DOME DIGEST: Immigrants rights, drunk driving and youth suicide

SALEM — These bills might not make headlines, but they may make a difference to Oregonians all the same. Each of these bills passed their last hurdle this week and now head next to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.

READING RAINBOW: Patients who aren’t fluent in English will be able to get their drug prescriptions labeled in a language of their choosing under Senate Bill 698, which passed the Senate on a 23-6 vote on Monday after previously passing the House 48-9 earlier this month. By 2021, medical information that accompanies prescriptions in Oregon will be available in at least 15 languages, including English. The bill is intended to ensure that people receiving needed medicine in Oregon will be able to understand what it is, how it should be taken and any side effects it may have, regardless of what language they speak.

YOUTH AT RISK: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds in Oregon, but suspected suicides aren’t always reported to authorities. Senate Bill 918 would require that when a county or tribal health department is notified of the possible suicide of a person age 24 or younger, they must in turn notify school administrators and other officials who had contact with the deceased. It also makes explicit that naming the person who died in those notifications does not violate patient privacy protections.

PAY UP TO SUP: Senate Bill 47 requires people with certain non-motorized watercraft to get a “waterway access permit.” The new $5-per-week or $17-per-year fee applies only to non-motorized watercraft 10 feet or longer, and sailboats between 10 and 12 feet long. The bill also axes the requirement for some non-motorized boats to get an aquatic invasive species permit. The bill, requested by Gov. Kate Brown on behalf of the Oregon State Marine Board, was pitched to raise money to distribute grants for boating facility projects.

DRIVIN’ DIRTY: In Oregon, prosecutors can use refusal to participate in breath, blood or urine sampling when being arrested for drunk driving against a defendant in court. However, the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that refusing to participate in such testing can be the invocation of one’s right to not incriminate themselves. Senate Bill 999 creates a two-pronged approach. If a driver refuses to comply with an officer seeking breath, blood or urine testing, the officer will then ask for their physical cooperation and inform them of the penalties for not cooperating. If they still refuse, that refusal can be used against them in criminal proceedings; however, the initial refusal cannot.

NEED TO KNOW?: Oregon immigrants might be reluctant to appear in court or cooperate with law enforcement out of fear they would be deported. Last year, nearly half of Oregon’s sheriff’s signed a letter stating they wished to enforce federal immigration laws, which would deviate from Oregon’s law to protect immigrants.

House Bill 2932 furthers protection for immigrants by disallowing anyone to ask a defendant about their immigration status during a criminal proceeding. Backers of the bill say immigrants would be more likely to appear in court with that protection. The policy also requires defendants are informed of the consequences a conviction could have on immigration status and provide them more time to consider those consequences before entering into a plea agreement.

WRITTEN GUIDELINES: In April, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon published findings of a report showing 40 percent of Oregon’s district attorneys offices did not have written guidelines explaining their core policies. These include how to charge juveniles who commit serious crimes, or whether to charge up to a crime with a mandatory minimum sentence. 

In a large office, the district attorney delegates these charging decisions to deputy prosecutors, who might not follow the same practices. That could lead to inconsistency and a lack of control over the office by the prosecutor.

It also could impact defense attorneys who could rely on those guidelines during plea negotiations.

The result was a bipartisan push to get district attorneys’ offices to write out their policy guidelines in the form of House Bill 3224.

NO FREE ADVERTISING: Oregon votes by mail, and while that system eliminates the problems that other states have had with faulty or insecure voting machines, long lines at the polls, and limited precinct locations, it has some flaws of its own.

Depending on where you live and vote, when you get your voters’ pamphlet or ballot envelope in the mail, you may notice a name or two prominently displayed — a name or two that may also appear on the ballot. Senate Bill 670 changes the law so that the county clerk’s name cannot appear in an “official capacity” on election materials mailed to voters, except for the ballot itself. The secretary of state’s name can’t appear either, except for in the voters’ pamphlet.

Proponents say the bill is intended to address a perceived advantage that incumbent clerks and secretaries of state may have by putting their name and title in front of voters as they’re considering how to vote. It passed the Senate for the second time Thursday, 19-9, after undergoing some changes in the House. Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was the only Republican to support the bill in the Senate.

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