Gun storage, election-day postmark bills allowed to stand
Bills to set requirements for firearms storage and allow election-day postmarks for mail ballots will become law.
The Oregon Elections Division reported Friday, Sept. 24, that no petitions were submitted on behalf of efforts to force a statewide election on those measures and one other passed by the 2021 Legislature.
Friday was the 90th day after adjournment of the 2021 regular session on June 26. Opponents had until then to submit petitions; if the Elections Division had verified 74,680 signatures within 30 days, bills would have been suspended until the statewide general election of Nov. 8, 2022.
Senate Bill 554 was the most prominent target. Three Republican representatives — one of them expelled from the House a week later — filed their referral petition a day after Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill. They were Reps. David Brock Smith of Port Orford and E. Werner Reschke of Klamath Falls, and former Rep. Mike Nearman of Polk County, who was expelled June 10 for allowing anti-lockdown protesters — some of them armed — to enter the closed Capitol during a Dec. 21 special session.
The bill requires gun owners to provide locks and safe storage of firearms to deter theft and unauthorized access by minors or others.
It also bars holders of concealed-handgun licenses from bringing firearms into the Capitol and the Portland International Airport passenger terminal. Aircraft boarding and luggage handling areas in the airport are subject to federal law.
School districts, community colleges and universities also are empowered to ban firearms from their buildings and grounds if their governing boards agree. Lawmakers removed that option for cities, counties and special districts in the final version.
Recall efforts aimed at two Republican senators who voted against that bill, but who showed up despite calls by some opponents to boycott the session, also failed to muster the required signatures to force an election. They were Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod of Lyons and Lynn Findley of Vale.
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan urged opponents to focus on the referral effort, rather than Republican representatives, all of whom voted against the bill except for two who were excused.
The final votes on passage were 34-24 in the House and 17-7 in the Senate. Three Democrats in the House and one Democrat in the Senate voted no. Some Republican senators were excused or did not show up for the vote, but not enough of them to block action.
Two other bills were targets of proposed referendums, but those efforts got started later.
House Bill 3291 allows county officials to count mail ballots if they are postmarked no later than election day and received within seven days afterward. Washington and California also allow election-day postmarks, but Oregon — the first state to adopt mail ballots for all elections — had not. The election-day rule takes effect in 2022.
The bill passed almost along party lines. Republican Reps. Ron Noble of McMinnville and Greg Smith of Heppner joined all 37 Democrats to vote for it; 21 Republicans voted no. Democratic Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose joined all 11 Republicans and one independent to vote against it; 16 Democrats voted for it. One Democrat was excused.
House Bill 2681 bars county election officials from putting someone into inactive-voter status simply because that person failed to vote or respond to a request for updated registration. Notices can still be sent if voter signatures do not match or if voters change their names.
That bill passed with only a handful of votes against it in either chamber.