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Posts tagged as “Oregon Legislature”

Would they forgive?

The normal rule is supposed to be that if voters approve (or disapprove) a ballot issue, that legislators take that message to heart or run a big political risk. Who wants to act against the voters?

Well, the guess here is that the Oregon Legislature may do just that when it comes to last year's Measure 57.

Measure 57 "increased term of imprisonment for persons convicted of specified drug and property crimes under certain circumstances. The measure enacted law which prohibits courts from imposing less than a presumptive sentence for persons convicted of specified drug and property crimes under certain circumstances, and requires the Department of Corrections to provide treatment to certain offenders and to administer grant program to provide supplemental funding to local governments for certain purposes." It passed with 61.45 of the vote last year.

An it is expensive, in a corrections system where cost has been explosive already for years.

A lot of budget items are likely to be hit, hard, when the numbers are pencilled in starting later this month. A lot of people are pleading for many of those cuts - in education, social services, safety - not to be cut too deeply. But in reading the reports of the legislature's Ways & Means committee road show last month, there seems to be little constituency out there calling hard for fulfilling the terms of 57. Priorities may have changed.

And priorities may be a key issue here. 57 got on the ballot as an alternative to another ballot issue, 61, which would have focused less on inmate treatment and - because of its handling of sentencing and other matters - would have been far more expensive for the state. A lot of people doubtless would as soon have seen neither pass, but blacked in the line on 57 as the better alternative of the two.

How many felt that way? That's a question legislators doubtless will be gauging in the next few weeks.

Tow it away

By the time you get down to stories about people having their cars towed away from their own driveways - and yes, this has happened, and people have gone public about it, as you'll read - you've got to figure that putting some fencing around patrol towing would be a political no-brainer.

Took a while, but today that point seems to have arrived at the Oregon Legislature, as House Bill 2578 is moving from committee toward House floor. This will be an ongoing fight; a substantial business group is seeing something of significance here, and they will fight.

What it does, most basically:

Requires owner of parking facility to affix notice on vehicle
prior to contacting tower to remove vehicle.
Requires tower to contact owner of parking facility before
towing motor vehicle from facility.
Requires tower to release motor vehicle free of charge if owner
or operator of vehicle is present at time of tow.
Provides sanctions for applicant for or holder of towing
business certificate who has accepted or provided compensation
based on number of vehicles towed.

Sean Cruz, a former state Senate staffer who has been working on this for years, and helped push through some preliminary regulation. Indications have been that those efforts only dented predatory towing, hence the new. In February he posted his testimony on the new measure (he supports it) and makes some points not often heard. Consider this one:

"Unlike any other commercial activity in Oregon, patrol towing creates a direct burden on local police resources, paid for entirely by the taxpaying general population. This burden begins when the tow driver calls the police to report that he is towing a certain vehicle. Then there is the second call to the police, coming either when the vehicle owner finds her vehicle gone and is reporting it stolen, or when the vehicle owner returns to her vehicle and finds some surly stranger with a tow truck hooking it up. This driver is fully aware that either money changes hands at this moment, or he is wasting his time, about to drive off with an empty wallet. The third burden on police resources comes when at least one officer is called to the scene, and then anything can happen or might have already happened."

And the horror stories continue: (more…)

The silly bills

Are these the silliest bills in Salem? Your chance to weigh in.

But how can you not vote for the one, House Bill 3146, described by its own sponsor (Representative Chip Shields, D-Portland) as "a stupid bill." (Go to the link and look at the list; that's where you'll kinda get the point.)

Now: How about Washington and Idaho?

Semi-fusion voting

If the Oregon Senate follows the track of the Oregon House (which in this case voted 52-8 in favor), Oregon may make one of the more interesting changes in Northwest election laws in years, but which once was commonplace: Something resembling fusion voting.

A century and more ago, many parts of the country (and the Northwest was prominent in this) had two major and a number of minor parties which often would split support of various candidates. Seldom would a candidate get both the Democratic and Republican nominations, but they might also pick up support of one or more smaller parties, and these levels of support could be enough to make a difference. (The Idaho governor who got the largest-ever voting percentage, in 1896, was a Democrat - but he got it with the support of a batch of splinters as well.)

Some states (New York, for one) still do remnants of this kind of voting but the Northwest has not for a long time. But Oregon, for one, has always allowed candidates to pick up the nominations of more than one party in a single election. It just hasn't placed more than one party's support on the ballot - you have to choose.

Now that seems likely to change, if House Bill 2414 passes - "will allow candidates for partisan office the option of listing the names of more than one nominating party on the general election ballot (i.e., Ben Westlund Democratic, Independent or Vicki Berger Republican, Independent)."

You may have picked up a trend line there; the new Oregon Independent Party did quite a bit of cross-nomination last cycle and probably will again, and the joint listing on the ballot could substantially increase the value of the joint nominations. (Some other smaller parties have done likewise; the Independent's press release on the subject today notes that bill co-sponsor Representative Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, in 2008 got both the Democratic and the Working Families nominations.)

There's a good chance, by the way, that the Senate will go along: Nearly half of the members of the Senate already have put down their names in support.

Of record, paper and pixel

blue book

Oregon Blue Book

The cover art for the Oregon Blue Books has long been spectacular, and the coastal shot on the cover for the 09/10 edition lives up to the past entries. Probably helps that the secretary of state's office, which publishes the book, gets the pictures by way of a photo contest. Probably also helps that Oregon is so photogenic.

The book appears to be as physically full as its predecessors (copies won't be available until next month), but you have to suspect a lot of the content will migrate, over the next few editions, on line. Already, with this edition, there's a fair amount of web-only material. Which seems likely to grow.

E-FILINGS On a semi-related note, the Oregonian's political blog notes that the Oregon Senate has voted to let people submitting materials to the legislature do so electronically, ending a requirement for print copies.

Mostly. One senator, Sherwood Republican Larry George, cast a protest vote because state agencies still would have to submit paper copies of executive summaries to all legislators. Why that exception, is altogether unclear.

Maybe they can amend that in to the measure when it gets to the House . . .