July 10, 2017

Three Public-Records Bills Pass the Legislature

This session, three public-records bills have made their way through the legislative process. Senate Bill (SB) 481 passed earlier in the session and has an effective date of January 1, 2018. The bill establishes a specific timeline for responses to public-records requests as well as outlines how smaller agencies and commissions with limited resources can respond to requests. In addition, the bill would also require the creation of a list of the disclosure exemptions to Oregon’s public-records laws.

The second bill, SB 106, creates a Public Records Advocate as well as a Public Records Advisory Council to assist in disputes between public bodies and persons who request public records. The third bill, House Bill (HB) 2101, creates the 15-member Oregon Sunshine Committee. The committee is tasked with reviewing all exemptions to the disclosure of public records, identifying areas for improvement, and reporting back to the legislature.

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Grand-Jury Recording Bill Passes Legislature

Senate Bill 505 requires county district attorneys to instruct grand jurors to electronically record all grand-jury proceedings. These recordings are then stored on servers provided and maintained by the Oregon Judicial Department. The legislature will appropriate $1.5 million to pay for staff as well as the purchase and maintenance of recording equipment. Recording will begin on March 1, 2018 in three counties: Multnomah, Jackson, and Deschutes. The remaining counties must begin by July 1, 2019. Concerns have been raised that the recording requirement may lead to an increased use of preliminary hearings and protective orders. If necessary, an additional $8.5 million has been earmarked for the program.

The bill requires the Public Defense Services Commission, the Oregon Judicial Department, and each county that begins grand-jury recording on March 1, 2018 to report back to the legislature.

SB 505 passed the Senate by 21-7 and the House by 34-26.

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HB 2355 addresses racial profiling in Oregon and modifies possession of controlled substances sentencing

On Thursday, July 6, 2017, HB 2355 passed out of the Legislature and is on the way to the Governor for her signature. HB 2355 does two things. First, the bill requires the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) to develop and implement a process for law enforcement to record traffic-stop data. The collected data will then be reviewed by the Commission to identify profiling patterns and practices. The Commission is required to report back to the Governor, the Oregon Legislature, and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training by December 1, 2019.

Second, it reduces the classification of unlawful possession of controlled substances, for both Schedule I and Schedule II, from a felony to a misdemeanor. It should be noted that there are exceptions to this change. For example, if the amount is a “useable quantity” and is a commercial drug offense, or if the person has a prior felony conviction, the felony classification remains (see the bill for the full list of exceptions).

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Legislature Passes Bill to Allow for Greater Oversight of Shell Corporations in Oregon

Over the last decade the legislature has examined the use of fraudulent shell corporations in Oregon. HB 2191 provides the Secretary of State with the ability to investigate corporations and limited liability corporations for possible violations of business registration statutes and to inform law enforcement. Further, the bill allows the Secretary of State to impose civil penalties or, in some situations, to cancel an incorporation or dissolve a business entity. The bill also provides additional oversight authority to the Oregon Department of Revenue and creates a private right of action against fraudulent shell corporations.

The Secretary of State will receive an additional percentage of the business registration fees from the Corporation Division to fund the bill. HB 2191 passed the Legislature and is on the way to the Governor.

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2017 Public Affairs Committee Members

Kathleen Rastetter, Chair
John Mansfield, Vice Chair
Guy Greco
John Bachofner
Chris Costantino
Rob Gratchner
Eric Foster
Liani Reeves

Public Affairs Department

Susan Grabe, Public Affairs Director
Amy Zubko, Public Affairs Legislative Attorney
Matt Shields, Public Affairs Staff Attorney
Kellie Bagnani, Public Affairs Assistant

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