor licenses issued in their limits to keep down the number of bars.
• Banning anyone with two DUIIs from buying liquor for three years (HB 2769—Representative Thatcher)
• Making it a crime to drive "while drowsy." (HB 2749—Representative Clem)
East Portland Representative Jefferson Smith is pitching three bills aimed at making TriMet safer but on a tiny budget. The most peculiar? Playing classical music at MAX stations that have been identified as high crime. "It has a calming influence," says Smith, a Democrat. At the other end of the line, Representative Matt Wingard, a Republican from Wilsonville, proposes printing—on every TriMet ticket!—the amount that each ride is subsidized by tax dollars.
• Converting TriMet tickets into wearable stickers, to speed along fare enforcement (HB 2883—Representative Smith)
• Training neighbors to do anti-crime TriMet foot patrols (HB 2891—Representative Smith)
PUBLIC SAFETY DANCE
Oregon's 14,000 inmates can't vote, but they still count as people when the state is deciding voting districts based on representation. That's significant, because most prisons are in rural areas, while most inmates are from urban areas. Senator Shields' "Bill to End Prison-Based Gerrymandering" would have inmates count as part of their home district rather than the prison's legislative district.
• Forcing smoke shops to register with the state, like bars do with the OLCC (HB 2726—Representative Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie)
• Creating an "animal offender database," like the state's sex-offender database, that requires convicted animal abusers to register with local police (HB 2742—Representative Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach)
Should banks be allowed to "swipe information" from your driver's license if you sign up for their services? Businesses are currently barred from taking info off your driver's license (like your weight, height, and home address), but at the humble request of the Oregon Bankers Association, Happy Valley Democrat Mike Schaufler introduced HB 2615, which would exempt banks from that law.
• Taxing sugar-sweetened drinks sold in Oregon, at .5 cents per ounce (HB 2644—Representative Greenlick)
• Banning the annoying distribution of phone books, except to anyone who actually and specifically requests one (SB 525—Senator Shields)
This story has been updated. The soda tax was originally incorrectly listed as .005 cents per ounce. Clearly, we can't do the maths.