The new and improved – or not – version of climate legislation has draw much of the public attention at the Oregon Capitol. But it is not the only important issue before legislators.
Here are four bills that deserve passage during the legislative session.
We advocate for swift passage of reforms in Oregon’s child welfare system, including SB 1566, sponsored by Sens. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, and James Manning Jr., D-Eugene.
Another bill in the Senate would free the state’s public records advocate from improper political influence by the governor and others.
SB 1506 is a clear-headed response to the surprise resignation last fall of the state’s first such advocate, Ginger McCall. She contended Gov. Kate Brown’s staff compromised her independence, pressuring her to tone down her fight for transparency.
The advocate’s position was created to help resolve disputes over public record requests, as well as to train people on how to follow Oregon’s public records laws. SB 1506 firmly establishes the public records advocate as an independent office, with that person hired by the Public Records Advisory Council, not the governor.
Government transparency is at the heart of democracy, which is why every Oregonian should care about this bill — and the attempts to undermine it. The head of the Oregon Senate committee that will take up the legislation this morning, Democrat Chuck Riley of Hillsboro, has shown no enthusiasm for the bill. And a lobbyist for the League of Oregon Cities, who was the only member of the Public Records Advisory Council opposing the bill, is pushing an amendment that goes the other way and weakens existing law.
A third bill would tackle political influence of a different kind by limiting campaign contributions. Under SB 1524, no longer could someone give $2.5 million to a gubernatorial candidate, as Nike co-founder Phil Knight did for Knute Buehler in 2018. The six-figure contributions that Kate Brown collected from labor unions also would end.
Brown and other top Democrats have proclaimed they want finance reform. Now they say this is not the time. Hogwash! Oregonians will vote in November on a constitutional amendment to authorize caps on political contributions. Voters should know what the limits actually would be.
As for kratom, HB 4013 is a bipartisan proposal to institute Oregon’s first regulations on the popular herbal drug, which has been banned in some states and foreign countries.
The FDA warns against using kratom, which can act as a stimulant, a sedative or a route to a euphoric high. In the absence of actual federal regulations, Oregon legislators should get off the sidelines and act. Even the American Kratom Association supports government oversight.
The bill would quite reasonably block sales of kratom to anyone under 21. It also would mandate state standards for testing and labeling kratom and would require manufacturers and sellers to disclose each product’s ingredients.
The proposed civil penalties for breaking the state rules — $500 for the first time, $1,000 for each additional offense — seem light. But the bill also establishes unlawful distribution or sale of kratom as a Class C misdemeanor with potential fines and jail time.
All four bills correct past legislative misjudgment or inaction. All should become law.
— Eugene Register-Guard