Special Session

During the Oregon Legislature's special session, a variety of police accountability measures were approved in response to public uprisings demanding change. The next special session is expected to be called later this summer and will deal with the state's $1 billion budget shortfall.

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown will soon call a special legislative session to address the state’s $1 billion budget shortfall.

House Speaker Tina Kotek said during the review of the shortfall, the state needs to carefully focus priorities.

“With a $1 billion hole to fix, I want to be sure we put early childhood and K-12 education first in line by maintaining our State School Fund and strengthening investments through the Student Success Act for the upcoming year,” Kotek said. “Our children and youth deserve support and stability in these difficult times.”

The shortfall follows the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oregon Legislative Assembly adjourned its first special session of 2020 on Friday, June 26 after approving six bills concerning police accountability and a variety of areas to support public health, individuals, local governments, courts and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown called on the legislature to respond to the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and to enact police accountability reforms.

“Across the state, tens of thousands of Oregonians have taken to the streets to demand racial justice and police accountability,” Brown said in a statement following the special session. “It will take far more work to set our state on a path toward racial justice, but these are very important steps forward.”

The police reform includes limits by police of the use of choke holds and tear gas.

House Bill 4203: Declares that a peace officer is not justified or reasonable in any circumstance to use physical force that impedes “the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by applying pressure on the throat or neck of the other person” unless it is a circumstance in which an officer may use deadly force as provided by ORS 161.239.

Rules will be adopted prohibiting the training of this force, except as a defensive maneuver.

HB 4205: Requires police and reserve officers to intervene to prevent or stop another officer from engaging in an act they know, or should reasonably know is misconduct.

Misconduct is defined as “unjustified or excessive force that is objectively unreasonable under the circumstances or in violation of the law enforcement agency's use of force policy; sexual harassment or sexual misconduct; discrimination against a person based on protected class; committing a crime; or violation of the minimum standards for fitness for public safety personnel.”

The bill requires the officer to report the misconduct as soon as possible, but no later than 72 hours after the misconduct; failure to report is grounds for discipline. DPSST will provide an annual report to the legislature on the rule adopted for implementation.

HB 4207: Requires the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) to establish a statewide online public database of records for officers whose certification has been revoked or suspended and specifies the information to be provided as well as timeline for posting. The bill brings current grounds for revocation or suspension of certification by DPSST from rules into statute.

Law enforcement agencies are required to request and review applicant's personnel files from current or prior employing law enforcement agencies and liability protection is provided for requesting and supplying agencies. Clarification is given that both violation and criminal convictions for marijuana possession are not grounds for mandatory suspension or revocation of certification.

HB 4208: Prohibits law enforcement agencies from using tear gas for crowd control, except for circumstances that meet the definition of a riot in ORS 166.015. Before using tear gas in the event of a riot, law enforcement must 1) announce their intent to use tear gas; 2) allow sufficient time for individuals to evacuate the area; 3) announce for a second time that they intend to use tear gas.

SB 1604: Under current processes, when an internal investigation finds misconduct of a police officer, the Chief of Police would apply a discipline guide that has been agreed to by the public employer and the collective bargaining unit. In response, the officer has the option to grieve the decision all the way to arbitration.

The arbitrator has the power to either disagree with the finding, agree with the finding and uphold the discipline, or agree with the decision but substitute a different discipline. Under this measure if the arbitrator agrees misconduct occurred they must impose the discipline required by the matrix.

House Bill 4201: Establishes a Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform to continue making progress on police reform.

The committee is directed to examine policies to improve transparency in investigations and complaints regarding use of force by police officers; increase transparency in police protocols and process to build public trust; examine policies that reduce the prevalence of serious physical injury or death caused by use of force, the authorization of use of force under state law, and the disparate impact on communities of color; determine most appropriate policy for independent review of deadly force; and make recommendations to the Judiciary committees by December 31, 2020.

Residential and commercial rent, eviction, foreclosure protections

House Bill 4204: Directs lenders to defer both residential and commercial mortgage payments during the pandemic emergency period until September 30, 2020 if a borrower is unable to pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deferred payments would be due at the end of the loan, unless the borrower and lenders determine alternate, agreeable terms.

House Bill 4213: Extends the moratorium on both commercial and residential no-cause evictions through September 30, 2020 and creates a six-month repayment grace period after the moratorium ends for tenants to repay their back rent accrued during the moratorium. During the repayment period, tenants may not be evicted for failure to repay their back rent, but they must keep paying their ongoing monthly rent.

Negative credit reporting for non-payment of rent during the moratorium is prohibited, as is assessing late fees or other penalties for nonpayment during the moratorium period.

COVID-19 Response

The omnibus House Bill 4212 covers a variety of areas to support public health, individuals, local governments, courts and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including emergency shelter siting, remote notary, Enterprise zone deadline extension, individual development account funds for pandemic relief, COVID-19 race and ethnicity data, Safe public meetings, CARES Act payment protection, safe court proceedings and temporary physician assistant authorization.

Other urgent needs

SB 1601: Prevents citations from being issued for expired driver licenses, permits, and vehicle registrations and further directs courts to dismiss any citation for specified offenses between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. SB 1601 also provides flexibility for transit providers by allowing Oregon’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund (STIF) to be used to maintain existing service. Previously, the STIF was reserved for transit expansion or improvement.

Additionally, SB 1601A merges the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Fund with the STIF and requires the Oregon Transportation Commission to dedicate a portion of the fund to transit for older adults and individuals with disabilities.

HB 4210: Removes authority of courts to impose driving privilege suspensions for failure to pay traffic-related fines or comply with requirements ordered in lieu of fines.

House Bill 4214: Modifies Oregon's dependency code to align with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and requires the Oregon Department of Human Services to provide biennial reports about American Indian and Alaska Native children in the child welfare system.

SB 1603: The Rural Telecommunications Act establishes the Broadband Fund to support projects for planning or developing broadband service infrastructure, and for the administration of the Oregon Broadband Office. Subjects sale of all retail telecommunications services, retail commercial mobile radio services, and retail interconnected voice over Internet protocol services to the universal service fund surcharge to support the Broadband Fund.

HB 4202: Makes technical changes and clarifications to the commercial activity tax that the legislature approved in 2019. These changes include technical clarifications and exempting six small, Oregon dairies.

Follow the Oregon budget shortfall developments at thechiefnews.com and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.

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