Skip to Content

Oregon lawmakers wrap up special session on police reform, virus impacts

Oregon Capitol with trees
KTVZ file

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Legislature wrapped up what the Senate president called “an impossible and historic session” Friday after passing a slew of bills, most dealing with police accountability and the coronavirus pandemic.

“I could not have imagined two months ago that we would be holding a special session in a closed building, with virtual meetings, social distancing, and face masks,” Senate President Peter Courtney said. “But here we are, 24 bills passed, more than 600 pieces of public testimony submitted, over 100 people gave virtual committee testimony, all in only three days.”

Police reform bills that lawmakers passed include measures that limit the use of chokeholds, require officers to intervene if their colleague is being unjust or unethical and create a statewide police discipline database.

Another bill that now goes to Gov. Kate Brown prohibits law enforcement agencies from using tear gas for crowd control, except for circumstances that meet the definition of a riot. Even then, the legislation requires sufficient notification and ability for people to leave tear gas is deployed.

Another bill requires an arbitrator to uphold a discipline decision should they agree that misconduct occurred.

“These measures will seek to set us on a path to safer and more welcoming communities throughout our state,” said Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, who is Black and was stopped by police while canvassing two years ago in her district.

“This work is fundamentally about raising the bar for the law enforcement profession and ending the tolerance for those who bring it dishonor,” said Bynum.

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby said: “Today’s votes affirm that power in all forms must be accountable, limited and responsive to Oregonians.”

“As I stand with our law enforcement community and value their work to serve and protect, there are always opportunities to improve,” Drazan said. “This bipartisan legislation will bring meaningful change to policing in Oregon.”

Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Eugene, who is Black, said work remains “to get to a place where our communities can genuinely feel safe around those who were sworn to serve and protect them.”

The reform bills were just a portion of the lengthy list the Legislature considered Friday.

House Bill 4204 was one of the most debated measures in the Legislature — passing in the House 39-18 and passing in the Senate 19-8. The bill enacts new foreclosure protections during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an effort to hasten the process, Republicans in the House agreed to suspend certain procedural rules.

What was not attended to was the state budget, which will take a big hit because of the pandemic. At least one other special session may be called.

“This session has been a huge disappointment because we did not get the budget done, and Oregonians were locked out of the process,” said Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod of Stayton.

Courtney acknowledged more work remains.

“We have a budget to do. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic. While we’ve finished this round strong, we still have more rounds to go,” he said.

News release from Gov. Kate Brown:

Governor Kate Brown Commends Legislature for Taking Action on Police Accountability, Evictions, and Foreclosures in Special Session

 (Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today commended legislators for taking action during the 2020 First Special Session on a number of priority pieces of legislation, including bills for police accountability and reform, as well as bills extending protections for Oregonian families against residential and commercial evictions and foreclosures.

A video message from Governor Brown on the special session is available here.

Governor Brown convened the special session to improve police accountability and address issues impacting Oregonian families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I called the Oregon Legislature together because I have been concerned that Oregon needs to take further action in response to two crises unfolding across the country,” said Governor Brown. “The first is related to the ongoing and urgent concerns caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the economic threat the pandemic poses to people who were already struggling to get by.

"The moratoriums on evictions and foreclosure will go a long way to ensuring working families can stay in their homes and small businesses can continue operating amidst the pandemic.

“I also called lawmakers into this special session in order to respond to the clarion call for police reform. Across the state, tens of thousands of Oregonians have taken to the streets to demand racial justice and police accountability.

“It will take far more work to set our state on a path toward racial justice, but these are very important steps forward.”

A second special session will be convened later in the summer to take up issues related to the state budget.

"We are holding off on the next session for a few weeks to give Congress time to take action," said Governor Brown. "And I hope Congressional leaders will hear the call from states across the country and step in with additional federal support.

"In the meantime, there are some additional investments that we must make with existing federal dollars.

"Next week I’ll be sharing a plan with the Legislature to use Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars to support our Black communities, for investments in health equity, and to provide relief for working people who need to take time off if they are sick with COVID-19.

"It is incredibly important that we get dollars to the communities most impacted by the pandemic. And that we help working people when they need to stay home from work due to the disease."

Key legislation passed during the 2020 First Special Session included (each bill's details can be seen on the Legislature's website):

Police Accountability

  • SB 1604 – Limits the ability of an arbitrator to overturn police discipline when a law enforcement agency uses a discipline guide.
  • HB 4201 – Establishes a legislative joint committee to examine use of force and transparency.
  • HB 4205 – Directs the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) to adopt rules requiring police officers to intervene to stop certain acts of misconduct such as excessive force or acts of discrimination. Officers who report misconduct should not face retaliation.
  • HB 4207 – Directs DPPST to establish a statewide database for police officers whose state certification have been suspended or revoked.
  • HB 4208 – Limits the use of tear gas by law enforcement for crowd control, unless event has been declared a riot.
  • HB 4203 – Limits the use of force by police officers that would impede breathing or blood circulation, unless circumstances would justify deadly force.

Evictions and Foreclosures

  • HB 4213 – Codifying the moratorium on residential and commercial evictions the Governor first put in place through executive order, allowing working families to stay in their apartments and homes and small businesses to continue operating. The bill also creates a payback period to give Oregonians time to catch back up on payments they've missed.
  • HB 4204 – Creating a moratorium on foreclosures so people and small businesses who are late on their mortgage payments don’t lose their home or place of business while they are working to get back on track.

Rural Broadband Access

  • SB 1603 – Makes a significant investment in rural broadband internet access, a critical investment for rural Oregon schools.

 COVID-19 Response: Safe Local Government, CARES Act Payment Protection

  • HB 4212 – Implements a number of COVID-19 response measures, including protecting CARES Act payments from garnishment so federal dollars go directly into people’s pockets and allowing local governments to continue operating while providing public access through remote and virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also allows for online notarization to protect public health.

Forest Management

  • SB 1602 – Includes provisions for responsible forest management agreed to by the timber industry and environmental groups.

House Speaker Tina Kotek on the Conclusion of the First Special Session of 2020

“This is an unprecedented moment in American history. People are rising up to demand racial justice and police reform. The coronavirus pandemic is claiming more lives every day. Oregonians are losing their jobs and many families are coping with more stress than any time in their lives.

“The only way to get through this is together. Today, the legislature rose to the challenge of this moment. We donned face coverings, maintained physical distance, and passed a series of bills that respond to some of the state’s most urgent needs.

“We heard the calls from Oregonians who are struggling to afford rent, afraid of losing their home, or about to lose the small business they spent their life building. Today we passed bills that will extend Oregon’s eviction moratorium, enact a repayment period for renters, and provide some basic protections against foreclosure.

“We heard Oregonians demanding police reform and thanks to the leadership of the People of Color Caucus, we passed six bills that will improve transparency and accountability. Make no mistake – we have much more work to do on this front, and we will meaningfully engage Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities in the long-term effort to create justice and equal rights for all.

“We passed practical fixes that will help Oregonians in their everyday lives. Over 100,000 Oregonians are stuck in a backlog of people waiting for routine services from the DMV. Today we ensured that drivers won’t get citations for expired driver licenses, permits, and vehicle registrations through the rest of the year due to this delay. We also ensured that Oregonians who can’t pay traffic-related fines will no longer lose their driver’s license.

“The first special session of 2020 was a success, and now we can refocus our energy on re balancing the budget and protecting working people.”

News release from Oregon House Democrats:

Oregon House Adjourns First Special Session of 2020Legislation addressed COVID-19 response, police accountability
SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon House of Representatives adjourned today after completing the business of the first special session of 2020 which included COVID-19 response and sweeping police accountability reforms.

House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland) issued the following statement on the conclusion of the first special session of 2020.

“This special session, we took critical steps toward dismantling structural racism, which begins by reckoning with the ongoing legacy of our state’s racist history. I want to thank the legislature's People of Color Caucus for their extraordinary leadership in advocating for and advancing this legislation. This includes changes to police discipline, a statewide police misconduct database, a committee to review use of force policies, a requirement that officers must report abuses committed by their fellow officers, and a ban on tear gas and chokeholds. These represent just the first step in a reckoning process that is long overdue. In the coming weeks, months and years, we are committed to working closely with frontline community organizations to pass new laws with a focus on racial justice and undoing generations of discriminatory legislation that has harmed Black, Indigenous and people of color Oregonians. 

“We also made significant progress in protecting struggling families and small businesses from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help working families keep roofs over their heads and to help small businesses stay in business, we extended foreclosure and eviction moratoriums. We protected individuals’ CARES Act payments and gave local governments and the courts the flexibility they need to continue operations. For rural Oregonians, we provided the Eastern Oregon Border Board more flexibility to support economic development and will expand rural broadband internet development.” 

“At a time when the failures of the Trump Administration and Republican leadership across the country are worsening the COVID-19 pandemic, actively undermining critical social safety net programs, and working to divide Americans instead of bringing them together, I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish here. “In these unprecedented times, we have been given an opportunity to work toward a better Oregon for all. This special session was an important first step.” 

House Republican Leader Statement on the Conclusion of the First Special Session of 2020

Salem, ORE. – Today, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) released the following statement on the conclusion of special session:

“I came to Salem this week to support a balanced budget, unify our state and do all I can to protect public health while getting our economy going again. While we passed historic bipartisan police accountability legislation, the session in many ways fell short, leaving Oregonians outside locked doors and the budget deep in the red. There remains work to be done.”

Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner on

the Close of the First Special Session of 2020

SALEM – Today, the Oregon Legislature declared sine die on the First Legislative Session of 2020. This special session was declared by Governor Brown to address police accountability measures and to respond to the needs of Oregonians resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) issued the following statement:

“This Special Session was like one we have never seen before. Not only were we challenged to create unique ways to engage the public, we took on the needs of struggling Oregonians during a global pandemic and took necessary first steps to address long overdue police accountability measures.

“I am incredibly proud of the Oregon Senate Democrats. They put in long hours and adapted to a new way of doing business to bring relief to Oregonians during a public health crisis. We gave renters greater housing security, provided protections against foreclosures, passed vital regulations to protect vulnerable COVID-19 patients and safeguarded Oregonians’ CARES Act relief dollars.

“Most notably, the Oregon Senate Democrats centered the work and lived experiences of the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus to make necessary police accountability reforms and to say, unequivocally, that Black Lives Matter. The dedicated and unceasing efforts of the BIPOC Caucus have been instrumental in the progress we made today to advance justice in Oregon and act against centuries of institutional racism. Senator Lew Frederick (D- Northeast Portland) and Senator James I. Manning Jr. (D-Eugene) leadership within our caucus was a direct reason for our success, I cannot thank them enough.

“This Special Session marks the beginning of critical change for Oregon and within the Legislature. I will ensure this effort is sustained and this work is ongoing. The Oregon Senate Democrats are committed to a better future for all Oregonians.”

News release from Oregon Senate and House Democrats

Oregon Legislature Adjourns First Special Session of 2020

SALEM – Today the Oregon Legislative Assembly adjourned its first special session of 2020. Governor Kate Brown called on the legislature to respond to the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and enact police accountability reforms.

The Legislative Branch created a thorough mitigation plan to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 while completing the urgent work of the special session. Infectious disease experts from Oregon Health & Science University toured the Capitol and reviewed the legislature’s written plan, which included physical distancing, face coverings, minimized staffing levels, and virtual-only public testimony.

Below are highlights of some of the bills approved in the three-day special session.

Residential and Commercial Rent, Eviction, and Foreclosure Protections

  • House Bill 4204: Directs lenders to defer both residential and commercial mortgage payments during the pandemic emergency period until September 30, 2020 if a borrower is unable to pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deferred payments would be due at the end of the loan, unless the borrower and lenders determine alternate, agreeable terms.
  • House Bill 4213: Extends the moratorium on both commercial and residential no-cause evictions through September 30, 2020 and creates a six-month repayment grace period after the moratorium ends for tenants to repay their back rent accrued during the moratorium. During the repayment period, tenants may not be evicted for failure to repay their back rent, but they must keep paying their ongoing monthly rent. Negative credit reporting for non-payment of rent during the moratorium is prohibited, as is assessing late fees or other penalties for nonpayment during the moratorium period.

COVID-19 Response

The omnibus House Bill 4212 covers a variety of areas to support public health, individuals, local governments, courts and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Emergency shelter siting – Temporarily waives all siting, design, and zoning regulations for local governments to develop low-barrier shelters and navigation centers to provide support for Oregonians experiencing unsheltered homelessness, who are at high-risk of virus transmission. Siting provisions are limited to 90 days.

·    Remote notary provisions – Authorizes a pilot program to allow notaries to perform work using electronic technology to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health.

·    Enterprise zone deadline extension – Delays the expiration date of enterprise zones in the state by six months, preventing a June 30 expiration.

·    Individual development account funds for pandemic relief – Provides flexibility for individual development accounts to be used for emergency expenses.

·    COVID-19 race and ethnicity data – Requires health care providers to collect data on race, ethnicity, preferred spoken and written languages, English proficiency, interpreter needs and disability status (REALD) during the provision of health services related to COVID-19. Directs OHA to adopt rules requiring providers to collect and report data, specifies timelines for data collection, and allows OHA to provide incentives to health care providers to comply with requirements. Data is confidential and used for public health purposes.

·    Safe public meetings – Allows local governments and other public bodies to hold virtual meetings so they can continue to provide essential services and make decisions in a public and transparent manner, while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting public health. The language specifies notice, quorum, social distancing, and recording requirements.

·    CARES Act payment protection – Protects vulnerable Oregonians who receive CARES Act Recovery Rebate payments having portions of those payments withheld, so all relief money can be used to pay for essential needs like housing, food and medical needs. Payments are protected from any garnishment actions initiated before September 30, 2020.

·    Safe court proceedings – Gives the Chief Justice the authority in certain circumstances to extend statutory deadlines for court appearances if the COVID-19 pandemic results in delay of court processes. Allows for up to a 60-day extension of the time to conduct a trial of a defendant accused of a person crime, beyond the current 180-day limit, only if the court finds 1) circumstances caused by the pandemic establish a good-cause delay of the trial; 2) clear and convincing evidence of the substantial and specific danger of physical injury or sexual victimization to the victim or members of the public should release occur; and 3) no release conditions could sufficiently mitigate that danger.

·    Temporary Physician Assistant Authorization – Physician Assistants (PA) are given flexibility during the emergency period to practice at the top of their scope to aid in emergency response.

Police Accountability

  • House Bill 4201: Establishes a Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform to continue making progress on police reform. The committee is directed to examine policies to improve transparency in investigations and complaints regarding use of force by police officers; increase transparency in police protocols and process to build public trust; examine policies that reduce the prevalence of serious physical injury or death caused by use of force, the authorization of use of force under state law, and the disparate impact on communities of color; determine most appropriate policy for independent review of deadly force; and make recommendations to the Judiciary committees by December 31, 2020.
  • House Bill 4203: Declares that a peace officer is not justified or reasonable in any circumstance to use physical force that impedes “the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by applying pressure on the throat or neck of the other person” unless it is a circumstance in which an officer may use deadly force as provided by ORS 161.239. Rules will be adopted prohibiting the training of this force, except as a defensive maneuver.
  • HB 4205: Requires police and reserve officers to intervene to prevent or stop another officer from engaging in an act they know, or should reasonably know is misconduct. Misconduct is defined as “unjustified or excessive force that is objectively unreasonable under the circumstances or in violation of the law enforcement agency's use of force policy; sexual harassment or sexual misconduct; discrimination against a person based on protected class; committing a crime; or violation of the minimum standards for fitness for public safety personnel.” The bill requires the officer to report the misconduct as soon as possible, but no later than 72 hours after the misconduct; failure to report is grounds for discipline. DPSST will provide an annual report to the legislature on the rule adopted for implementation.
  • HB 4207: Requires the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) to establish a statewide online public database of records for officers whose certification has been revoked or suspended and specifies the information to be provided as well as timeline for posting. The bill brings current grounds for revocation or suspension of certification by DPSST from rules into statute. Law enforcement agencies are required to request and review applicant's personnel files from current or prior employing law enforcement agencies and liability protection is provided for requesting and supplying agencies. Clarification is given that both violation and criminal convictions for marijuana possession are not grounds for mandatory suspension or revocation of certification.
  • HB 4208: Prohibits law enforcement agencies from using tear gas for crowd control, except for circumstances that meet the definition of a riot in ORS 166.015. Before using tear gas in the event of a riot, law enforcement must 1) announce their intent to use tear gas; 2) allow sufficient time for individuals to evacuate the area; 3) announce for a second time that they intend to use tear gas.
  • SB 1604: Under current processes, when an internal investigation finds misconduct of a police officer, the Chief of Police would apply a discipline guide that has been agreed to by the public employer and the collective bargaining unit. In response, the officer has the option to grieve the decision all the way to arbitration. The arbitrator has the power to either disagree with the finding, agree with the finding and uphold the discipline, or agree with the decision but substitute a different discipline. Under this measure if the arbitrator agrees misconduct occurred they must impose the discipline required by the matrix.

Other Urgent Needs

  • SB 1601: Prevents citations from being issued for expired driver licenses, permits, and vehicle registrations and further directs courts to dismiss any citation for specified offenses between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. SB 1601 also provides flexibility for transit providers by allowing Oregon’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund (STIF) to be used to maintain existing service. Previously, the STIF was reserved for transit expansion or improvement. Additionally, SB 1601A merges the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Fund with the STIF and requires the Oregon Transportation Commission to dedicate a portion of the fund to transit for older adults and individuals with disabilities.
  • HB 4210: Removes authority of courts to impose driving privilege suspensions for failure to pay traffic-related fines or comply with requirements ordered in lieu of fines.
  • House Bill 4214: Modifies Oregon's dependency code to align with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and requires the Oregon Department of Human Services to provide biennial reports about American Indian and Alaska Native children in the child welfare system.
  • SB 1603: The Rural Telecommunications Act establishes the Broadband Fund to support projects for planning or developing broadband service infrastructure, and for the administration of the Oregon Broadband Office. Subjects sale of all retail telecommunications services, retail commercial mobile radio services, and retail interconnected voice over Internet protocol services to the universal service fund surcharge to support the Broadband Fund.
  • HB 4202: Makes technical changes and clarifications to the commercial activity tax that the legislature approved in 2019. These changes include technical clarifications and exempting six small, Oregon dairies.

Article Topic Follows: Top Stories

Jump to comments ↓

The Associated Press

KTVZ news sources


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content