SALEM — The Oregon Senate was able to conduct business Saturday for the first time since Republicans walked out over a sweeping climate proposal, leaving lawmakers less than 48 hours to vote on over 100 bills.
Lawmakers were initially on track to finish up the legislative session well before the June 30 constitutional deadline, but a nine-day impasse over climate legislation threw the statehouse into chaos, grinding all business in the Senate to a halt.
Republicans agreed to return after the Senate president conceded that the proposed cap on carbon didn’t have enough Democratic support. The Senate voted to send the plan back to committee, essentially killing its chances of passing this year.
With Republicans back, the Senate worked at a blistering pace to chip away at a huge backlog of bills, jamming through budget measures and big-ticket policy items with little to no discussion. The Senate took up 62 bills in less than three hours Saturday morning, according to the Senate president.
Here’s a look at some of the major priorities lawmakers were able to push through Saturday. The Senate and the House will vote on policies late into the night Saturday. They will meet again Sunday and have until midnight to pass all remaining policies.
Oregon will become the 14th state to allow immigrants living in the country illegally to get driver’s licenses. Senators voted 17-10 to remove proof of legal status as a requirement for obtaining a driver’s license, expanding driving privileges to potentially tens of thousands of immigrants in the country illegally.
The measure now heads to Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign. Applicants would still have to show they live in Oregon and pass the driver’s test.
Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, a Democrat from Woodburn, said that many immigrants in the country illegally who do not have licenses can’t find work and are barred from doing “everyday activities” out of fear that they would be deported over a traffic stop.
“In many communities, especially in rural Oregon, driving is part of everyday life,” said Alonso Leon, the lawmaker behind the bill in the House. “Oregonians need to be able to take their kids to school, commute to work, and take care of family and neighbors in need.”
Opponents said that the measure should be sent to the ballot considering voters shot down a similar proposal in 2016.
Lawmakers moved to overhaul the way it handles complaint of sexual harassment and discrimination, more than a year after allegations of sexual misconduct rocked the statehouse.
The Senate sent two companion bills to the governor meant to ensure workplace training and more thorough investigations of complaints. The bills create a Legislative Equity Office, which will serve as an independent investigator to look into complaints of harassment. The office will also oversee annual training for lawmakers and lobbyists.
The measures extend the statute of limitations on when someone can make a complaint about misconduct from one year to five years.
The changes come more than a year after former Sen. Jeff Kruse faced allegations of sexual harassment from two interns and a female lawmaker. A scathing report from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries revealed in January that top legislative leaders didn’t do enough to curb harassment and other bad behavior they knew was occurring within the Capitol.
Oregon is one of five states that have no limits on campaign contributions, though voters may be able to change that at the ballot box next year. The Senate approved a constitutional amendment to allow for the state’s first-ever limits on political donations.
The high-priced governor’s race last year rekindled the debate over spending limits and has prompted lawmakers to pursue a ballot measure amending the constitution that would explicitly give them the authority to enact campaign finance reform.
The measure, overwhelmingly approved by the Senate, now moves to the House which has until Sunday evening to approve.
Senators voted to substantially curtail the use of the death penalty by limiting its use to terrorist-related killings or other major crimes.
The bill restricts the use of capital punishment to only apply to terrorist acts that kill two or more people, or to killings by imprisoned murderers. Killing police officers or children younger than 14 also qualifies.
The move is meant to reform Oregon’s use of capital punishment without changing the state’s constitution. An outright ban on the death penalty would ultimately need approval from the voters.
The measure now heads to the governor, who extended a 2011 moratorium on using the death penalty.
WINCHESTER —Kathy Colton has a new neighbor: a one-story high pile of crushed asphalt and dirt byproduct that she believes is from the construction project on Highway 99 in the vacant lot behind her home in Winchester.
“I’m not real happy with them dumping that stuff basically in my backyard,” Colton said. “It causes a lot of allergies.”
Colton is one of many residents in the area feeling the effects of the Highway 99 construction project.
The project, which began May 8, has reached a new phase in construction with the recent closure of the South Bridge, located north of Taft Drive and south of Virgia Lane, this Monday.
This closure forced drivers to take alternative routes through Interstate 5 — however, police and public works officials are very concerned about some drivers taking detours through neighboring residential streets and driving recklessly.
Such maneuvers could lead to unnecessary accidents, increased delay periods and create hazardous road conditions, according to a joint press release from the Douglas County Board of Commission, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Douglas County Public Works Department.
Dian Humphreys, who lives in Saddle Butte Estates, said she’s seeing hundreds of cars a day using her neighborhood as a detour and driving recklessly.
“It makes it really scary to walk our dog just to get the mail. We have to pick him up — he’s a little Yorkshire Terrier — we have to pick him up and carry him for fear that if his leash gets extended to long and a car comes along really quickly, you know, they’re probably not going to have time to stop,” Humphreys said.
Local officials urged motorists to drive safely through the affected areas and use the appropriate detours after around 40 complaints came in regarding unsafe driving, said county spokeswoman Tamara Howell.
“That’s a lot, considering that’s a small area, congested area,” Howell said.
Complaints ranged from drivers using excessive speed, making U-turns and taking undesignated detours.
Humphreys said there are kids in her neighborhood that usually have basketball hoops in the street, but because of the traffic flow in the area, had to put them away. Some parents told her they are not allowing their kids to ride their bikes either.
“It’s just common courtesy is how I view it,” Humphreys said. “Going the speed limit, you might end up saving someone’s life or someone’s property or someone’s pets.”
Howell said they are increasing the safety presence in the area and are considering putting up a speed indicator up so motorists can watch their speed.
“We do have increased safety devices going into effect,” Howell said. “We have additional signage that will be put up. We’re also working in conjunction with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and looking and monitoring the amount of traffic.”
Josh Heacock, public works division manager for Douglas County, said county workers are monitoring the flow of traffic to determine where additional signs should be placed to limit confusion.
“We’re trying to determine what the bottlenecks are, observing the traffic behavior to determine where the confusion lies, kind of identifying the patterns of confusion so that we can specifically identify those,” Heacock said. “Our hope is to have that in place by week’s end or by early next week.”
Kevin Bromley, of Winchester, said he is concerned about the traffic for pedestrians and children playing outside.
“It isn’t going to last forever, it’s just a time that’s going to be inconvenient,” Bromley said.
Despite being open and accessible throughout construction, some businesses in the area say they have been negatively impacted by the construction as well.
Heather Schumaker, server at Del Ray Cafe in Winchester, said the typical lunch rush of 15 to 20 customers has been reduced to two customers.
“I think that just deters people. Once they figure out they have to go around then they’re already back on the freeway and they go somewhere else,” Schumaker said. “It’s just phase after phase it just keeps affecting us horribly.”
The construction project is expected to conclude at the end of 2019. The first of the two bridges will come down Monday and be closed until Aug 22. The North Bridge, located between Pioneer Road and Page Road, is scheduled to close Oct 30.
During the bridge closure, local and through traffic will be detoured to I-5 at Edenbower Boulevard on exit 127 and the Del Rio Road on exit 129.
Public officials said they stress the importance of motorists using the designated I-5 detour routes and not detour through local residential streets.
“There’s just so many kids and it’s summertime,” Howell said. “People are running stop signs and speeding through the residential areas that are not meant for a detour and we’re just really concerned and trying to prevent something from happening,” Howell said.
Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation awarded $556,850 to 83 nonprofits serving Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lane counties.
Douglas County had 11 entities that were awarded a combined $73,400. The recipients were Altrusa International Foundation of Roseburg, Cobb Children’s Learning Center, College Dreams, Friendly Kitchen, Roseburg Dream Center, Roseburg Foundation Fellowship, Roseburg School District, South Douglas Food Bank, St. Francis Community Kitchen, Umpqua Community College and United Community Action Network.
The mission of the tribe’s foundation is to offer assistance in youth education, strengthen youth and family, provide positive youth development and add to quality of life.
Offering assistance in education came through the following donations: Altrusa will use $3,000 to purchase books and support for Celebration of Literacy; Cobb School will receive $7,500 to subsidize costs of child care for low-income families; College Dreams will receive $7,500 to help create a college-going culture for the Glendale School District; the Roseburg School District will receive $3,000 to assist with revitalizing Eastwood Nature Days and Trail; and UCC will receive $7,400 to help reduce out-of-pocket cost for GED tuition, practice tests and testing fees.
Other donations in Douglas County were made to Friendly Kitchen, which will receive $7,500 to support a program that provides weekend meals to seniors and adults with disabilities; the Roseburg Dream Center, which will receive $7,500 to assist with cost of running the food pantry and daily drop-in homeless center; the Roseburg Foundation Fellowship, which was granted $7,500 to purchase food and assist with costs of the warming center; the South Douglas Food Bank, which was granted $7,500 to assist with utility costs and food for low income families; the St. Francis Community Kitchen, which will receive $7,500 to help defray the costs of operating the community kitchen; and UCAN, which is set to receive $7,500 to provide funding for an AmeriCorps member to assist with recruiting volunteers.
“The work of the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation strengthens the fiber of southwestern Oregon,” Foundation Executive Director Carma Mornarich said. “One grant at a time provides that more children are educated, families are helped and more hungry people are fed. Some of the requests are extremely basic. For instance, a food bank we’ve granted many times asks that we assist with purchasing protein and food items. Another charity we’ve granted asks for funding to improve laundry facilities in a shelter for homeless women and children. Assisting, preventing, enriching and lessening difficulty are what CCUIF is about. These grants are a hand up for so many in our communities.”
Coos County will receive $24,250 for four charities, 11 charities from Deschutes County will divide $69,600, 16 charities in Jackson County will share $111,600, Josephine County will receive $77,500 for nine grantees, Klamath County will divide $52,500 among seven grantees and 14 charities from Lane County will share $81,500.
Additionally, there will be $66,500 among 11 organizations that serve multiple counties.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley received $10,000 for summer and after school S.T.E.A.M. programs in Jackson and Josephine Counties. Cascade School of Music received $7.500 to provide tuition assistance, Chess for Success received $5,000 to provide after school chess clubs at Title I schools, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Oregon will receive $5,000 to support financial education in rural areas. Douglas Education Services’ Take Root Parenting Hub will receive $7,500 to offer parenting education, and Guardian Partners will get $5,000 to support Guardian monitoring and education in Lane and Douglas County.
HIV Alliance will receive $6,000 to provide a youth education program on personal and sexual health, Magdalene Home gets $7,500 to provide a home for homeless teen moms and their babies, and Southern Oregon Aspire will get $5,000 to provide classes about intimacy, love and sexuality for developmentally disabled people. Southern Oregon Humane Society will receive $3,000 to help support the Humane Education Program for youth, and Wildlife Safari will receive $5,000 to provide scholarship for students in ZooSchool field trips.
CCUIF was founded in 1997 and began its philanthropic efforts in 1998. It has awarded more than $18.5 million to the seven southwestern Oregon counties since its inception. Its awards are made separately from and in addition to regular philanthropic decisions made by the Cow Creek Tribal Board.
Grants are awarded in January and June of each year. In January, CCUIF awarded $496,550 to 73 non-profits.