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    Willamette Women Dems to meet

    The Willamette Women Democrats will welcome state Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), state Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) and state Rep. Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland) to talk about “Behind the Scenes: How Politics Shaped the 2015 Legislative Session,” during their meeting to be held from 4-6 p.m. Sept. 9 at Oswego Lake Country Club, 20 Iron Mountain Blvd. in Lake Oswego.

    During the 77th session Democrats held the majority in the State Senate and House but faced many challenges, starting with the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was replaced by Secretary of State Kate Brown as Oregon’s new Democratic governor. Significant pieces of legislature, including tougher ethics laws, background checks on gun ownership and implementing the new marijuana initiative demanded legislative action. It was regarded as a “stressful session,” which resulted in gains as well as disappointments on several issues. Burdick, Williamson and Taylor will share their insights about the politics, priorities, accomplishments and what’s in store for the future.

    The public is invited to attend the event. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Light refreshments will be served. Those wishing to attend should RSVP by Sept. 2 online at w2dems.com, email info@w2dems.org or call 503-656-4445.

    Willamette Women Democrats is a locally organized, nonprofit, progressive organization established to provide informative programs, promote progressive politics and encourage women to be politically active.

    Source: Lake Oswego Review

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    Oregon lawmakers defend press freedoms in Turkey

    On Monday, the Oregon Legislature sent letters to national and international leaders, urging them to work together to end the mass arrest and detainment of journalists in Turkey.

    Pursuant to House Joint Memorial 16, which was approved by the Legislature earlier this year, letters were sent to President Obama, President Erdo?an of Turkey, Secretary of State John Kerry, the United States Ambassador to Turkey, the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, the Secretary General of NATO, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Speaker Boehner, and Oregon’s Congressional delegation.

    “In the spirit of friendship, we ask the government of Turkey to halt obstructions to free speech and become recommitted to the values of a free and democratic society,” said Rep. Jim Weidner (R-Yamhill), a chief co-sponsor of HJM 16.

    “A stable and democratic Turkey, allied with the United States and NATO positively influences the stability of governments and promotes democracy in the Middle East.”

    The memorial was drafted in response to troubling new laws adopted by the Turkish government that have led to the arrests of newspaper journalists, television producers and script writers seen as reporting information critical of the government.

    Fellow chief co-sponsor Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) said of the measure, “Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of all democratic societies, we in Oregon support this most important of human rights.”

    Weidner emphasized the importance of individuals in the United States speaking out about human rights issues, saying, “During these times, it is imperative that Oregonians and Americans promote the virtues of free speech and advocate for an adherence to democratic principles around the world.”

    In addition to Reps. Weidner and Hoyle, HJM 16 was co-chief sponsored by House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland). The Turkish community in Oregon has also played an active role in reaching out to their elected officials on the importance of this matter.

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    Jennifer Williamson named Oregon House Majority Leader

    SALEM — House Democrats selected Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, as the chamber’s majority leader Thursday.

    Williamson, whose district includes portions of Southwest and Northwest Portland, replaces Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, who’s stepping down to explore a run for secretary of state.

    “In the 2015 session, we delivered on our promise to improve the lives of Oregon families and level the playing field for working people,” Williamson said in a statement. “But we still have a lot of work to do to meet the needs of those who continue to be left behind by the economic recovery.”

    The majority leader is considered the House’s second-highest ranking member — the speaker being the first — and is in charge of corralling votes for Democratic causes.

    Reps. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, were selected House speaker and House speaker pro tem as the start of the 2015 session. Read announced his candidacy for state treasurer.

    Source: Oregon Live

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    The Good, the Bad and the Awful

    We have opened with the warning above since 1977, when we first published our Good, Bad & Awful survey—an unvarnished view of the metro-area legislators who help write Oregon’s laws and shape the state’s two-year budget, now at $19 billion.

    As of this writing, the end of the legislative session may still be weeks away and many hotly contested bills—most notably a proposed gas tax increase—hang in the balance. Yet it’s not too early to offer up a report card on the Legislature, one of the few in the nation that saw Democrats increase their numbers in 2014.

    Among Democrats’ early-session victories: a voter registration bill that could add 300,000 new voters, and a law that will align Oregon with other states in retaining unclaimed class action lawsuit proceeds. The successes also include environmentalists’ top priority, an extension of the low-carbon fuel standard.

    Of course, 2015 was a historic legislative session because former Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned abruptly Feb. 18.

    After his replacement, Gov. Kate Brown, took over, Democrats finally passed a gun-control bill they’ve wanted for years and proceeded toward the implementation of legal marijuana, a process still taking shape as the July 1 date for legalization looms.

    In the wake of the Kitzhaber resignation, Brown and lawmakers made lots of noise about ethics reforms but little progress. And Brown is now working to repeal the low-carbon fuel standard she recently signed into law, in exchange for a transportation funding package that includes increased gas taxes and motor vehicle fees.

    Some lawmakers are gliding through the 2015 session like jewel thieves, leaving barely a fingerprint on this state; others are workhorses, worth multiples of the $22,260 annual salary (not counting per diem payments) legislators pull down. 

    So how have your lawmakers fared amid the blizzard of bills and avalanche of advocacy?

    We surveyed Capitol lobbyists, staffers and journalists, asking them to numerically rate legislators on a scale of zero to 10 in the categories of integrity, brains and effectiveness. We  received 34 responses from across the political spectrum, and a legislator’s overall rating is an average of those replies.

    As always, we grant respondents anonymity. Historically, some lawmakers and readers hate that practice, claiming respondents engage in score-settling or partisan attacks, and that the survey is anything but scientific.

    We acknowledge the survey is unscientific. But the ideological range of respondents makes skewing the numbers difficult, even in the face of tactics such as the Senate Democrats’ plan to stuff the ballot box this year. (They didn’t end up doing so.)

    Readers also say the ratings simply reflect WW’s own views. Except we don’t get a say. It’s true our election endorsements often praise the legislators who end up at the top of the survey. But the survey also beats up on legislators we have praised. Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), for example, usually ends up at or near the bottom of the ratings. (She just missed being rated “awful” this year.) Democrats knock Parrish because she’s a Republican, and Republicans dislike her because she’s pro-choice, pro-gay marriage and self-promotional. We think her independence makes her a fine legislator.

    Despite these caveats, the Good Bad & Awful issue for nearly 40 years has provided one of the best assessments of how your legislators perform in Salem.

    One finding in this year’s survey is stark: The House overall looks more effective in the eyes of the survey respondents, while the Senate is increasingly ossified and adrift. On average, the scores for the Senate are well below those of the House—the first time in memory that’s happened. And all the legislators rated “awful” are in the Senate.

    Source: http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-24985-permalink.html

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    Oregon passes expanded background checks on gun sales

    An Oregon bill expanding background checks to encompass nearly all gun sales in the state made it through the Legislature Monday, overcoming obstacles that stymied two previous attempts to pass similar laws.

    The measure now heads to Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who has indicated support. Her signature would make Oregon the eighth state to require screening before firearms could be transferred between private, unrelated owners. No other states have passed such legislation this year, advocates said.

    Supporters have tried twice before to expand background checks, saying it closes a loophole that allowed people to purchase firearms online without a review. Neither attempt made it past a Senate vote, but Democrats managed to increase their majorities in both chambers after last year’s election, partially because key candidates in the Senate were backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety.

    Once the measure takes effect, private sales would need to happen in front of a licensed gun dealer who would run the check through the Oregon State Police.

    READ THE BILL: SB941

    There is an exception for gun sellers and buyers who live more than 40 miles from each other. In that case, the seller could send the firearm to a dealer near the buyer, who would then run the check and hand over the gun to the buyer if they’re cleared.

    The bill has borne intense opposition from gun rights supporters, and every legislative Republican has voted against it. Many cited law enforcement officials in their districts who said they wouldn’t enforce the law or that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

    Senate Bill 941, worse than doing nothing, gives false hope, because it represents to people that felons are not going to get guns. And colleagues, I think we all know that’s not true. They are going to get them one way or another,” House Republican Leader Mike McLane said.

     Others argued the bill would trample Second Amendment rights or would make criminals of gun owners who choose not to get a background check every time they hand over a gun to a friend or neighbor.

    The seller of a gun would face a misdemeanor for a first offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine. A second offense would be a felony, with a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    Under current state law, anyone purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer has to pass a background check to ensure the buyer isn’t prohibited from owning a gun because of convictions for felonies or violent behavior. Oregon goes further than federal law by also requiring background checks at gun shows under an initiative voters approved in 2000.

    “This bill is not about stopping all gun violence in Oregon, and it’s not about taking guns of the hands of law abiding citizens,” Rep. Jennifer Williamson, a Portland Democrat, said. “It’s about keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, those suffering from mental health crises, and convicted felons.”

     

     

    Source: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2015/05/05/background-expansion-checks-okd/26908717/

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    OR legislature passes bill closing gun sale background checks ‘loophole’

    Posted: May 04, 2015 8:02 PM CDTUpdated: Jun 01, 2015 8:31 PM CDT

     Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-District 4) and Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), chief sponsors of SB 941, attended a press conference to discuss the bill’s passage.

    SALEM, OR (KPTV) –The Oregon House of Representatives gave its approval Monday to SB 941, the Oregon Firearms Safety Act.

    The vote narrowly passed the House, 32-28, with 3 House Democrats voting against the bill.

    SB 941 will require Oregonians to undergo a background check when buying a gun from a private, non-licensed seller, even when they’re purchasing the gun online.

    “We know that background checks work,” says Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), who carried the bill on the floor. “We know that in states already requiring background checks on private gun sales there are fewer women killed by intimate partners, fewer law enforcement officers shot protecting our communities, and lower rates of gun trafficking.”

    House Democrats say in states that have passed similar laws, they’ve seen a 48 percent drop in police officers killed with handguns, 48 percent fewer suicides with handguns and 46 percent fewer women shot to death by intimate partners.

    On the other side of the aisle, house republicans say SB 941 does not close any loopholes allowing criminals to get guns. Republicans point out SB 941 does nothing to prevent criminals from stealing guns, or buying them off the black market.

    Democrats were undeterred.

    “Support for the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. That’s why federal and state law prohibits felons, domestic abusers, seriously mentally ill people, and certain other dangerous people from buying or possessing guns,” says Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis). “Background checks are the most systematic way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

    House Republicans say at least 12 sheriffs have said the law is “deeply flawed,” and two testified that the law would be hard to enforce.

    In a joint statement, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, Co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, praised the Oregon House for passing SB 941.

    “Today, Oregon’s leaders did the responsible thing: they stood up to the gun lobby and stood up for a commonsense law that will make Oregonians safer. This victory for responsibility in Oregon sends a clear message to the folks in Washington, D.C.: if Congress is not willing to act to reduce gun violence, states around the country can and will take the matter into their own hands,” said Giffords and Kelly.

    With both the House and Senate’s approval, SB 941 heads to Governor Kate Brown for consideration.

    Copyright 2015 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

    Source: http://www.kptv.com/story/28975616/or-dems-pass-bill-closing-gun-sale-background-checks-loophole#ixzz3k2WhxS5n

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    Make it Oregon policy: Release police bodycam videos

    The value of bodycams should be that the public can see how police do their jobs.

    Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would standardize the use of body cameras worn by police officers and strictly limit the public release of the video recordings. Those limits are reasonable for the most part, but when a recording involves the use of force by an officer, the presumption should be to release the video, not restrict it.

    Police use of deadly force against citizens, armed and unarmed, is an issue of growing concern, and lawmakers across the country are grappling with how to respond to those concerns while allowing law enforcement officers to do their jobs and protecting the public at the same time. Many police departments have responded by equipping officers with body cameras that take video recordings of their interactions with suspects and others.

    The Oregon measure, House Bill 2571, does not require police departments to use the cameras, but sets out guidelines if they choose to do so. Among other things, departments using cameras would have to require the camera to be turned on as soon as an officer had probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed and leave it on until the police action was complete, and retain the recordings for at least six months.

    HB 2571 would exempt the recordings from disclosure under public records laws except in two narrow instances: If the recording was part of a court proceeding or if it involved the use of force by an officer and the public interest required its release.

    Elements of court proceedings already are public records, and ought to remain so. The desire to protect the privacy of individuals who interact with police is understandable, and most of the recordings likely would be of little interest to anyone not directly involved.

    But any time an officer uses force, especially when injury or death results, releasing the recording should be presumed to be in the public interest, not subject to the discretion of the department. There is already an exemption for records involving active police investigations, and that would certainly apply when the use of force is being investigated. But once the investigation concludes, the recording should be released.

    We would add a third instance when a recording should be a public record: when a complaint is filed against an officer alleging wrongdoing or misconduct, even if the matter does not become a court case. The public has a legitimate interest in how police officers conduct themselves on the job, and anyone questioning that conduct should be able to request a video recording of it.

    Just as trust in government is strengthened when government records are available to the public, trust in law enforcement will be improved if recordings of police conduct are not hidden from public view.

    — Mail Tribune, Medford, March 25

    ‘Body camera videos are public documents and should be treated as such’

    The challenge associated with so many police custody or use-of-force cases is in belief: plain acceptance that things happened as police say they did. Yet police officers suffer from the credibility gap as much as an at-times incredulous public: Slow reconstructions of controversial events from narrative accounts by witnesses and police can wring faith from a community by showing a murky result, satisfying no one.

    Body cameras do not fix everything. Least of all do they furnish uncontested truth. But their increasing embrace by departments nationally has yielded a new genre of public document: footage of engagement by police with suspects or others, as seen from the point of view of the officers wearing the camera. What is shown, typically, is believable. The body camera in that sense represents a documentary advance that, if managed wisely, can benefit the public and the police.

    Portland embraces the new technology. Mayor Charlie Hales has made clear he wants body cameras to be available to all police officers while on duty by next year. Meanwhile the Legislature considers a bill that would establish ground rules to be followed by all Oregon towns and cities choosing to employ body cameras for their police officers.

    House Bill 2571, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and others, draws a sensible baseline that allows communities to create their own protocols and policies governing body-camera use. Among other things, the bill requires that body-worn cameras record continuously, from the moment an officer develops a reasonable suspicion that an illegal action is about to occur or has occurred, The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Maxine Bernstein reported.

    That means no editing, no gaps in the event record. That also means the officer must, amid the many sudden decisions to be made in critical moments, choose to activate the camera in the first place — a leap of faith in some situations, perhaps, and the target of critics who worry about the selective use of the cameras by police. And Williamson’s bill correctly stipulates that all recordings would be the property of the law enforcement agency, not a third party hired to do so, safeguarding the public against contractors who might fail to recognize potential compromises to the personal privacy of innocent citizens. Who, if caught running nude from the shower during a domestic dispute, would want such footage to be released as a public document?

    But that’s where things get sticky. HB2571 would require that videos from police body cameras be exempt from public disclosure except under limited circumstances. While the bill is otherwise smart and should be adopted by the Legislature, its provision to keep the documents out of the public’s review in most instances works against hard-won transparency provisions already in Oregon law and should be struck. The person caught running from the shower already enjoys protections against a damaging release.

    The spirit of HB2571 aligns with actions underway in several other states. Arizona and Florida lawmakers, for example, have said they fear criminals could, using freedom of information laws, indiscriminately acquire police videos for uploading to the Internet only to extort those who are embarrassed and online. But that argument quickly falls apart: Several provisions already in Oregon law can be invoked to limit a document’s release in the interest of protecting personal privacy or an ongoing criminal investigation. And it ignores the fact that detailed incident reports at the police station or videos captured by a police squad car’s dashboard camera are public documents available for the asking.

    Body camera videos are public documents and should be treated as such. To selectively withhold them is to address a problem that does not exist. Lawmakers should refashion the otherwise solid HB2571 to ensure body camera videos are readily available, passing the tests posed by so many exemptions on the books. The new law would then be a real gain in assisting communities in the complex task of having police officers reliably record their engagements with the public while bolstering their accountability as well as the public’s.

    — The Oregonian, Portland, March 26

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    Oregon Lawmakers Propose Alternative To Prison For Offenders Raising Children

    Before he was elected to the Oregon statehouse, Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, spent 29 years as an officer and lieutenant with the Oregon State Police.

    During those years, particularly during his time in Klamath Falls and Cottage Grove, he says, Olson saw children affected when their parents were arrested for criminal offenses.

    “You wished we could have had a track in place to have helped and kept families together. There’s consequences with committing crimes, but you have to ask yourself is there some means we can break the cycle?” he says.

    Olson is now the Republican co-sponsor of a House bill that creates a separate track for offenders who are parents with custody of their children.

    Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, is the driving force behind the measure known as HB 3503.

    The bill gives judges the discretion to sentence eligible parents facing prison sentences of a year or more to 24 months of probation instead. It also gives the Department of Corrections the ability to reduce sentences by six months for some parents who are already serving time.

    “It’s focused on children, and keeping the family together,” Williamson says. “I know that is a bipartisan issue.”

    The representatives say the bill builds on work they did last session shortening some prison sentences slightly in an effort to slow the growth of Oregon’s prison population. Williamson and Olson say their new proposal could improve outcomes for families and save the state more money by reducing the amount of women in prison and avoiding the costs associated with placing the children of inmates in foster care.

    To be eligible, offenders would have to show that they had physical custody of their child at the time of their offense, and had never been convicted of a violent crime or sex crime.

    Courts could impose conditions including electronic surveillance, drug and alcohol treatment, and parenting classes.

    The bill is modeled on a program in Washington state, called the Parenting Sentencing Alternative, that gives judges and the Department of Corrections the ability to waive or shorten sentences for some non-violent offenders. They are allowed to return home to parent, supervised by the Department of Corrections and state social workers.  In Washington, 237 parents have successfully finished the program.

    Williamson and Olson say the bill they’ve introduced is a placeholder; they will flesh out their proposal in an April 15 work session.

    The representatives are meeting with county officials to identify what kind of social work and wraparound services the state would need to provide to make the sentencing alternative work. They want to test the family sentencing alternative as a pilot program in three counties first, and Multnomah and Marion counties have expressed interest.

    About 200 women in state prison are from Multnomah County, and roughly half of them are parents who could be eligible for the program, according to testimony the county submitted in support of the draft bill.

    Susie Leavell manages the Parenting Sentencing Alternative program in Washington. Level says she has heard particularly powerful feedback on the program from the teachers of children whose parents are given an alternative sentence.

    “When mom returns home, they see an improvement around hygiene, being on time to school, their homework is being turned in and they are meeting their grade level expectations,” Leavell says.

    Leavell also says the program is saving Washington money, though she can’t say exactly how much. According to Leavell, it costs roughly $31 a day to supervise an offender in the community in Washington, compared to $91 a day for incarcerated inmates.

    The program has helped prevent sending 44 children to foster care in Washington, and 8 children have come out of foster care and returned to their parents.

    “Some of those kinds of savings are harder to measure than your black and white savings in terms of daily costs,” Leavell says.

    About two out of three offenders who have participated in the program have successfully completed it. Leavell says of the 237 who completed the program, 22 have been re-arrested and 16, or 7 percent, have returned to prison on a new felony.

    The general return to prison rate, or recidivism rate, in Washington is 29 percent.

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    Our View: A small contribution to fairness

    Posted Feb. 10, 2015 at 12:01 AM

    A bill that would bring Oregon into line with nearly every other state in helping to pay for legal services for low-income residents passed the House on Monday. The Oregon Senate should follow suit, and the governor should sign the legislation.
    When a class action lawsuit involving many plaintiffs is settled, or a verdict is reached holding the defendant liable for damages, the court contacts members of the affected class and distributes the money paid in damages by the corporate defendant. Inevitably, some members of the affected class either cannot be found or choose not to participate.
    States have enacted various ways to deal with this leftover money. Because the corporate defendant has agreed to pay damages or has been found liable and ordered to do so, returning the undistributed money to the defendant essentially reduces the penalty. Many state laws provide that at least a portion of this money go to help provide legal services to low-income residents who can’t afford to hire their own attorney.
    The distribution of money in this way follows a legal doctrine known as “cy prés,” sort for the Norman French phrase “cy prés comme possible,” or “as near as possible.” The idea is that money in a will or trust, or money ordered paid to settle a claim, should be used for a purpose close to the original intent if that original intent cannot be satisfied. Support for legal services is considered a close approximation to class-action damages because consumer protection cases make up a portion of legal services cases.
    In Oregon, class-action payments that cannot be distributed are returned to the corporate defendant.
    House Bill 2700 would change that. Half of any unspent damages would go to legal services offices around the state, and the other half to charity at the discretion of the judge.
    HB 2700 would not solve the funding problems plaguing legal aid in the state. The amount of money is relatively small, and Oregon does not see a large number of class action lawsuits. But the principle is sound: Our system of justice means little if those without resources are denied access to the courts. This bill is one small way to contribute to fairness, and should be enacted.

    Source: Mail Tribune

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