Governance Updates
3/1/2021
By Norman Turrill, Governance Coordinator

Redistricting (Norman Turrill)

The House and Senate redistricting committees met concurrently this last week with a long list of organizations invited to testify and comment on their desires for the redistricting process. The Oregon League was invited to testify to the second of the two meetings. Another such hearing will be held 3/2/21.

The redistricting committees have set up a new website to help inform and involve the public in their work. They also issued a flyer and asked the League and others to distribute it widely to announce a series of ten hearings focused on each of the five congressional districts of Oregon. Oregon law requires ten hearings before redistricting maps can be drawn. However, since census data will not be available until Sept. 30 at the latest, these will likely not be the last opportunity for input into the process.

In the meantime, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Legislative Counsel has hired an outside law firm to research and assess its options to deal with the redistricting timeline created by the census data delay. This law firm may also represent the legislature in any court proceedings, such as an appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court for a delay of the constitutional deadlines.

The People Not Politicians Oregon coalition filed a motion for summary judgement last week in its federal court case against Oregon, which is left over from the IP 57 initiative campaign. The PNP coalition is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to rule that Oregon violated the U.S. Constitution when it failed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by making reasonable accommodations in its 2020 ballot initiative process. See the media release here. See the motion for summary judgement here and the accompanying exhibits here.

Campaign Finance (Norman Turrill)

Rep. Rayfield organized two informal work group meetings last week for legislators, lobbyists and good government groups to discuss requirements for campaign contribution limits and other CFR bills.

House Rules Committee

The committee will hear two bills, HB 2353 and HB 2991, on 3/2 that deal with racial and ethnic equity and impact.

HB 3144 establishes the annual salary of members of the Legislative Assembly at annual mean occupational employment and wage estimate for Oregon for the year preceding the start of biennium. This bill will have a work session on 3/2 without a previous public hearing, which implies it will be referred to another committee without recommendation.

On 3/4 the committee will hear HB 2323, which prohibits knowingly communicating materially false statement with intent to mislead electors about date of election, deadline for delivering ballot, voter registration deadline, method of registering to vote, locations at which elector may deposit ballot, qualifications of electors or voter registration status within 30 days of primary election or special election or within 60 days of general election. The League will support this bill as part of our efforts to combat disinformation in elections.

Senate Rules Committee

SB 463 establishes an exception to the definition of a gift to allow food or beverage to be consumed by legislators or candidates for the legislature. This bill provides no limitation and so would unfortunately allow “wining and dining” legislators or candidates by special interest groups. The League strongly opposed this bill in a letter to the committee, and as well as every other person commenting on the bill. Yet all the senators seemed to favor the bill during its hearing on 2/23!

 

Election Topics (Becky Gladstone)

Large policy and budget bills are still a few weeks away for the Technology and Information Committee and elections. Legislative Staff from the Secretary of State (SoS) invited League input on County Clerks’ elections bills this week. We support these largely as housekeeping adjustments, not big policy change, details in our linked testimony.

SB 249: County clerks should begin opening and counting ballots upon receipt, League testimony.

SB 251: Adapt statute on the use of ballot secrecy envelopes, which may not be needed, League testimony.

Other Governance Bills (Chris Cobey)

HB 2485 requires state agencies to reduce public records request fees by 50 percent if request is made in public interest, and requires state agencies to entirely waive fees if public records request is in public interest and narrowly tailored. Requires requests made by members of news media to be treated as in public interest. Requires, on or after January 1, 2022, local governments, local service districts and special government bodies to make identical reductions and waivers in public records requests fees unless the governing body of records custodian conducts public meeting, deliberates on and resolves not to adopt fee reductions and waivers. Declares emergency, effective on passage. A public hearing was held February 18 in House Rules. Witnesses had conflicting views on the definition and determination of "public interest."

HB 2487 clarifies that a personnel discipline action against a certified reserve officer, corrections officer, parole and probation officer, police officer, or youth correction officer is not an exemption under ORS 192.345(12), and removes or repeals the other two prohibitions relating to public records about public safety officers. A public hearing was held February 18 in House Rules.

A public hearing was held on the following four ethics commission bills in Senate Rules on Feb. 25:

SB 60 extends period for Oregon Government Ethics Commission to complete Preliminary Review Phase of alleged violation of ethics laws from 30 calendar days to 60 calendar days.

SB 61 authorizes Oregon Government Ethics Commission to provide written commission advisory opinions, staff advisory opinions and oral or written staff advice on application of executive session provisions of Oregon public meetings law.

SB 62 prohibits current or former public official from soliciting, receiving or using public moneys from public body to pay or make payments on civil penalty imposed by Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

SB 63 extends maximum amount of time person may serve as a member of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission from one full four-year term to two full four-year terms.

Public hrgs for SB 60-63, February 25; Senate Rules.

SB 500 establishes Public Records Advocate as independent office.

Work hrg: 3/2, 8 AM; Senate Labor and Business.

Rights for Incarcerated Individuals (Marge Easley)

A hearing on February 24 in the Senate Judiciary featured three bills that seek to remedy historic injustices in our criminal justice system:  SJR 10, SJM 2, and SB 571. The first two, SJR 10 and SJM 2, propose amendments to the Oregon and US Constitutions, respectively, that would eliminate language granting exceptions to the prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude in cases of criminal punishment. The League testimony pointed out that this language was inserted in the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution for the purpose of continuing the widespread practice of convict leasing, where prisons provided convicts to private parties for free labor in exchange for payments for food, clothing, and housing. The practice quickly gained favor as a way to disempower and marginalize newly freed slaves and continues to this day in many forms, including the mandate in the Oregon Constitution that “taxpayer-supported institutions and programs shall be free to benefit from inmate work…so as to achieve a net profit in private sector activities or so as to benefit the community.”  US Senator Jeff Merkley is the chief sponsor of federal legislation to amend the US Constitution and he delivered strong testimony in support, along with a number of legislators and elected officials.

The League also testified in strong support of SB 571, which would extend the right to vote to incarcerated citizens in Oregon. We based our support on our belief that voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed. It is an acknowledgement of the racist underpinnings of disenfranchisement laws that allowed the mass incarceration of former slaves for minor and often manufactured offenses. This bill would be a landmark step forward in voting rights, making Oregon the first state in the nation to restore voting rights to incarcerated citizens. Our state would join Maine and Vermont, which have never rescinded this right, in allowing all citizens to vote. Many elected officials, including the Secretaries of State of Oregon and Maine, testified in support, and a work session has been scheduled for March 3 in Senate Judiciary.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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503-581-5722

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