STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
COURTS & PUBLIC SAFETY
The Associated Press
The new law makes it illegal to drive in Oregon while holding or using any electronic device, including cellphones, tablets, GPS or laptops. Hands-free and built-in devices are allowed under the law.
“I had tried as early as 2005 to get a cell phone bill, because of the research that shows that talking on a cell phone and—God forbid—texting was just as dangerous as driving drunk,” Burdick tells WW. “We’ve cut down the drunk driving accident level, but the impact of distracted driving is really serious.”
The new law also comes off the recommendation of the Oregon Department of Transportation Distracted Driving Task Force, which found that 4,000 crashes in 2014 alone were caused by distracted driving and 75 percent of drivers admitted to driving distracted alone.
The debate on non-unanimous juries has resurfaced at a time when states and communities across the country grapple with issues of race and institutional discrimination. Critics in Oregon claim that the state’s jury system remains a relic of an intolerant past. “It’s one of our dirty little secrets hiding in plain view,” said Aliza Kaplan, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, where she directs the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic.
If approved, a $6 fee tacked on to residents’ water bills would fund an additional six police officers in Redmond. The goal is to bring the current staffing ratio of officers per 1,000 residents from 1.3 to 1.67. The increase in staff would allow the Redmond Police Department to establish its own drug enforcement team, increase the size of daily patrol teams on duty from 3.2 officers to 4.4, help reduce traffic violations or accidents and institute a downtown foot patrol. “This has been identified as an achievable goal for us, and I am very optimistic about the public’s response,” said City Manager Keith Witcosky.
EDUCATION & HIGHER EDUCATION
Under Senate Bill 208, districts may not deny charter students from participating in interscholastic activities, but districts can charge up to 5 percent of the district’s state funding per student. Under the new law, the district could only base a charter student’s eligibility to play sports on test scores.
“To see the bill passed, it was such great news for charter school students in Oregon,” said Amy Maukonen, founder and lead teacher of the Valley School. “This bill is giving charter students an opportunity to participate in these activities.
The Portland school board hired a hand-picked team of investigators, including two former prosecutors, Tuesday to take a deep look at the case of a veteran educator who evaded sexual misconduct allegations for years. The board’s unanimous move came in response an August Oregonian/OregonLive investigation, which found that top district officials protected the accused teacher, not students.
Herald and News
Oregon Institute of Technology announced Monday the selection of Kate Sinner as its new associate vice president for government relations and strategic partnerships, according to a news release. Sinner currently serves as the deputy legislative director to Gov. Kate Brown. She replaces Lita Colligan who recently retired. “We couldn’t be more pleased that Kate is joining Oregon Tech in this role at a very important time in our history,” said Dr. Nagi Naganathan, president of Oregon Tech. “Kate’s extensive background in higher education government relations as well her legislative experiences at the state and federal levels make her a great fit to support Oregon Tech. We welcome Kate to the Oregon Tech family.”
Certain internal costs such as payroll will not be known until after the end of the fiscal quarter, Allen, the former director of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, said. “In summary, this represents our best estimate at this point,” Allen wrote. “It will no doubt change somewhat, and we can provide a more detailed final accounting in November.”
“As our state continues to battle devastating wildfires, these emergency resources will provide much-needed help to Oregonians counting on our roads and highways to get around,” Wyden said. “Much work must still be done to recover and rebuild from these destructive blazes and this grant is a good step forward on that path.”
JOBS & THE ECONOMY
Arcimoto will increase hiring as it ramps up production, he said. The company has 23 employees. Arcimoto’s goal is to build at least 10,000 vehicles in 2019, Frohnmayer said. “At that point you’re talking about hundreds of people working on the project,” he said. “It has significant job creation potential.”
The company says it’s been operating at its site north of Medford for more than 44 years. In a note to union representatives, Pacific Crest said it will “substantially” reduce its workforce but doesn’t explain why. The company didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry seeking additional information.
“An expanding labor force is very, very good if you’re a business right now,” said Damon Runberg, Central Oregon regional economist for the employment department. Local unemployment rates are coming off historic lows, but they’re still below the level of a year ago.
For their part, lawmakers were puzzled and concerned by the massive data breach, which affected more than 143 million Americans. Hackers breached the credit reporting agency’s computer systems between May and July, but the hack was not reported to the public until September. Rep. Paul Holvey, chairman of the House Interim Committee On Business and Labor, said he tried to freeze his own credit without success. The Eugene Democrat said he went online only to be told his credit could not be frozen, and then spent nearly an hour on the phone before he was hung up on.
Rep. Jodi Hack, R-Salem, said she had problems with freezing and thawing her own credit. “The system — it’s a mess,” Hack said.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS
“If I had the opportunity to meet with the attorney general, I would tell him that his position on DACA is absolutely counter to Oregon values and Oregonians,” Brown said, referring to the Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It protects unauthorized immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation. Sessions announced earlier this month that the Trump administration would end DACA.
Brown said she was “appalled by the position of the attorney general” on the program, which shielded 11,000 unauthorized immigrants in Oregon. “He clearly did not have time to meet with me and hear my strong views about how I feel about making sure that dreamers are able to go to school, to work and to lead lives in this state.”
Sessions pointed to a slew of high-profile crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants in Oregon and nationwide as he tried to make the case that the 1987 state law makes Oregonians less safe. “The problem is that the (sanctuary) policies tie your hands,” he told the law enforcement officials and other federal workers. “Sanctuary policies endanger us all.” Sessions’ 20-minute address at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in north Portland, in a room normally used for immigrant naturalization ceremonies, contained few surprises.
“The vast majority of Americans oppose ‘sanctuary’ policies,” Sessions claimed. “According to one poll, 80 percent of Americans believe that cities should turn over criminal aliens to immigration officials. A poll taken earlier this month of swing-state voters found the same thing: 77 percent support denying federal funds to sanctuary cities.” Sessions attacked local officials’ concerns that fear of deportation would spread fear and distrust, perhaps hampering the job of law enforcement agencies. He said that under sanctuary policies, “police are forced to release the criminal alien back into the community without regard to the seriousness of his crimes or the length of his rap sheet … They should according to law and common sense be processed and deported.”
He reeled off a litany of violent crimes allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants, and urged Oregon and Portland officials to change their tune and cooperate with President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown. His speech was filled with half-truths, misleading statistics and legally shaky arguments. Here are four of the biggest.
It wasn’t quite “High Noon,” but the governor and the man who would be governor put on cowboy hats and stepped out of the campaign shadows at the Pendleton Round-Up last week. Gov. Kate Brown and her most high-profile opponent to date, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, were at the same event at the same time, though the crush of tens of thousands of people kept them separated.
“Everyone acknowledged hearing of the accusation alleged in the rumor,” wrote Deputy Legislative Counsel Jessica Santiago. “However, there was insufficient corroborating evidence to identify the source of the underlying rumor. Thus, based on the interviews that we conducted, we were unable to positively identify the source of the rumor and could not verify the accusation alleged in that rumor.” Put simply, Santiago writes, the “accusation was false.”
“I have been the target of harassment, bullying and racism, and a victim of an ugly campaign of rumors,” Hernandez said in a statement on Tuesday. He says he believes his skin color as well as his vocal stance on equity issues prompted what Santiago’s letter termed “rumormongering.”
The vast majority of legislators come from someplace other than Salem, and because they’re in the capital only part of the time, they tend not to have houses or fancy apartments at their disposal. Theirs can be a lonely existence, which can be improved by the presence of a spouse or child in the office. Moreover, as more than one lawmaker told The Oregonian, no one understands a legislator’s constituents and issues as well as a close relative can. Then there’s this: Scandal as a result of nepotism has been something of a rarity. Oregon’s is not a broken system looking for a cure. Rather, it’s a system that has worked well for years, and as such, there’s no need to change it.
Our justice system is built on noble principles and high standards. In reality, it falls short. National and local data show racial disparities in those who are arrested, prosecuted and convicted. Racial, religious and ethnic minorities comprise a small percentage of juries – a percentage that Oregon’s non-unanimous jury protocol allows to be ignored. We should take pride in what our justice system strives for, and we should act with humility in how our justice system underperforms. A unanimous jury doesn’t guarantee justice but it is a step toward that goal. Guilty enough should no longer be good enough.
None of this, by the way, should be misconstrued: We have no sympathy for what we sense is the true mission of the commission, to find ways to push for ways to make it harder for people to vote. In Oregon, we have justifiably prided ourselves on our efforts to move in just the opposite direction, to remove barriers to voting. One way to keep moving in that direction is to work to ensure that no one is taking advantage of our expanded access to the ballot box.
The Associated Press
A magnitude 7.1 quake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings in plumes of dust and killing at least 248 people. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.
Hours after the quake, rescue workers were still clawing through the wreckage of a primary school that partly collapsed in the city’s south looking for any children who might be trapped. Some relatives said they had received Whatsapp messages from two girls inside. The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday night that 25 bodies had been recovered from the school’s wreckage, all but four of them children.
The Washington Post
Senate Republicans and the White House pressed ahead Tuesday with their suddenly resurgent effort to undo former president Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, even as their attempt was dealt a setback when a bipartisan group of governors and several influential interest groups came out against the proposal.