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Legislative roundup: Senate OKs bills cracking down on transit drug use, requiring school board meeting recordings

Oregon Capitol
KTVZ file
Oregon Capitol

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As the Oregon Legislature's "short session" heads into its final weeks, we'll be providing occasional collections of news releases received on bills and legislative action. Here are two Wednesday items.

From the Oregon Senate Democratic and Republican Offices:

Protecting Oregonians on Public Transit

Senate Bill 1553 expands the existing crime of Interfering with Public Transportation to include drug use

SALEM, OR – Today (Feb. 21), the Oregon Senate passed Senate Bill 1553 with bipartisan support. The bill would expand the existing crime of Interfering with Public Transportation to include drug use on public transit. This would be a drug-designated Class A misdemeanor, which would open up access to state-funded treatment for those convicted of the crime in many cases.

“As someone who takes public transit in my community, I understand why it’s so important for us to take action,”said Senator Chris Gorsek (D - Gresham), co-chief sponsor of the bill. “Oregonians deserve to be safe on public transit. Our kids, people with disabilities, seniors, and people just trying to get to work should not have to worry about being exposed to smoke and residue from illicit drugs.”

Drug use on public transit is significantly impacting Oregonians across the state. TriMet reports a 30% drop in riders feeling safe on buses and trains. The Tillamook County Transportation District was forced to close their transit center to the public because of drug use and drug smoke exposure incidents. Schools are reporting that students are finding drug paraphernalia on transit vehicles provided by ride connection partners.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community, but the growing presence of public drug use and crime has made it nearly impossible. Public transportation has greatly struggled with safety particularly in our major cities, and it’s long-past time for rehabilitation. Recriminalizing to a Class A misdemeanor sends a strong message that public transit is not a welcoming place to illicit drug use, creating a safer environment for all,” said Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R - Bend), co-chief sponsor of the bill.

“As we look to address the drug crisis as a whole, this is one of the many tools we need to be using to intervene in dangerous situations, such as smoking fentanyl on a transit bus. At the same time, it is important that the state work hand-in-hand with our cities and counties to build a more robust treatment system if we’re going to truly solve this problem,” said Senator Floyd Prozanski (D - Springfield & Eugene), who co-carried the bill on the floor of the Senate. 

Senate Democrats and Republicans agree that improving public safety is a major priority for the 2024 legislative session. SB 1553 now heads to the Oregon House of Representatives for consideration.


From the Oregon Senate President:

Bipartisan Bill to Improve Transparency in School Boards Passes Senate 

SALEM, Ore. – Today, the Oregon Senate passed the Education Board Transparency Act (Senate Bill 1502) with bipartisan support. The bill requires that education boards of public school districts, community colleges, and universities video record their meetings and upload those recordings for the public to view online. 

The bill exempts school districts with fewer than 50 students and provides that school districts that lack adequate internet access can comply by uploading an audio recording instead. The requirement to record does not apply to meetings that aren't already public under Oregon's public meeting law, such as executive sessions.

"This bill will improve the transparency of our education boards, grant greater access to busy parents and community members, and promote equity by ensuring everyone can stay engaged," said Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego), co-chief sponsor of SB 1502. "I'm grateful to my Republican colleagues who worked with me to ensure this bill will improve transparency across the state without overburdening our small school districts."

“I believe increasing accessibility to government processes at all levels will lead to greater accountability and transparency to the public," said Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), co-sponsor of SB 1502. "We need more of this, which is why I am pleased to have voted in favor of this bill.”

The bill now moves to the Oregon House of Representatives for consideration. 

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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