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Oregon lawmakers wrap special session in one day, restrict choke holds

Oregon Capitol building
KTVZ file

(Update: Senate adjourns; House still at work late Monday)

Gov. Brown upset GOP blocked bill to speed jobless pay for teachers

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A measure further restricting the use of choke holds by police passed the Oregon Legislature by wide margins Monday night as lawmakers quickly concluded a one-day special session called to fix a billion-dollar budget deficit due to COVID-19.

House Bill 4301 prohibits the use of choke holds by police or corrections officers except for self defense as defined by law.

“It’s long past time we disallowed officers from using chokeholds,” Sen. James Manning, D-Eugene, said. “It’s wrong and it can be lethal. It is not a tool to deescalate. It’s a tool to take a life.”

The measure passed the House 55 to 2 and the Senate 22 to 5.

Some leading lawmakers had hoped to focus the special session, which began Monday and adjourned after 11 p.m., only on spending matters. The Legislature had been tasked with filling a $1.2 billion budget hole. Lawmakers cut roughly $400 million across state agencies and used about $400 million in emergency funds from the Education Stability Fund to help repair the budget.

The total adopted state budget for the 2019-21 biennium is nearly $86 billion, about a 10% increase from the 2017-19 legislatively approved budget.

There were complaints throughout the day that Oregon’s second special session of the year, held under coronavirus restrictions, didn’t allow lawmakers and others enough time to debate or voice concerns about legislation.

“(Lawmakers in the Capitol) are grumpy, and they’re getting grumpier,” Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said during a joint committee work session.

In an effort to place bills on the Oregon Legislature floor Monday evening, Courtney urged lawmakers in the joint committee to only ask pressing questions.

“Either let’s get (the lawmakers) home or let’s vote on bills,” Courtney said. He said previously he was trying to keep the session short because of pandemic concerns.

House Speaker Tina Kotek also announced the Legislature would not take public testimony on bills during the special session, but the public can submit written testimony.

One bill that would have helped speed up the processing of unemployment insurance claims for thousands of Oregonians waiting for benefits was killed in committee, resulting in harsh words from Gov. Kate Brown.

“It’s appalling that Senate Republicans today voted down a common sense fix to the unemployment process that would put money in people’s pockets faster,” Brown said. “The bill would have eliminated red tape for education employees, freeing up staff to process other claims more quickly.”

The committee spent a large portion of the afternoon discussing proposals surrounding the state’s unemployment benefits process. One of the bills would increase the amount of money Oregon workers can make as they continue to get weekly unemployment.

Lawmakers were hopeful the session would be completed in a day, but by 3:30 p.m. Monday they were behind schedule and the goal seemed further out of reach.


News release from the Oregon Legislative Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus:

Oregon Legislature Strengthens Chokehold and Use of Force Statutes
Work continues on law enforcement accountability legislation 
SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Legislature voted today to strengthen legislation passed earlier this year to limit the use of chokeholds by law enforcement and strengthen use of force statutes.
“This bill continues the work of supporting a new concept of policing in the State of Oregon,” said Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland). “For many in marginalized communities, this is part of the first step. We have a long way to go.”
House Bill 4301 prohibits the use of chokeholds and other physical force that would impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by applying pressure on someone’s throat or neck by police or corrections officers except for instances of self-defense as defined by state law.
“It’s long past time we disallowed officers from using chokeholds,” said Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene). “It’s wrong and it can be lethal. It is not a tool to deescalate it’s a tool to take a life. Chokeholds have been used disproportionately against Black and Brown people, and sometimes even used against our kids. There’s no excuse for that. Law enforcement should approach their work as peace officers, not as if they are going into battle. This change in law is important. It will save lives.”
The legislation also modifies Oregon’s use of force statutes to more closely align with the requirements articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Tennessee v. Garner. The measure also adds a requirement that a peace officer consider alternatives to deadly physical force if a reasonable opportunity to do so exists.
"Aligning Oregon's use of force laws with Supreme Court case law is an effort that was long overdue,” said Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley). “Before, there was no requirement that an officer consider alternatives to deadly force. We now have a clear statewide standard that officers are expected to de-escalate conflicts and use only the amount of force necessary. My goal is to end the disproportionate taking of Black lives at the hands of the people we entrust to keep us all safe." 
“We expect law enforcement to protect and serve all those in our community,” said Rep. Akasha Lawrence Spence (D-Portland). “This bill codifies those protections for underserved members of our community who experience a disproportionate number of deadly interactions, including forceful chokeholds as we saw in the high-profile cases of George Floyd, and Eric Garner. Today, we are saying, no more to those unjust practices.”
This legislation is part of a package of bills being developed for the 2021 session by the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus. The legislation under development includes further limitations on tear gas and munitions, improvements to law enforcement identification, creation of a misconduct and use of force database, improved pattern and practice and the elimination of qualified immunity. All of the concepts are being evaluated by the Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform, co-chaired by Rep. Bynum and Sen. Manning.
“I am pleased that the legislature continues to strengthen police accountability measures by building on the work we did in the first special session,” said Rep. Mark Meek (D-Oregon City). “However, we must continue working in future sessions to ensure that all Oregonians, and particularly our communities of color, are able to assemble freely and that officers who don’t adhere to the standards of the force are held accountable.”
The members of the Legislature’s BIPOC Caucus are Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn), Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley), Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-Portland), Rep. Akasha Lawrence Spence (D-Portland), Rep. Mark Meek (D-Oregon City), Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland), Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) and Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene).
The legislation cleared the Oregon House, 55 to 2, and the Oregon Senate, 22 to 5. It now goes to Gov. Kate Brown for consideration.

Statement by Attorney General Rosenblum on the Passage of HB 4301

Salem, Oregon—Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum today issued the following statement on the passage of HB 4301:

“Congratulations to Representative Janelle Bynum, Senator James Manning, and to all the members of the People of Color Caucus of the Oregon Legislature on the passage tonight of HB 4301. My office was pleased to be asked to help in the development of this much needed overhaul of the statutes that govern the circumstances under which law enforcement can legally use force.

In the aftermath of the horrible death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, it is appropriate that all state legislatures consider the basic assumptions of their statutes which govern the permissible use of deadly force by law enforcement.  Oregon’s statutes, which have not been significantly revised in over 40 years, are crucially important because they establish the parameters under which an officer’s use of force can become excessive under state law, triggering a range of consequences up to and including criminal prosecution of the officer.

HB 4301 aligns Oregon’s deadly force statutes with modern standards of policing, by requiring that law enforcement: (1) May use deadly force only against people who pose a genuine risk of causing death or serious physical injury; (2) Should consider de-escalation whenever possible prior to using any degree of force; and, (3) Whenever reasonably possible, give a verbal warning before force is used.

HB 4301 is a critical first step toward ensuring that, going forward, law enforcement in Oregon will use force only as a matter of last resort.”

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Press release from the Oregon Senate Majority Office:

Senate Democrats Give Struggling Oregonians Unemployment Insurance Support

SALEM – The Oregon State Senate passed two bills to help Oregonians with Unemployment Insurance benefits. Senate Bill 1701 and 1703 received bipartisan support. These bills make changes to Oregon’s Unemployment Insurance program to give Oregonians flexibility as they get back to work and quicken the claims process for the Oregon Employment Department.

Senate Bill 1701 raises the cap on the amount of money a worker can earn before their earnings affect their Unemployment Insurance benefit amount. Currently, the cap is tied to either ten times the minimum wage ($115.00-$132.50) or a third of the individual’s total benefit amount. The benefit award is then lowered by a dollar for each dollar earned over the cap. Senate Bill 1701 raises that cap to a flat $300.

“Too many Oregonians have been out of work and deserve an opportunity continue their unemployment benefits and do part-time work,” said Senator Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland) who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor and Business. “Raising this threshold will give Oregonians a greater chance to provide for their families as they re-enter the workforce during this economically strenuous time.”

Senate Bill 1703 allows the Department of Revenue to share income-related information with the Employment Department. The purpose is to expedite the confirmation of income and benefits determination for self-employed workers and contractors who qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA).

“Gig workers, self-employed individuals and contractors have lost jobs and wages but do not typically qualify for traditional benefits,” said Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego). “This will add efficiency to the Employment Department’s ability to approve PUA funds to Oregonians in need.”

“These bills reflect creative thinking in response to the great needs of unemployed Oregonians. Too many are struggling, and these changes will help,” added Senator Wagner.

Senate Bills 1701 and 1703 now go to the Oregon House of Representatives for consideration.


Governor Kate Brown Issues Statement on Senate Republicans Blocking Common-Sense Fix to Deliver Unemployment Insurance Benefits Faster

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today issued the following statement after Senate Republican legislators voted down Senate Bill 1702 in committee, which would have helped speed up the processing of unemployment insurance claims for thousands of Oregonians waiting for benefits:

“It’s appalling that Senate Republicans today voted down a common-sense fix to the unemployment process that would put money in people’s pockets faster. The bill would have eliminated red tape for education employees, freeing up staff to process other claims more quickly.”

Currently, education employees laid off for the summer months must have their job status verified by going through a process known as adjudication to receive unemployment insurance benefits. No other group of workers faces this requirement. SB 1702, proposed by the Oregon Employment Department,would have lifted this extra step during the COVID-19 pandemic, freeing up OED staff to work on other, more complex adjudication claims and getting benefits out the door to Oregonians waiting for their claims to be adjudicated sooner.


News release from Oregon House Democrats:

Legislature Passes Legislation to Help Oregonians Waiting on Unemployment
House Democrats condemn failure to advance Senate Bill 1702
SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Legislature passed two bills to help Oregonians who have been waiting on their unemployment claims.
Senate Bill 1701 increases the amount that an unemployed individual may earn from working part-time to $300 (or one-third of their weekly benefit, whichever is greater) before losing their unemployment benefits. Current statute limits earnings to ten times the minimum wage or one-third of the individual’s weekly benefit.
Senate Bill 1703 gives the Governor the ability to authorize the Oregon Department of Revenue to share information necessary to verify the identity or income level of a person seeking an unemployment or Pandemic Unemployment Insurance claim during this current emergency.
“These two measures are necessary and critical steps to streamline unemployment insurance and help Oregonians get back to work without losing the ability to provide for their families,” said Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene), who carried both bills on the floor. “This is not going to solve all the problems, but it is a step in the right direction.”
A third measure, Senate Bill 1702, designed to remove a unique unemployment roadblock faced by many employees in public and private educational institutions, like bus drivers, janitors and food service workers, that forces them into the adjudication process and slows the wait for all workers in that process, failed in committee.
“I speak for the entire House Democratic caucus when I say we are incredibly frustrated by the defeat of Senate Bill 1702 in committee today,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland). “For months we have been asking the Oregon Employment Department what the Legislature can do to speed up claims. When they finally bring us a bill to do just that – and, let me be clear, this would have made a difference for school janitors, bus drivers, and food service workers as well as every Oregonian who is waiting in adjudication – it got voted down unanimously by Senate Republicans. Struggling Oregonians deserve better.” 
Senate Bill 1701 and 1703 now go to Gov. Kate Brown for consideration.

Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner Statement on Adjournment of the Second Special Session of 2020

SALEM – Tonight, the Oregon State Senate adjourned the Second Special Session of 2020. Upon adjournment sine die, Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) issued the following statement.

“Today, the Oregon Legislature prioritized protecting vital public services like K-12 education by voting to adopt a rebalance plan in response to the COVID-19 recession. Our state’s financial health, like that of many Oregonians, shifted dramatically as a result of this public health emergency. Fortunately, for years Democrats have prioritized saving money in the state’s Rainy Day Fund and the Education Stability Fund.

“Senate Democrats’ dedication to fiscal responsibility and smart saving allowed us to maintain our deep commitment to our children and to public education, even as we had to make significant adjustments due to a steep economic downturn. This budget rebalance keeps our State School Fund and Student Success Act funding for early learning whole. We will continue to fund Career and Technical Education Programs and offer Community College support. We’ve also protected the Oregon Opportunity Grant for college. Access to education is key to long term outcomes and an educated population supports economic recovery.

“In this time of economic uncertainty, Senate Democrats made certain to keep intact the critical services Oregonians across the state rely on. Access to food and Medicaid are untouched, and we continue to invest in affordable housing and homeless services. Additionally, domestic violence services and child welfare will receive complete funding to do their seriously necessary work.

“This budget rebalance was no easy task and no decision came lightly. Going forward, Oregon will need to continue to stay flexible as we learn more about the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“Senate Democrats also passed urgent policies that will help people right away. Oregonians have continued to call for policing reform and the Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform has worked for weeks to craft policies to eliminate racist policing. The Black, Indigenous and People of Color Caucus has led the way in the Legislature and ensured we continue to respond to this poignant moment in history and make real change. We will continue this work throughout the interim, in 2021 and beyond.

“In addition, Senate Democrats took up policies to address the needs of unemployed Oregonians. We ensured workers can continue to collect Unemployment Insurance benefits as they get back to work and streamlined the process for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance. Too many Oregonians are struggling and it’s important the Legislature acts in any way we can to help weather this crisis. We also need state support from our federal government. The failure to deliver local and state governments further support is a threat to the vital services we have worked so hard to protect.”


Governor Kate Brown Issues Statement on Adjournment of Second Special Session

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown will hold a press availability tomorrow to discuss the conclusion of the Second Special Session of the Oregon Legislature.

She issued the following statement upon the adjournment of the special session sine die:

"I'd like to thank legislative leadership, and every member of the Legislature, for carrying out the serious work of the second special session I have called during this pandemic," said Governor Brown. "While we may not agree on all the details, I appreciate that lawmakers protected critical state services including schools, health care, and senior services, while also taking action to tighten belts in state government.

"In the coming days, I will examine closely the details of the bills and the budget the Legislature has passed. I am frustrated that the White House and Congressional Republicans have refused to pass another stimulus bill for the country and I will continue to press for Congressional action. Without direct support from Congress to fill the gap caused by COVID-19, our budget reserves will quickly run dry and we will have to make impossible choices next year when it comes time to pass a budget for the next biennium.

"Lawmakers also passed significant legislation around the use of force by law enforcement officers, taking another step forward on the road toward racial justice. And while I am disappointed that a few legislators blocked passage of a bill to make it easier to pay out unemployment benefits (SB1702), I appreciate that they passed the other bill my administration brought forward, as well as a second policy to support unemployed Oregonians."

A livestream of the governor's 11 a.m. press availability will be available on the governor's social media channels.


Statement by House Speaker Tina Kotek on the conclusion of the second 2020 special session

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) issued the following statement today after the conclusion of the second 2020 special session, which rebalanced the state budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic and passed bills to improve police accountability and assist Oregonians waiting for unemployment benefits.

“During incredibly difficult and uncertain circumstances, the Legislature came together and took a thoughtful approach to rebalance the state budget. We preserved funding for critical public services, including education, health care, child welfare, housing and economic development. We invested more than $50 million to build desperately needed affordable housing, and more than $30 million for critical water infrastructure projects in Warm Springs, Salem, and Sweet Home.

“We also built on recent and long overdue progress to improve police accountability in the state. It was particularly significant that we updated Oregon’s obsolete deadly use of force statute to be current with Supreme Court caselaw. It requires officers to use de-escalation as a first resort when reasonably able. In circumstances where non-deadly force must be used, this measure requires that it only be to the degree necessary to prevent imminent injury to a person or accomplish arrest. We must keep pushing for more progress, and I look forward to continuing the work put forward by the Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform.

“Additionally, I appreciate the progress that has been made to streamline claims for self-employed workers and temporarily raise the income threshold for underemployed Oregonians to receive benefits. However, I am appalled that Senate Bill 1702, which would have sped up the process and helped thousands of Oregonians get their benefits faster, failed. This was a missed opportunity that we should come back on.

“This session is far from the end of long-term conversations to put Oregon on the path to an equitable economic recovery. The scale of this crisis dictates additional support from the federal government, and I urge Congress to provide that support as soon as possible to prevent the suffering that is happening daily across our state.”


Press release from Oregon House Democrats:

Second Special Session of 2020 Concludes
House Democrats celebrate progress, condemn failure for working families
SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Legislature wrapped up the Second Special Session of 2020 shortly after 11:15 p.m. on Monday, rebalancing budgets in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping workers struggling to get their unemployment benefits and strengthening police accountability measures.
House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland) issued the following statement:
“Budgets are values documents, and I’m proud to lead a caucus who embarked on the incredibly challenging work demanded of us by the COVID-19 pandemic guided by equity, compassion and fairness. We were able to protect the critical services that families need most: education, health care and the safety of our communities.
“This session was also an opportunity to address historic wrongs and help those Oregonians who have been desperately waiting on the backlogged unemployment system. Additional measures to address police use of force and end the practice of chokeholds is a critical next step and continues driving the work of dismantling racist structures. I am also pleased, after repeated calls, that we were able to move forward two measures that will help streamline and support working Oregonians struggling with their unemployment insurance during this pandemic.
“Disappointment does not begin to describe my feelings however about the failure of Senate Bill 1702 – a measure designed to help Oregonians who work in public and private educational institutions overcome a unique roadblock in the unemployment process. This measure would have not only helped those workers but many others whose claims are awaiting adjudication. It’s a shame that Senate Republicans prioritized politics over people.
“While we are doing all that we can to ensure an equitable recovery, the scale of this crisis highlights the critical need for further federal action to support state investments in essential services that provide safety and security for all Oregonians, including the state’s most vulnerable populations. I continue to call for meaningful federal action.” 

The Associated Press

Comments

9 Comments

  1. Why doesn’t kate just get the chief justice of the supreme court to write law, like she did with HB4212….suspending due process? Will we get an update from Nelson about knee on the neck investigation….especially now since the new law? So what was the law governing police killing folks BEFORE HB4301?

    No public testimony? What the hell kind of deal is that? Call a special session and we have time to study, discuss, and then offer a written testimony….WHEN? You just voted and PASSED on all the crap we’d still be writing about and questioning

    “The Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of both Patriots and Tyrants from time to time. It is its natural manure”……Thomas Jefferson

  2. Can someone please explain to me if Im missing something here.
    “It’s appalling that Senate Republicans today voted down a common sense fix to the unemployment process that would put money in people’s pockets faster,” Brown said…
    How can Republicans vote anything down, if they have a minority? Wouldnt some Dems need to vote it down too in order for it to fail? She was speaking of the Oregon senate yes? Democrats control it 18-12.

  3. Screw Oregon Law Breakers. “It’s long past time we disallowed officers from using chokeholds,” Sen. James Manning, D-Eugene, said. “It’s wrong and it can be lethal. It is not a tool to deescalate. It’s a tool to take a life.”

    James Manning is a complete imbecile. Choke holds are an option before having to draw and use a firearm. When used properly they are very effective and far less dangerous than a bullet. Our so called law makers are stabbing Police Officers in the back. I hope Police Officers all over the country remember.

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