Legislature — Senate Bill 1531 passes, other controversial issues may be left to the voters

The Oregon Legislature’s short session wrapped up March 7 and despite a last-minute flood of amended bills being pushed out of committees, many controversial issues were left unresolved. At this point, there’s considerable speculation as to what issues might face voters come November.

Two issues were referred to the ballot by the Legislature and the first stirred considerable debate. The referendum, sponsored in part by state Rep. Kim Thatcher, puts Senate Bill 833 on the ballot with hopes of overturning a bill approved in the May 2013 legislative session that provides driver cards to residents who are unable to prove their legal status. The current issue has been with the ballot title, which originally stated “Provides Oregon resident ‘driver card’ without requiring proof of legal presence in the United States.” It was changed Feb. 27 to “Establishes limited purpose, duration driver cards for individuals who prove Oregon residency, meet driving requirements.”by: SUBMITTED - The Oregon State Capitol building is quiet this week after adjournment of the short legislative session on March 7.

Thatcher expressed her disapproval, as the title no longer draws attention to the legal status of the applicant, merely asking for proof of Oregon residency, calling the House on its strategy of changing the rules without notice.

State Rep. Jim Weidner also spoke against the title change.

“Because it wasn’t polling well, they went and changed it because they wanted a different outcome of the election,” Weidner said. “It does not matter if it’s a right of left matter, or right or wrong. I basically feel we’re overstepping our bounds and abuse of power in this building.”

But supporters of the title change tout the need to improve public safety.

“We have a responsibility to make our roads safe for everyone,” said state Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-Portland). “Whether it’s a mother driving her children to school or a father driving to the grocery store, all drivers should be tested and legally insured regardless of the documents they have.”

The Legislature also referred to the ballot an amendment to the state constitution that would allow indebtedness to provide aid for post-secondary students.

Hoping to be piggyback on these two ballot measures are initiatives still seeking to fulfill signature requirements before the July 3 deadline. Among the ballot hopefuls are initiatives dealing with liquor privatization, same-sex marriage (although sponsors may not pursue the ballot if a federal judge legalizes marriage this summer), marijuana legalization, prohibiting public funds for abortion procedures, labeling genetically modified organisms, guaranteeing political equality for women and a religious exemption which would allow individuals and businesses to refuse to provide services for gay weddings or commitment ceremonies.

One issue did see resolution Friday when the Senate passed Senate Bill 1531. After bouncing between the House, Senate and various committees, the bill was amended to allow cities and counties to ban medical marijuana facilities until May 1, 2015 — but only if a moratorium is enacted by May 1, 2014. This means the ban enacted by the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners in February will stand until it expires February 2015.

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