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Update on 75th Session of the Oregon Legislature

Dear Friends,

It has been a busy few weeks in Salem . A lot has happened since session began, and adjournment could happen at any hour.

Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility To Remain Open

Last week our office received news that the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility in Grants Pass will remain open. Originally, the plan was to close the 100+ bed facility in Grants Pass. The facility employs or helps employ about 120 people in Josephine County , and is the most efficient facility of the Oregon Youth Authority. With unemployment at 15.8% in Josephine County , the facility is a pillar of Southern Oregon .

By keeping the facility open, it allows the youths to be closer to their families and their support system. This support is critical to helping them be productive members of society after they are released. It is thanks to the hardworking and dedicated faculty and volunteers who give so generously of their time that the facility will remain open. They brought this issue to Senator Atkinson’s attention so he was able to act quickly to get the Ways and Means Committee to revise their closure plans.

Atkinson Kills Water Tax, Water Resources Budget Passed

Thursday, the Senate passed the Water Resources Department’s budget for the next biennium. The Water Resources Department is the department that would have stood to benefit from the passage of SB 740, which would have assessed a $100 per year tax on all water rights in Oregon . Senator Atkinson stood true to his word on this bill. “I said this would pass over my dead body, and there is a reason I am still standing. This bill deserves the fate it is getting, to end the session gathering dust in committee. Thanks to a lot of hard work from grassroots Oregonians we were able to protect what I believe is a fundamental and important right.”

Senate Passes Two Atkinson Bills to Strengthen Salmon and Steelhead Populations
The Senate passed Senate Bills 472 and 545 Saturday afternoon, bills that will create larger and healthier salmon and steelhead populations in Oregon ’s rivers. Senate Bill 472 begins a pilot program through the Department of Fish and Wildlife to revive the hatchbox program from the 1970’s on the Rogue River . A $45 hatchbox can incubate 1000 eggs, and increases survival rates to 65 to 95 percent, as opposed to the natural survival rate of 5 to 20 percent. Senate Bill 545 directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to study pathogens in fish hatcheries and determine what the best methods are for raising fish in hatcheries.

“Fishing in Oregon ’s streams and rivers is one of our state’s great legacies,” says Senator Atkinson. “These bills are in the best tradition of ingenuity and conservation, and I believe it is a piece of protecting and resorting our salmon and steelhead runs. The more eggs that survive to the fry stage, the more fry have a chance of surviving to adulthood. It is simple math, and I think it is another thing we can do to help ensure there are strong fish populations for our kids and grandkids to fish.”

“Yes means No” Election Measure Sent Back to Committee

After an onslaught of public outcry in the past 48 hours, House Bill 2414 was sent back to the Ways and Means Committee Friday morning. House Bill 2414 would have created massive confusion about tax measures passed this session that are going to be sent to the people for approval.

House Bill 2414 would have changed the meaning of voting “Yes” and “No” for measures on the ballot. The bill reads:

The statement required by this paragraph shall be phrased so that an affirmative vote corresponds to a rejection of the measure and shall begin with the phrase, “A ‘yes’ vote rejects legislation that”…

…The statement required by this paragraph shall be phrased so that a negative vote corresponds to an approval of the measure and shall begin with the phrase, “A ‘no’ vote approves legislation that”…

A measure referred to the people by referendum petition may no be adopted unless it receives an affirmative majority of the total votes cast on the measure rejecting the measure. For purposes of this subsection, a measure is considered adopted if it is rejected by the people.

“They couldn’t vote for it and keep a straight face,” said Senator Atkinson. “This is a victory for Oregon voters, taxpayers, and the English language. Democrats tried to tear pages out of the dictionary and redefine words to their liking. This was an affront to decency, integrity, and common sense, and the public rose up and made a stand.”

Senate Votes to Take Away Local Land-Use Planning Authority

On Tuesday, the Senate voted on HB 2227, which revises the process and authority of the counties to site destination resorts. The version of the bill passed by the majority party takes away the authority of counties to site areas for destination resorts, and places it in the hands of the Land Conservation and Development Commission. Senator Atkinson offered a minority report on the measure, which would have kept that authority in the hands of locally elected county officials. Should the bill be signed into law, counties will have much less flexibility in being able to determine the future of destination resorts.

Democrats Reject Third-Party Fetal Harm Bill that Would Bring Justice to Victims Heather Snively and Unborn Son John Stephen

Senate Bill 982 was introduced at the request of Chris Popp, whose fiancé and unborn son were murdered. Heather Snively was a 21-year-old who was looking to exchange used baby clothes, and was 7 months pregnant with John Stephen Popp. They were murdered, and Heather was cut open so her killer could remove John Stephen from his mother’s womb. Under current Oregon law the killer can only be charged with Heather Snively’s murder; John Stephen Popp does not exist.

Last Friday, the Senate rejected Senator Atkinson’s motion to withdraw SB 982 from the Ways and Means Committee. Senate Bill 982 would expand criminal homicide to include the killing of an unborn child, whether or not the killer knew or could reasonably have know the woman was pregnant (such as killing a pregnant woman in a car crash or before she was visibly pregnant). It would also create the crime of assault of an unborn child. A person commits the crime of assault of an unborn child if a person knowingly causes physical harm to the mother of an unborn child, and the attack causes the unborn child serious physical harm or causes the child to be born prematurely. As with criminal homicide, it is no excuse if the assailant did not know or could not have reasonably known the woman was pregnant. This may seem contradictory, but here’s how it works: if someone were to purposely assault a pregnant woman, but she was not visibly pregnant and caused physical harm to the baby, he or she could be charged with assault of an unborn child. Senate Bill 982 would bring justice to victim’s families like Chris Popp’s who are destroyed by these heinous crimes.

Senate Passes Bill to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse
Thursday the Senate passed SB 355, which establishes the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). The program will compile all of the controlled substance prescription data from Oregon pharmacies so pharmacists can see if patients are purchasing controlled substances (e.g. narcotics and substances of common abuse) from multiple doctors and pharmacies.

This bill is needed as prescription drug abuse is a growing problem throughout the US . Currently, 38 states in the US have a PMP, with Oregon and Montana being the only states in the West which do not have one. Often, prescription drug abusers move away from states with these programs and into states without them because it is much easier to obtain drugs in states like Oregon .

The database would work like this: Oregon pharmacists would be required to submit controlled substance dispensing data into the PMP on a weekly basis. The database will be accessible, with a number of safeguards and security measures, to practitioners. There are a number of safeguards and security measures in place to prevent any breaches of the database; there have been no breaches of any similar database to date. Law enforcement agencies will only have limited and regulated access to the information in the database, and only with a court order pertaining to a specific case. This is not, nor will it be, a tool for law enforcement, but rather a tool for practitioners to prevent dispensing drugs to, or being “scammed” by abusers and addicts.

Education Funded in Oregon 84 Days Late
Last Friday the Senate finally voted on, and passed, the K-12 education bill. The 75th Oregon Legislative Session began on January 12 of this year, yet it took the Senate until June 19 to pass an education budget; the same day the Senate debated whether to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. Tuesday, however, Governor Kulongoski vetoed the education budget, sending it back to the legislature for a potential veto override vote. The Senate and House voted to override the governor’s veto Wednesday. The issue that caused the veto was the depletion of the state education reserve funds.

Over the last six years the Oregon Legislature has created two separate reserve funds, and they each have different economic “triggers” for when they can be dipped into. The first is the School Stability Fund. All of the triggers for being able to access this fund have occurred and the Legislature has decided to use all of the funds allowable by law from this fund. This is a simple matter, as the School Stability Fund is in the Oregon Constitution, meaning the Legislature can only withdraw as many funds from it as prescribed by the Oregon Constitution; if they wish to withdraw more they must get the people’s approval to do so.

The second reserve fund the Legislature established was the Rainy Day Fund. The economic triggers for this fund are basically the same as from the School Stability Fund, but the main difference is this fund is not in the Constitution, only in the ORS. This is significant because the Legislature has the power to ignore any laws and/or rules it has set up for the fund simply by inserting the words “Not Withstanding” into a bill that draws from this fund. The majority party is proposing withdrawing the majority of this fund. In the interests of full disclosure, the proposed Republican budget would have also withdrawn from this fund, but only as much as allowed by law.

The Governor thinks the reserve funds should not be depleted to that level, and he even met with the Republican leadership to see if they would help him prevent a veto override. Senator Atkinson is not satisfied with either side. He believes education should be the number one priority of the Oregon Legislature. The Senator has proposed in repeated sessions a constitutional requirement for Oregon to fund education by the 81st day of session, or the legislators would forfeit their compensation. Under Senator Atkinson’s proposal, it would not have taken this legislature 165 days to fund education.

As its stands currently, the Republican Back to Basics budget would give education $245 million more dollars than the majority party did. It is clear the majority party’s priorities are out of order, and that it is time for new leadership in Salem . For more information on the proposed Back to Basics budget, and how the Oregon Legislature can fully fund education, human services, and public safety without raising taxes, go to You can also see the Top Ten Truths (Truth #7, #8, #9, and #10) about the Oregon budget that will surprise you.

After session ends, you will receive a sine die newsletter, which will analyze and interpret what happened during the 75th Regular Session of the Oregon Legislature.

All Best,

Kyle Vinyard
Senator Atkinson’s Staff

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