It was a busy start to the week in the Oregon legislature, as most of the 2,900 bills introduced this year either passed the committee stage or got shot down in a so-called ‘do-or-die’ process.
Housing, education, guns, and self-serve gas were all on the table over the last couple of days as committees decided whether to send bills to the House and Senate floors.
One of the bills still alive is Alyssa’s Law (HB 3101), which would provide school staff members with panic buttons which would send out GPS locations to local 911 operators during emergencies.
It’s a bill co-sponsored by District 53’s Rep. Emerson Levy.
“In the worst case scenario, let’s say we had a school shooting. The average school shooting is less than 4 minutes. It takes about 3 to 5 minutes for a police to arrive. And so what this does is that you click the button and it sends a geotagged location to our 911,” Levy told Central Oregon Daily News on Wednesday.
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It would also send out instruction messages to school staff members.
“So your teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, aides, they’re all going to get a message of what to do. And so we can change the behavior. We can have kids be safe, quicker and especially in large campuses, this is incredibly important,” she said. “But it’s also used for kids having anaphylactic shock, kids experiencing seizures. It’s a great emergency management and communication tool. And we are nearing almost 60 sponsors and we only have 60 in the house, so we’re almost at 100% sponsorship.”
Rep. Jason Kropf, the representative for most of Bend (District 54) co-sponsored House Bill 3198, an early literacy bill that also made it out of its committee.
“We are going to make sure all of our schools are teaching literacy in a research-aligned manner,” Kropf said on Wednesday. “Making sure that we’re growing the expertise of our K-3 teachers to teach reading, and make sure we have resources for those kids that are struggling so that we can make sure they transition from the early grades, but that they have the skills to take full advantage of the school ahead of them.”
Other bills moving forward include Senate Bill 348 and House Bill 2005, gun control bills meant to increase requirements for gun owners and limit illegal gun possession.
SB348 passed 3-2 out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and looks similar to Measure 114. It would require a permit to buy a gun, it would require state police to undergo background checks before selling or transferring guns, and it would require a waiting period between the approval for purchase and the actual acquisition of a gun.
HB2005 would aim to eliminate ghost guns and would raise the legal age for having a gun to 21 years old (except for certain hunting rifles).
Republican House Leader Vikki-Breese Iverson of Prineville says she believes both of these bills miss the mark.
“We’re not touching the real problem of crime in Oregon with these conversations. Criminals are still going to obtain guns, and criminals are the ones that are causing us not to be safe on our streets,” Breese-Iverson said. “If we’re looking at statistics, I think it’s around a half of percent of concealed weapon or concealed carry permits have committed a felony. So that just that speaks to the fact that gun owners, legal gun owners aren’t the problem in Oregon. And if we want to be real about keeping Oregon safe, then we need to talk about prosecuting criminals.”
She said she was disappointed that the ‘Safe Schools Package’, a series of bills aimed at increasing officers and security on school campuses, had not been successful.
“Those are bills that we should have brought forward to the conversation on the House floor and provided to the Senate to do the same,” Breese-Iverson said. “And those are things that are tangible, now, for us to make a difference for our students.”
Kropf said he feels ‘optimistic’ about the potential success of both HB2005 and SB348.
“We do need to pass a measure out of this building that has implementation, so how we can make sure that permit process can work so that folks who have a legal right to possess firearms can, and that we’re making sure that we’re keeping firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them,” he said.
Another bill on the minds of Oregonians- self-service gas. House Bill 2426 had legs long before the last couple of days, passing the House in late March.
It would allow gas stations the option of having up to half their pumps be self-service.
“This does not get rid of gas attendants in in larger areas, places that currently have not been able to pump their own gas are simply going to get the opportunity to pump their own gas,” Breese-Iverson clarified.
Rep. Levy said she views it as a workforce issue.
“We already have so many businesses that are constrained and can’t find workers, and this is moving towards being able to get gas quickly if you want to,” she said.
All of the representatives Central Oregon Daily News spoke with mentioned the success of the recent $200 million housing package, also passed in late March.
Its main goals are to increase shelter capacity, rental assistance and ramp up housing production. Central Oregon nonprofits will receive $14 million.
“The legislators’ job is to really help increase the supply, allow cities and counties to build what they need to so that we can build more housing, bring down prices and keep people housed,” Levy said. “I think you’re going to see a lot more of bills that will help us build up that supply.”
Breese-Iverson said the bill fills in some of the gaps in the state of emergency that Gov. Kotek declared at the start of her time in office, which only included parts of the state where homelessness was deemed especially severe.
“In that executive order, she really included a portion of Oregon, but she did not include corner to corner, border to border Oregon,” Breese-Iverson said. “So what the legislature did was to try to say, listen, we understand what you’re saying and we hear the executive order. We understand we have to to respond in answer to what your executive order is. But we also think the rest of the state matters. So the 26 counties that you left out of your executive order, we’re going to address it in House Bill 2001.”