This has been a busy week at the Capitol, with long committee meetings and many bills being introduced, discussed and amended.
This week I testified in support of two bills I sponsored:
HB 3273: Prohibits law enforcement agency from releasing booking photos except under certain circumstances. Our justice system operates on the premise that people are innocent until proven guilty. A person that is arrested may have the charges dropped, found to be innocent, even exonerated from any crime. But the immediate release of a booking photo can cause lasting damage to an innocent person’s reputation, standing in the community, even ability to find employment.
HB 3047: Establishes civil cause of action for improper disclosure of personal information. This bill seeks to stem the weaponization of the release of personal information commonly known as “doxxing.” Oregon law protects against harassment but we currently lack the ability to hold those people who may intentionally facilitate harassment by publicizing certain information. The testimony we heard from law enforcement officials, attorneys, judges, and private individuals impacted by doxxing was disturbing.
People recounted how they received harassment, death threats, businesses received bomb threats, incidents of attempted arson of a multi-family housing unit, and much more. People have lost their personal privacy, had to move, lost their jobs, and have become victims due to cyber bullying. This bill has support from the Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association, the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, Portland Area Business Association, and many other organizations and individuals.
Property tax exemptions
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Revenue held a Work Session on HB 2693, my bill that deals with property tax exemptions for properties used for industry apprenticeships and training, which we describe as the “Food Box” bill. During the pandemic, UA Local 290 Plumbers and Steamfitters wanted to work with an industry non-profit to distribute food to families struggling with the COVID-19 emergency. UA attorneys determined that participating in a food drive and food box distribution effort would require a temporary lease of part of their trust property to the other non-profit, thereby causing the loss of their Oregon Property Tax exemption.
Sadly, the community assistance program had to be cancelled and they were unable to conduct the food distribution to Oregonians in need. At this week’s Work Session, no amendments were adopted and the “Food Box” bill was voted out of the Revenue Committee with a “Do Pass” recommendation. I will be honored to be carrying HB 2693 on the House Floor for a vote in the very near future.
Right to Repair
I serve on the House Committee on Business and Labor and this week we held a public hearing on HB 2698 which would implement a Right to Repair on electronic devices. Currently consumers lack easy and affordable access to resources needed to perform simple repairs like battery replacement.
Manufacturers oppose this legislation, feeling it may devalue their product by releasing proprietary information. Those that support the legislation decry the disposable approach to expensive electronics, and would like to prolong the use of consumer electronic devices and reduce the stream of electronic waste dumped in our landfills as it contains heavy metals including lead, arsenic and mercury. At this time we have held a Public Hearing on HB 2698, but a Work Session, where amendments could be introduced has not been scheduled.
ShakeAlert Comes to Oregon
Oregon has its share of natural disasters, from wildfires, to floods, landslides, active volcanoes, and earthquakes. Each hazard presents unique challenges, but one of the biggest challenge is the unpredictability of earthquakes. They strike without warning, and can cause widespread damage in a matter of seconds.
Using earthquake science and technology, the US Geological Survey has developed ShakeAlert to detect significant earthquakes quickly, giving advance warning so people and systems can take actions to protect life and property before the shaking arrives.
The ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning system is a network of sensors that collects and shares real-time information about the magnitude, location and expected shaking from earthquakes on the West Coast and delivers alerts via cell phones and the internet.
The system is up and running in California, Oregonians can start receiving alerts as of March 11th, and Washington will “go live” in May of this year. You do not need to sign up to receive these warnings, just like an “Amber Alert” your cell phone will automatically receive early warning from the ShakeAlert system.
There will only be a few seconds warning, but it will allow people to take protective actions before the shaking starts to increase their chances of being disaster survivors rather than disaster victims.
Flags at Half-Staff
Finally, I want to recognize the reason we’ve been flying flags at half-staff. This is to remember the more than 500,000 Americans who have now died due to the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. It was just a year ago that Oregon recorded its first case of the virus, and now, sadly, our death toll tops 2,210 lives lost. We have done some things right, Oregon has the fourth lowest death toll in the United States, but that has come with economic cost, as Oregonians have done their part to shelter in place and minimize contact with non-household members.
The demand for Coronavirus vaccine has outpaced supply, and it has been frustrating for everyone. But with a third vaccine now approved for emergency use, there is hope that things can get back to normal in the foreseeable future. Please stay safe as we work to get people vaccinated and reopen all segments of our communities.
As always, please remember that I can best serve your interests when I hear from you. If you have a comment or concern about pending legislation, please reach out to my office. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, email is probably the best way to have your opinions recorded. If I can help you navigate an issue or problem with a state agency, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Rep. Brad Witt serves House District 31. He may be reached at: