(Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)
SALEM — These bills might not make headlines, but make a difference to Oregonians all the same. Each of these bills passed their last hurdle last week and head next to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.
NEVER FORGET: Oregon schools will be required to teach students about the Holocaust and genocide starting in the 2020-21 school year under Senate Bill 664. The idea was inspired by Alter Wiener, a Hillsboro educator and Holocaust survivor who died in December, and Claire Sarnowski, a Lakeridge High School student who has campaigned for more education on the topic in schools. Rep. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, said she hopes school districts and state officials will work with nonprofit groups like the Oregon Jewish Museum to develop age-appropriate curricula.
A PRESSING NEED: Senate Bill 390 allows olive oil producers to sell direct from the farm, the same way that farmers can sell fresh produce, eggs, nuts, honey and small-batch preserves. Two Amity-area olive farmers requested the bill. Olives are an unusual crop in Oregon, and were introduced to the Willamette Valley only recently. Farmer Justin Lawrence told lawmakers that his olive trees are thriving after 12 years, allowing him to produce high-quality, Oregon-grown olive oil.
EXERCISING RESTRAINT: Facing what educators say are increasing behavioral problems in Oregon classrooms, Senate Bill 963 defines what school staff can and can’t do to restrain students, which is ambiguous right now. For example, teachers can intervene to stop a student from running into traffic or fighting with another student — in other words, for their own safety or the safety of others — but they can’t use any restraints that are intended to cause pain or place pressure on sensitive parts of the body like the neck or groin. Restraining or secluding a student should be a last resort, the bill says.
BOTTLE BANDITS: In 1971, Oregon pioneered a bottle deposit to encourage people to recycle beverage containers. Since then, nine states and Guam have done the same. However, Washington is not among them. Witnesses testifying on Senate Bill 522 said our neighbors to the north are hauling in truckloads of Washington-purchased containers and returning them in Oregon for 10 cents a pop. It’s perfectly legal, but that would change with Gov. Kate Brown’s signature. The bill would make it illegal to return more than 50 containers per day that the person returning them knows were purchased out of state.
GIVE THYSELF: A new law will allow you to take leave from work if you’re donating your liver or a kidney. Senate Bill 796 says that donating a body part, organs or tissue could qualify as a “serious health condition” for the purposes of family leave protected by the Oregon Family Leave Act. That law provides unpaid but protected leave from work for new parents, serious health conditions, pregnancy disability, sick children, military families and bereavement for up to 12 weeks in a one-year period. Longer leave is allowed in some circumstances.
BACK AT THE RANCH: Since 1997, Oregon lawmakers have allowed Eastern Oregon land zoned exclusively for farm use to also be used for guest ranches for travelers curious about life on the farm. HB 2435 makes permanent the law permitting those ranches, instead of letting it sunset next April. Guest ranches have to stick to certain size and occupancy limits and must be “incidental” to maintaining an “existing and continuing cattle, sheep, horse, or bison operation that qualifies as a farm use.”
INFRASTRUCTURE FOR TRIBES: A water main break on the Warm Springs Reservation in Central Oregon left thousands without drinking water this month. A new bill could mean tribes like the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs can fix up deteriorating infrastructure. Six years ago, the legislature created a special fund to grant and loan money to cities, counties or anybody organized under state statute or city or county charter for infrastructure projects. Senate Bill 219 adds the state’s nine federally recognized tribes to the list of entities that can get that money.
SCREENING FOR WEED: Since Oregon voters approved recreational marijuana nearly five years ago, other areas of the law have yet to catch up with changing norms. If a prospective tenant has a conviction for “minor” marijuana use or possession, or are a medical marijuana patient, landlords can consider that when vetting tenants. Senate Bill 970 prohibits landlords from factoring that in when they are evaluating applications to rent.
Claire Withycombe is a reporter for the East Oregonian and Mark Miller is a reporter for Pamplin Media. They work for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.