Guns, Weed, E-Cigarettes and the CRC -- 2014 Session Preview!



Senator Michael Dembrow 
SE & NE Portland, Maywood Park

District Phone: 503-281-0608


Twitter: @michaeldembrow

E-Newsletter                              January 29th, 2014

Friends and Neighbors,

‘Tis the week before Session and all through the House (and Senate) . . .  lobbyists are scrambling, constituents are emailing, legislators are amending, and Legislative Counsel staff (the lawyers) have sworn off sleep for the next month.

On Monday the gavel will drop on the opening of the second half of the 78th Oregon Legislative Assembly.  As a result of the constitutional amendment that we passed in 2010, the Legislature now meets every year, with a long session in the odd-numbered years, and a short session in the even.  With only four or five weeks to complete our business, all the timelines are very constrained and complex, controversial bills are very difficult to pass. 

During the long session, there are no limits to the number of bills each member and each committee can submit; in the short session, members are limited to two and committees to three.  We in the Senate have two weeks to hold public hearings, amend, and vote on Senate bills, then two weeks to do the same for the House bills that manage to emerge from the House.  The House is under the same timelines and process.

So what does this tight timeline mean?  It means that bills that still require a lot of work, refinement, and compromise are going to have a hard time making it all the way through.  Most will fall by the wayside, perhaps to become addressed in work groups and task forces during the interim, with the goal of passing them in the 2015 long session.  Some, which were attempted and failed in 2013, will be attempted again in the hope that new support can be found (though this will be challenging, since the political dynamics of both chambers can’t possibly change until next November’s election).  Some, particularly those that fix noncontroversial technical problems or which almost made it in 2013 and just needed a little more work, will make it all the way. 

Bills that have price tags attached to them are going to have difficulty this session since we already set our budget for the biennium.  Unless we find out on February 12 (the next quarterly revenue forecast) that there is substantially more revenue coming in, the chances of doing much new allocation are very slim.  When the agency budgets were created last spring, the Legislature held back 2% of their budgets with the goal of allocating that money in February only if revenues were up and we didn’t need as much in reserve.  We’re still hoping to restore some of that money to them, but with last year’s unexpectedly high fire season and the prospect of another one this year, the likelihood of getting it all back to them seems slim.

If you’re curious about the bills that are out there, you can read about some of them here in this newsletter.  If you want some additional prognostication and insider baseball, try to make it to the town hall that Alissa, Barbara, and I are holding tonight at PCC-Southeast or my coffee this Saturday morning.

Remember, the legislative website ( is the place to go.  There you’ll find links to all the committees of interest to you, their agendas, and the bills in the works.  You’ll be able to live-stream committee hearings or floor sessions as they happen or listen to them via audio archives after the fact.  Some will be fairly technical and boring for the uninitiated, others easy to follow and interesting to anyone.  If you’re interested in a particular issue or process and need a little help navigating the resources, please don’t hesitate to email us.  We’ll be happy to walk you through the process of accessing the information that you need. 

My goal is to get a newsletter update out to you at the end of each week of the session.  Wish me good luck!


Tonight (1/29) I'll be co-hosting a Town Hall with my House colleagues Reps. Alissa Keny-Guyer (HD 46) and Barbara Smith Warner (HD 45).  I hope you'll join us to discuss the session.  We'll be meeting at 7pm at PCC Southeast Campus (SE 82nd & Division) in Rooms 143/144 of Mt. Tabor Hall.


If you can't make it tonight (or even if you can!) I hope you'll join me this Saturday (2/1) for my monthly constituent coffee.  We'll be meeting at the Hollywood Senior Center (1820 NE 40th Ave) from 10am to 11:30am.  I'll bring the coffee, you bring yourself!

Legislative Concepts Are Now Bills!

Last Tuesday was the initial deadline for members to get co-sponsors for their bills and submit them for introduction.  That means that they all have bill numbers (assigned in order of submission).  The Senate bills start with SB 1501 and the House bills start with HB 4001.  You can find them all (along with “memorials” and “resolutions”) here.

For a convenient list of all Senate measures, click here.

My Personal Bills

In my last newsletter I mentioned what my two personal bills for the session would be.  I’ve introduced both of them, and they now have numbers assigned to them. 

SB 1553 The first of my two personal bill requests will use money freed up in the recent special session as a result of changes to the senior medical deduction to finally create the Office of Public Guardianship/Conservatorship within the Long-Term Ombudsman office, which will create badly-needed protections for indigent Oregonians in need of safe and responsible guardianship.  It has been in the works now for four years, and I’m pleased to see that our perseverance will finally pay off and protect a growing population of vulnerable Oregonians.  

SB 1543  The second bill will tackle the problem of Oregon workers at risk of having their hours cut in an attempt to bring them under the threshold of healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  It’s a danger faced by many Oregon workers, and it’s important that we try to get out ahead of it. It also focuses more particularly on the potential problems faced by part-time faculty at our public colleges and universities, who may be working far above the threshold for eligibility, but they are working at more than one public institution.  The bill would require that they be treated as they already are for PERS eligibility—eligibility is calculated by the totality of their work teaching at public post-secondary institutions.  This seems a fair way of treating them.  How can we possibly claim to be moving towards universal healthcare coverage if employers exclude workers who are currently working full-time or nearly full-time?

My Three Committee Bills

The Senate Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources has three bills in the hopper:

SB 1510 This bill would create a new process for allowing enhanced state review of projects deemed to have significant statewide environmental and public health impact, for example, for coal export projects that could affect Oregonians in a variety of ways.  This one will be controversial, but I believe that it’s time for us to consider granting the state this authority, which our neighboring states to the north and the south already have.

SB 1511  This bill would require testing and (if necessary) mitigation for radon when schools are having major construction (e.g., energy efficiency upgrades).  Warning: this bill is being heavily amended to bring it in line with the original intent.

SB 1512  This bill has to do with water rights in the Klamath Basin.  It’s an important piece of the recently-concluded agreement that involved landowners, farmers, Native Americans, environmentalists, the courts, and the state.  We need to pass it If the agreement is to work.

Bills You’re Most Likely to Read About in the Oregonian

HB 4073, 4115           Regulating E-Cigarettes, keeping them from minors

HB 4094         Would allow an underage drinker or the companion of an underage drinker to seek medical help and not be at risk of arrest.  This is a bipartisan bill, for which I’m one of the sponsors.

HB 4136         This would allow high schools to continue to have Indian-themed mascots with the permission of a neighboring tribe.  This is one that failed in 2013, in part due to the threat of a veto by Governor Kitzhaber.  I opposed it then and continue to oppose it.

SB 1551          Background Checks on Private Transfer of Firearms.  We’ve had a background check requirement on gun purchases for many years.  This would close an existing loophole around private sales, including internet sales.  Under the current program approximately 800 requests are denied each month due to criminal records, restraining orders, and parole violations, but we know that there are many still getting through.  I strongly support this legislation and have already voted for its introduction as a member of the Judiciary Committee.  In fact, this is one area of the controversy around guns that elicits overwhelming agreement. (See the results of this recently-completed statewide poll of Oregonians, with more conservative elements of the electorate over-represented in the poll—the results are quite striking.)  Nevertheless, this remains a tough issue.  Expect a long and contentious public hearing sometime early in the session.

SB 1556          This measure would refer to the voters (in the November 2014 election) the question of whether or not marijuana should be legalized, and if they say yes, the Legislature will be responsible for designing the best possible program.  The rationale for this bill is the high likelihood that a flawed initiative measure will make it to the ballot and will pass without having had the benefit of a real public process in its design.  I’ve signed onto this bill, which will also be dealt with initially in Senate Judiciary.

SB1569           Labeling and eliminating children’s products that contain known toxic chemicals.  This one failed in 2013.  Advocates are working hard to get it passed this time.

SB1570           Remove Sunset on Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.  Oregon’s effort to promote fuel that releases a lower amount of carbon into the atmosphere (e.g., biofuels, propane, natural gas) is scheduled to sunset in 2015 if we don’t take action to remove that sunset.  This issue remains controversial.  The Environment and Natural Resources Committee will be taking it up.

HB ???            The I-5 Bridge Replacement Project (Columbia River Crossing) is still out there as a potential bill for February.  Its prospects have become very uncertain now that Washington has pulled out of direct involvement in the project.  Many of us, including I, are still hoping for more certainty from Washington regarding the collection of toll money from Washington residents.  I don’t believe that there is a bill yet.  If a bill does emerge, expect an extensive public hearing on it.  If a bill does not progress, the Governor has said that the project will officially come to an end in March.

Meeting with Parliamentarians Over Strategies for Combating Climate Change

Within an hour of the conclusion of my last constituent coffee, I had to rush off to the airport to get on a plane to England for a week of meetings and tours of a variety of energy facilities.  I was part of a delegation of legislative committee chairs of energy/environment committees, sponsored by the British Embassy, meeting with counterparts at the national and regional level in Britain.  It was really very interesting and enlightening. 

The British have set very ambitious national carbon-reduction goals.  Now that their supply of North Sea oil is declining, they are planning for a future in which those resources are replaced by renewable energy, particularly in the form of offshore wind turbines (the world’s largest collection of offshore turbines is the Thames Array, off the mouth of the Thames River).  England currently possesses half of the world’s offshore wind energy, and it is working hard to increase its investment in that resource.  At the same time, it is working hard to make its buildings and its cities in general more energy efficient.

Interestingly, in the U.K. “decarbonization” efforts are essentially bipartisan.  The current government, which is a center-right coalition, is a European leader in this effort.  The City of Bristol, which we visited, is the European Union’s European Green Capital for 2015, so designated as a result of its many achievements in transportation, waste management, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.  Its mayor, a former president of the national association of architects and owner of a chain of breweries, is a non-stop booster for the city, whose GDP has moved to second place in the country.

One of the highlights of the trip was a meeting in Parliament with a group of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords who are seeking to develop international relations with legislators working on energy and climate change.  They are part of a group called GLOBE International, which will be meeting in Washington, D.C., at the end of February. 

We had dinner with their Chair, Graham Stuart, a conservative MP; their President, John Gummer (Lord Deben), a leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords; and several parliamentarians from the Labour Party.  So far, their U.S. outreach has been focused on the national level, i.e., Congress, but they have come to understand that most of the action in this country is actually at the state level.  They are very appreciative of the work going on here in the three West Coast states and British Columbia.  At the same time they showed us how some of the strong decarbonization efforts today are occurring in China.

It makes so much sense to approach the effort to combat climate change from an international perspective.  I look forward to sharing more of what I learned (and will continue to learn) about these efforts in future newsletters.

Follow me on Twitter!

If you're a twitterer, follow me @michaeldembrow for event updates.  My staff will also be using the account for bill updates during the session and posting relevant news stories.  It's a great way to keep in the loop between e-newsletters.

See you around the district,


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