Findley sides with Demo majority to reform youth sentencing

Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, was one of four Republicans that sided with Democrats last week on a bill to adjust sentencing guidelines for youth charged with serious crimes. (The Enterprise/File).

SALEM – State Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, was one of four Republicans to join the Democratic majority in the House last week passing legislation that would modify sentences for youth charged with serious crimes.

Senate Bill 1008 passed the House on a 40-18 vote and now will move to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature. The bill lifts certain sentencing requirements for juveniles created when voters approved Ballot Measure 11 in 1994.

Measure 11, the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing edict, stipulated that those charged between 15 and 17 for certain crimes such as rape and murder would be prosecuted and sentenced as adults.

The reform legislation discards that provision and instead requires a hearing “to determine whether person should be prosecuted as adult.” In short, the new mandates allow a judge to decide case-by-case whether a youth is tried as an adult.

The legislation mandates that youth charged with serious crimes can’t be sentenced to life without parole and allows them to qualify for a parole hearing after they serve half of their sentence.

Findley joined three other GOP colleagues – Reps. Greg Smith, Werner Reschke and David Smith – to vote yes on the bill.

Findley said he wasn’t pressured by fellow Republicans to vote one way or another on the measure.

“House Republicans said vote how you wish to vote,” Findley said Friday.

Findley said he reached out to a “a lot of folks” to gather input when the bill moved out of the Senate and reached the House.

“I spoke with law enforcement, judges, defense attorneys, juvenile departments and I voted based on information from those folks,” said Findley.

Findley said the main message he received was the mandates in Measure 11 regarding youth sentencing needed to be changed.

He said there was still resistance – for example, he said the Oregon District Attorneys Association opposed the final bill – but “everyone agrees there needs to be changes.”

Republicans tried to modify the final bill and gain approval for the issue to be decided by voters but neither idea gained any political traction. Findley said he voted for both ideas contained in the minority proposals.

“But we needed to move it (the bill) forward,” said Findley. “I don’t think anyone was 100 percent happy, but it needed something. The only thing we completely agreed upon was it needed changing.”

Findley said he “felt good” about his yes vote on the bill.

“The current version, as it is, dealt with the items that needed change. Is this a perfect world? Nope. But perhaps this will move the needle for better discussions in the future,” said Findley.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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