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Civics Education Bill Promotes Public Participation
GOP bill gives students foundations in political processes and institutions

The Senate has approved SB 513 today, which would require Oregon high school students to take a semester of civics education before graduating. While the Oregon Department of Education already has standards for civics and government courses, SB 513 would carve out dedicated class time to focus on the principles of America’s and Oregon’s political institutions.

“This is an important and timely piece of legislation,” said Senate Republican Leader, Fred Girod (R-Lyons). “The past year has shown how government decision-making can deeply impact lives and livelihoods – for better or for worse. As kids return to school, it's important they understand the ins and outs of how decisions get made and how they can be involved. This is a good, bipartisan bill that I urge our colleagues in the House to pass.”

SB 513 has broad support from teachers, leading Oregon businesses and organizations, government officials, college and university faculty, and concerned citizens nearly 600 of whom have signed letters calling for its passage.

“The broad, diverse support we are seeing for the Civics Education Act is an acknowledgment of the importance of giving young Oregonians the foundations they need to participate in our democracy,” said Erin Esparza, Executive Director of the Classroom Law Project, a non-profit organization committed to preparing Oregon students to become engaged and involved participants in the democratic process. “We are living in a time where nearly one-third of Americans are unable to name any branches of government. Yet, Oregon is one of only 11 states that do not currently require a civics education class for graduation. It's time to do better by our students, our state, and our democracy.”

SB 513 passed by a 25-3 vote and now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-04-07 12:29:31Last Update: 2021-04-07 12:47:53



Why We Read
What if Republicans were back in control of the House?

House Republicans are currently slowing down the Oregon Legislature which is trying to rush passing more than 4,000 wide-ranging bills in a pandemic session. I felt it was important to explain the reasoning behind this while addressing some of the concerns that the media portrays as well as the concerns from my colleagues in the House Democrat caucus.

I believe we are all familiar now with the difference between the Constitutional requirement to “read the bills” in their entirety and the traditional “waiving” or “suspending the rule” on reading. What may not be known is the “why” behind the reading of the bills or the suspension of the rules.

While most bills will have bipartisan consensus like the budget, there are still about 10 percent of the proposals that are partisan, and I believe could make life far worse for Oregonians. This bipartisanship is something Oregonians can be proud of but unfortunately the media does not often report on this important fact. The media constantly reports on the 10% or so of the bills that are controversial. When one party is in a majority or even more a supermajority, those 10% can be very contentious. I am asked often by my colleagues from across the aisle why we won’t suspend the rules when what we are currently voting on is not controversial. It is precisely the 10% that creates the need for a way to “slow down the process”. The statement is often made “this is the will of Oregon voters, they put us in the majority”. That may be true, but let’s turn the tables for a moment…

What if Republicans were back in control of the House? I would assume the minority party would do everything in their power to stop what they would consider to be extreme, partisan legislation, including the reading of the bills and even the nuclear option: walk out, which they’ve used before. This past year has been a tough one for Oregonians. They need a unified Legislature to provide them with immediate help on the most pressing issues they’re facing. That’s what Republicans are calling for, and that’s why we will use every legislative tool at our disposal to encourage this kind of bipartisan consensus on relief measures.

No legislator was elected to this position based on that 10% of the bills. No legislator when campaigning really proposed any of the 10% controversial bills. We each were elected because we were able to connect with the voters who chose us because we represented their values better than our opponents did. I believe it was because of the 90% of legislation that passes out of this chamber. I would hope that, especially in a pandemic session, we all would keep our eye on the prize of helping to heal Oregon. Not promote divisive legislation promoted by special interest groups that is not important to the vast majority of Oregonians who only believe and desire that we should all work together to help our state.


--State Representative Bill Post

Post Date: 2021-04-06 21:06:37Last Update: 2021-04-06 21:09:43



House Republicans Suggest Spend of Federal Aid
Keys on long-term infrastructure projects, workforce development, and jumpstarting job recovery

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) released the following statement outlining the House Republican recommendation for spending Oregon’s portion of the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“After a difficult year for Oregon, it’s time to help every corner of the state recover and rebuild. While specific issues related to COVID-19 have their own source of relief funding, the Legislature should use these federal dollars for restoring Oregon’s natural environments, job recovery, infrastructure projects, and returning Oregon to long-term economic stability. These investments will bring all Oregonians lasting benefits across the state.

We must resist creating short-term spending obligations that will not help us rebuild our state, and that Oregon taxpayers will not be able to sustain once the money is gone.

The following projects are how Oregon can start rebuilding for long-term recovery. Public hearings to discuss the federal dollars for Oregon will be held by the Joint Ways and Means Committee the weeks of April 12 and April 19.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-04-06 14:06:18Last Update: 2021-04-06 14:17:31



Capitol Parking Bill Mushrooms
Now it includes an accelerated time table for state purchase of zero emission vehicles

As state government prepares to pave the way toward a kinder, gentler, greener planet -- one that includes electric modes of transportation as well as the subsidies that accompany them, Governor Kate Brown has requested that HB 2027 be introduced this session.

On the one hand, this bill looks pretty harmless. It allows the Oregon Department of Administrative Services to establish boundaries in Salem where department manages parking facilities and to establish rules for parking rates. It also allows the department to establish by written policy low-emission vehicles available for purchase by state agencies. Remember, this is only the parking that is operated by the State.

However, the House Committee on General Government adopted an amendment which changes operative date from January 1, 2029, to January 1, 2025, for the law requiring agencies to purchase light-duty vehicles that are zero-emission vehicles whenever possible.

This change was supported by three environmental groups, Climate Solutions, The Oregon Environmental Council and Forth, which submitted a letter of testimony:

We support the proposed changes provided in HB 2027 to clarify the role of DAS in setting meter rates in capitol area parking facilities and discouraging single occupancy vehicles. However, we also propose the bill be amended to update the policy for state agencies to transition to electric and zero emission light duty vehicles.

This change will have the effect of driving up costs to the state for acquisition and maintenance of these vehicles. It is not known if the this bill was created for the purpose of being a vehicle for this amendment, or if the bill was located because it's "relating to" clause could be used by the people who wanted the amendment.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-04-06 11:56:57Last Update: 2021-04-06 11:57:16



Cap and Trade Amendment to Bill Found
Though, as of this publication, it’s still not on the website

We previously reported that an amendment to HB 2021 was widely discussed in committee, though the text of the amendment was not made public, nor shared with all committee members. This is certainly a high breach of transparency, especially since the amendment is so substantive.

Though the 43 page -5 amendment to HB 2021 has still not been posted on the legislative website, we've been able to find a copy of it and have provided a link to it.

The amendment is the basis for a Cap-and-Trade plan for Oregon -- a similar proposal that was cause for the Republican walk-out in 2020.

Some have viewed this as a less-than-good-faith effort of Representative Pam Marsh (D-Ashland), who is both the Chief Sponsor of the bill, as well as the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environment, where the bill is being heard.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-04-06 11:23:14Last Update: 2021-04-06 11:51:12



Yamhill County Officials Rebuked
County will have to pay for their opponents

Yamhill County has been involved in a very disputed battle over a trail which never came to be, but was to be called the Yamhelas Westsider Trail. The dispute over the trail arguably played a part in one of the three Yamhill County Commissioners not being re-elected, changing the balance of power on the commission.

In an unusual move seldom seen, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals awarded almost $50,000 attorney’s fees to Wellington Law Group in the case of Van Dyke vs. Yamhill County. Wellington Law represented a group of plaintiff farmers who sued the County to stop construction of a bridge on an abandoned rail line which the County intended as a future transportation corridor.

The County had been previously remanded by LUBA because their planned bike path/walking path/horse trail could not qualify under land use laws. Those laws prohibit conditional uses on land zone exclusively for agriculture if the conditional use cannot pass an agricultural impact study. The County attempted a study that clearly showed the conditional use was not compatible with farm practices.

In a sham declaration of compliance the County continued pursuit of the trail even under remand. One retired Commissioner and current Commissioner Casey Kulla were the driving force behind the illegal efforts, and both have been rebuked by LUBA. They received the necessary backing from County Counsel Todd Sadlo and former County Administrator Laura Tschabold. The local paper consistently lent moral support to the misguided in this series of events. The Capitol Press did a good job of reporting both sides of the argument. “This has been a real test of property rights” declared John Van Dyke, “we’re very pleased that LUBA has provided this unusual rebuke to officials attempts to circumvent the law”.


--Tom Hammer

Post Date: 2021-04-06 09:25:41Last Update: 2021-04-06 09:57:54



Brown and Friends on COVID Breakthrough Cases
The party of science passing the buck around on COVID-19 breakthrough cases

At a recent virtual press conference, Lisa Balick a reporter from KOIN News asks what should be a simple question -- how many breakthrough cases do we have? A breakthrough case is one in which a vaccinated person gets the disease.

After all, this isn't something elusive, like an asymptomatic transmission or a problem with collection of data across county lines. Once a case is confirmed by a health care professional, it's not hard to find out if that person was vaccinated. Additionally, they can't be serious when they are suggesting that patient privacy is an issue. No one cares who exactly has a breakthrough case. People only care about how many breakthrough cases there are.

Balick set's up her question simply:

"State across the country, including Washington, are informing the public about the number of breakthrough cases -- in other words, getting COVID after being fully vaccinated. I was told last week that OHA won't provide that information due to privacy, but without providing identifying information, will Oregon provide the number of breakthrough cases to keep the public aware that the vaccine is not 100% effective, but also to encourage people to get tested if they have symptoms after getting the vaccine?"

The answer from those people who claim to be the party of science, is pretty much "go away." They didn't want to provide the data and tried to play the "privacy" card and when that didn't work, they took a page out of the current playbook: "We'll look into that and circle back."

Transparency builds trust and if the number of breakthrough cases is indeed very small, make the number known.




--Bruce Armstrong

Post Date: 2021-04-06 08:35:33Last Update: 2021-04-06 10:38:09



Man Arrested in Attempted Murder Of Police
Suspect in multiple firebomb attacks

A suspect has been arrested in Indianapolis, Indiana, related to multiple firebomb attacks on police officers in Portland, Oregon in 2020.

The Portland Police Bureau Arson Unit, Portland Fire and Rescue Fire Investigators, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives , and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been investigating uses of firebombs, also known as Molotov Cocktails, used against police during riots in the summer and fall of 2020.

On Friday, April 2, 2021, 24-year-old Malik Muhammed was arrested in Indianapolis on multiple warrants, including Attempted Aggravated Murder, Attempted Murder in the first degree, Attempted Murder in the second degree, Unlawful Manufacture of a Destructive Device, Unlawful Use of a Weapon, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Unlawful Use of a Weapon, and Unlawful Possession of a Loaded Firearm in Public.

Investigators were assisted in serving the arrest and search warrants by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and FBI.

The investigation implicated Muhammed in significant incidents of violence and destruction. Muhammed threw the firebomb that scorched the uniform of a police officer on September 23, 2020 near the intersection of Southwest 2nd Avenue and Southwest Main Street, in Portland.

Muhammed was responsible for throwing an incendiary device, which did not ignite, at police officers at the Penumbra Kelly Building, 4735 East Burnside Street, on September 21, 2020. Muhammed was responsible for tens of thousands of dollars of damage to windows in downtown Portland, including at the Oregon Historical Society, on October 11, 2021.

"I am grateful to the investigators who spent many hours over the last few months following up these violent attacks against police officers and the community," said Chief Chuck Lovell. "I am also grateful to the brave officers who put themselves in harm's way serving this community. More investigations are underway. Anyone who thinks they can get away with trying to murder police officers and destroy this city should think again."

Muhammed will be the subject of an extradition hearing, to be scheduled.


--Bruce Armstrong

Post Date: 2021-04-05 23:33:02Last Update: 2021-04-05 23:40:06



Business Impact Rules to be Considered
Agencies have found ways to circumvent this review

After years of taking it on the chin from many agencies, State Representative Daniel Bonham has introduced HB 2334 which would reset the rules for agencies to create a small business impact statement when crafting emergency rules.

Testifying on behalf of the Oregon Farm Bureau, Samantha Bayer summed up the bill:

"When a state agency creates a rule, the agency is supposed to prepare a statement identifying any significant economic impacts on businesses, with a special focus on how the cost of compliance will effect small businesses. Unfortunately, Oregon’s agencies have found ways to circumvent this important review and saddle our small businesses with overwhelming regulatory costs.

"The 'small business impacts analysis' needs an overhaul now more than ever. Our small and local businesses have been decimated by COVID-19. We need the legislature to step in and strengthen the small business impacts analysis to ensure that state agencies are following their requirements under the law, and protecting the businesses we know and love.

"HB 2334 would strengthen the small business impacts analysis by requiring an agency to: The bill is scheduled for a Work Session in the House Committee On Economic Recovery and Prosperity on April 8 at 8:00am


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-04-05 18:39:24



Oregon State Bar Fails to Disbar Attorney
The Oregon State Bar exists in order to protect the public

Attorney Erik Graeff Not Disbarred for Violent Felony The Oregon State Bar’s failure to protect the public A few days before Christmas in 2017, Portland-area attorney Erik Graeff exchanged several heated emails with Terrance Hogan, another attorney with whom Graeff was working on a case. Graeff spent the rest of the afternoon drinking beer in a local bar, apparently blacking out but still managing to drive 30 minutes through rush hour traffic to Hogan’s office in Beaverton. There, Graeff fired six rounds from his 9 mm handgun at the building. One of Graeff’s bullets shattered a window and missed the firm’s office manager by mere inches.

The crime was shocking in and of itself, but it also should have had immediate consequences for Graeff’s professional law license. After all, an attorney who believes that guns are an appropriate means of settling legal disputes is a clear and direct danger to the public, whom the Oregon State Bar is supposed to protect.

However, the Bar refused to immediately suspend Graeff’s law license while the criminal investigation played out. And even worse news for the Oregon public is that the Bar had ample warning about Graeff’s threats and acts of violence, including complaints that they had received from before the shooting. The complaints that the Bar ignored are disturbing.

On August 24, 2017, the Bar received notice that Graeff had physically assaulted his former client’s wife earlier that very day: Graeff had “laid hands on her and shoved her against a wall,” which resulted in “visible injuries” and the filing of a police report.

Just a few months later, in November, another complaint against Graeff came in to the Bar, from former clients Chelsie Buchanan and Raymond Stull. The pair provided the Bar with an email from Graeff in which Graeff threatened to “simply break” Stull’s “goddamn face,” and announced that he kept licensed firearms in his office, “so you have been warned.”

In early February, 2018—after the Beaverton shooting, but before his arrest for that incident—the Bar received yet another complaint about Graeff. That victim forwarded a threatening and profane email he had received from Graeff, which stated: “You listen to me you son of a bitch. I have had it with bad reviews from people whose case I don't take. I was attentive and generous with you. Take your ing fraudulent review down, or I will show you a real legal battel [sic]."

In the two months after his arrest in late February 2018, the Bar received two more complaints about Graeff. One client alleged that Graeff had intimidated and scared her with abusive language, telling her to “shut the f up” and “forget [she] ever heard” that a court date had been scheduled in her matter. Another client said that Graeff had threatened him and his wife over the phone.

Even after this eight-month avalanche of claims about Graeff’s violent threats and conduct, it took the Bar another nine months to suspend him—seventeen months in total—and the Bar did so only after Graeff had pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the shooting incident.

In other words, the Bar acted only after their licensee got his due process, and, moreover, the Bar acted only after another of their licensees, attorney Hogan, had been injured by Graeff. To boil that down even further, the Bar showed no concern over Graeff’s violent and abusive threats to his non-lawyer complainants, and the Bar only acted after Graeff turned violent and abusive against another lawyer.

Even worse, almost all of the complaints against Graeff were dismissed outright by the Bar, and the single one that did proceed—that of former clients Buchanan and Stull—went forward on charges unrelated to Graeff’s violent threats against them. Unbelievably, the Bar only charged Graeff with “failure to keep clients informed” about the status of their legal matter. His face-breaking threat was apparently okay with the Bar because Graeff was only threatening an ordinary citizen—not a lawyer.

After he pleaded guilty and served less than a year in prison for Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Reckless Endangerment, the Bar finally proceeded with their disciplinary case against Graeff, which consisted only of the shooting incident, felony drug manufacturing charges, and Buchanan and Stull’s watered-down charges. Graeff was sanctioned in 2020 with a three-year suspension from the practice of law. Rather than simply being grateful that he was not disbarred for literally shooting up another lawyer’s office, Graeff appealed his suspension to the Oregon Supreme Court, who heard oral arguments in the case in early January, 2021.

Ironically, the same Bar who charged Graeff with failure to keep his clients informed, failed to keep Graeff’s victims Buchanan and Stull informed about how the disciplinary case against him was proceeding. The Bar told Buchanan and Stull nothing about the progress of the Supreme Court case, and they first heard about the case progress from me, when I sent them copies of the court filings and a video of the oral arguments.

After reading the filings and watching the video, Buchanan and Stull sent a letter to Chief Justice Martha Walters and the other six Supreme Court Justices, informing them of the Bar’s “gross negligence” -- including, but by no means limited to, the Bar excluding them from testifying at Graeff’s disciplinary trial and failing to heed their clear warnings about Graeff’s unhinged behavior and violent threats.

“The Bar failed to intervene when Graeff threatened us,” Buchanan told me, “And then someone got shot at. Graeff even wrote a letter to the Bar trying to paint us as crazy just a few days after he shot into an occupied office building. Talk about crazy. I guess the Bar only cares when it’s another lawyer who gets hurt.”

The Oregon State Bar exists in order to protect the public against misconduct by the attorneys it licenses. If only the Bar had listened to the victims of Graeff’s misconduct instead of springing to action only when one of its own licensees needed help, then there wouldn’t be so many appalling stories like Buchanan and Stull’s.

Unfortunately, there are many more of these stories; and in a shocking number of them, the Bar allows the lawyers to weasel out of founded ethics charges by gaslighting the victims, calling their own former clients crazy, and aggravating the harm the lawyers inflicted.

Buchanan and Stull’s letter—regarding their negligent treatment by the Bar and the disturbing underlying case that Erik Graeff was working on for them -- can be read here in its entirety. I will be following up on this story, and if you have one of your own to share, feel free to send it, confidentially if necessary, to the editor@NorthwestObserver.com.


--Stephanie Volin

Post Date: 2021-04-05 18:10:54Last Update: 2021-04-05 18:25:41



Lack of Transparency in Lawmaking Process
Backroom dealing on highly contentious issue

A bill amendment to replicate part of cap-and-trade, one of the most contentious legislative issues in recent years, was drafted and then discussed during a committee hearing without ever providing the language to the public beforehand or knowledge that it would be discussed during the committee.

The House Energy and Environment Committee allowed public testimony on an unpublished amendment to HB 2021, sweeping legislation that seeks to impose costly regulations on the state’s supply of electricity. Special interest groups testified at length in support of a “-5 amendment” that was not made publicly available to everyday Oregonians. Republican lawmakers on the committee received the draft language at 11am during session before the 1pm hearing, leaving them little time to read the amendment. Republicans criticized the move as the antithesis of transparency and the exact opposite of how the legislative process should be conducted.

Despite an hour and a half of prepared testimonies from special interests, the amendment will only receive a half hour of testimony on Wednesday now that it is public knowledge.

Prior to the start of the 2021 Legislative Session, the majority insisted that it would be the most transparent session despite keeping the public out of the building. This recent move by Democrats to quietly replicate a portion of cap-and-trade with an amendment behind closed doors calls that claim into question.

“The last thing we should do during this precarious pandemic session is conceive, draft and finalize legislation behind closed doors,” said House Republican Leader Christine Drazan. “Discussing a contentious proposal in a committee without ever providing it to the public beforehand is not transparent. It’s a false formality with the intention of passing laws that have zero public input. That’s breaking a promise we made to Oregonians ahead of this virtual session.”

While representatives from environmental justice organizations, investor-owned utility companies and even Democratic members of the committee repeatedly expressed support for an unpublished -5 amendment, members of the public were left in the dark. Hours after today’s hearing, the amendment was still not posted on the Oregon Legislative Information System website.


--Bruce Armstrong

Post Date: 2021-04-05 16:15:25Last Update: 2021-04-05 22:11:30



Republican Sex Crime Legislation Clears Senate
Human trafficking as the fastest growing criminal enterprise

The Oregon Senate approved both SB 515 and SB 535 with overwhelming bipartisan support. The measures add more reporting opportunities to help prevent sex crimes in public spaces where traffickers frequent.

SB 515 requires employees of bars and restaurants to report reasonable belief of suspected human trafficking or unlawful employment of minors.

SB 535 adds hotel workers to the list of mandatory reporters and requires the immediate reporting of suspected child pornography by computer technicians or processors.

“Republicans are committed to standing up for victims this session,” Senator Fred Girod, chief sponsor of the legislation and Senate Republican Leader, said. “That requires us to give law enforcement the tools to prevent and stop heinous crimes in real-time. SB 515 and SB 535 also empower our communities to report and stop these crimes. By all of us taking a little responsibility for the most vulnerable in our communities, we can make a difference.”

Traffickers specialize in keeping victims out of sight by constantly moving around but interact with workers in at hotels and bars. This legislation empowers those workers to be vigilant and partner with law enforcement to save lives.

The United States Department of Defense has identified human trafficking as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the United States. Portland has been identified as a hotbed of trafficking, with nearly 750 victims from 2018–2019.

“Trafficking and sex crimes are happening in our own backyard, and we need more tools to fight them,” Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend). “It's not just Portland. Traffickers use public spaces, like bars, restaurants, and hotels, up and down I-5 and other routes to hide. These employees can play an important role in reporting.”

“Amid unbelievable rising crime rates across Oregon, advocating for public safety and victims’ rights must be among the Legislature’s top priorities,” Senator Lynn Findley (R-Vale) added. “Sexual exploitation crimes often go unreported and victims don’t have the resources they need to find help. The more reporting the community does, the better.”


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-04-05 12:28:04Last Update: 2021-04-05 12:56:57



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