Photograph courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation

Oregon passes 719 new laws to go into effect this year

On Jan. 1, 2022, a number of new Oregon laws went into effect. Laws on policing, hate crimes, racial discrimination in employment and the theft of catalytic converters are among the hundreds of new laws passed in 2021. Compared to other states, Oregon was remarkably active in passing new legislation throughout the last year.

Laws tend to go into effect one year after their adoption date. The Legislative session which closed July 26, 2021, yielded 719 new laws, which are now enforceable. 

Notably, the House passed “The CROWN Act” in 2021 which has received national headlines in recent months. The Crown Act was created in 2019 by Dove and CROWN Coalition in California and has been introduced in numerous state legislatures. In Oregon, the law  prohibits employers and public school districts from discriminating against people for race-based and protective hairstyles. It also defines the category of race-based hairstyles. 

“A hairstyle, hair color or manner of wearing hair that includes, but is not limited to, braids, regardless of whether the braids are created with extensions or styled with adornments, locs and twists,” the law states.

Lewis & Clark falls under the employer category. While LC has its own variation of anti-discrimination policies in the hiring process, none make mention of race-based hair styles. 

In Oregon, police reform was at the center of changes in policy. As a result, more than 20 legislation addressing changes in policing passed between the House and the Senate. 

For example, HB 2936, sets a few different standards. First, it dictates that the Department of Public Safety Standards must create a comprehensive statewide and uniform background check process to use when hiring police officers. It prohibits racist behavior and requires agencies to report instances of racist behavior to the District Attorney. Finally, it allows employers to access the social media accounts of law enforcement employees, exempting them from laws prohibiting employers from doing so. Such laws are aimed at holding police officers to higher standards and preventing people with a history of racism and abuse from joining the force. 

While HB 2936 sets internal standards for the police force, other laws aim to increase civilian oversight. SB 204 promotes civilian access to police reports, by allowing citizen oversight boards in charge of overseeing police misconduct to access the Law Enforcement Data System, which has records of arrests, encounters.

Portland formed its own civilian oversight board. In 2020, Portland voted in favor of measure 26-217, which created the ReThink Police Accountability Commission in 2021.

The chair of the House Committee on Equitable Policing, Rep. Janelle Bynaum, who is also Oregon’s only black woman lawmaker, has led the charge to increase more accountability for police. 

“They’re longstanding problems that for whatever political reasons haven’t been resolved, and here we are in this moment, with a great opportunity to take bolder steps forward,” she said in a statement to the OPB. 

However, she explained that the new legislation is only “laying the groundwork to reimagine public safety.”

Other new and relevant legislation includes SB 803 which is aimed at disincentivizing the sale of stolen catalytic converters by barring scrap metal businesses from the purchase of the car part from non legitimate sellers. The theft of catalytic converters has been on the rise nationwide. This particular legislation has an effect on the LC student population. Some LC students have reported that their catalytic converters  have been stolen. However, campus security reports there has been a total of 3 catalytic converter thefts in the past 3-4 months.

The Oregon State legislature  has passed and is expected to amend several other pieces of legislation  on affordable housing, teaching unions, and election day ballot counting. The Oregon legislature’s 2022 session began Feb. 1.

The next General Election for the Governor of Oregon will take place Nov. 8, 2022. 

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