The Mercury provides news and fun every single day—but your help is essential. If you believe Portland benefits from smart, local journalism and arts coverage, please consider making a small monthly contribution, because without you, there is no us. Thanks for your support!

Good afternoon, Portland! Let's dive right in.

In local news:

• A well-funded “energy choice” group may threaten the implementation of Eugene City Council’s recent ban on gas appliances in some new buildings. The group, Eugene Residents for Energy Choice, is aiming to gather enough signatures to the delay the ban and put it on the November ballot, allowing voters to have the final say. While signature gatherers say they are concerned residents, the group appears to be funded by NW Natural, Oregon’s largest fracked gas supplier.

• Dave Baden, chief financial officer for the Oregon Health Authority, has been selected to temporarily lead the OHA following turnover at the agency. Current OHA director James Schroeder unexpectedly announced his upcoming departure last week after less than 10 weeks in the role, citing a need to spend more time with his family. Governor Kotek opened a search for a permanent director Friday.

• Bill to watch: Senate Bill 787 would make it a felony to assault a bus operator at anytime. Currently, it’s a felony to assault a bus driver when the bus is moving and a misdemeanor to assault them when the bus is stopped. Drivers with ATU 757, the union representing TriMet operators, are supportive of the bill because they believe it would give them more protection, while opponents of the bill believe the change would not reduce assaults on drivers and further criminalize people in mental crisis.

• Ava Gene’s, the pan-Italian restaurant on inner SE Division St., is reopening March 17 after a three-year pandemic closure. For those that loved the restaurant’s food, the menu maintains the same vibe, but the internal structure and leadership has been revamped following allegations of a toxic workplace in 2020.

In national news:

• After a spike in robberies in 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams is asking the public to lower their face masks when they enter a store to reassure store workers that they are not criminals planning to rob them. The recommendation has already caused confusion, given that the city’s health department currently recommends wearing a mask indoors and many believe it’s unlikely that someone who already intends to rob a store will comply with the request.

• Five women are suing Texas after being denied abortions while facing medical crises. While Texas’s ban on abortion allows limited exceptions for medical emergencies, the suit alleges that the lack of clarity around the exceptions has led to doctors being too scared to provide abortions in any situation because of possible legal repercussions. In one case, a plaintiff in the lawsuit went into early labor while 19 weeks pregnant—too early for a fetus to survive—but was denied an abortion in Texas, despite facing the possibility of a life-threatening infection.

• You can now buy forever stamps with Toni Morrison’s face on them.

• OH HI: