“The Governor’s vaccine passport scheme is an extreme invasion of Oregonians’ privacy”
Senator Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) has introduced civil rights legislation to ban vaccine passports in Oregon.
SB 872 would prohibit public and private entities from conditioning service or employment opportunities based on vaccination status or the possession of a vaccine credential. The anti-discrimination legislation would also ban the government from preventing Oregonians from exercising first amendment rights because of COVID-19 risks.
“The Governor’s vaccine passport scheme is an extreme invasion of Oregonians’ privacy,” said Senator Thatcher. “No Oregonian should have to divulge medical information to participate in everyday life. This bill is about making clear Oregonians’ rights, which have been railroaded by the Governor during the pandemic. One person cannot and should not have this much power over Oregonians’ lives and livelihoods.”
Civil rights and business and labor groups agree that the move by the Governor to implement vaccine passports, contrary to the White House and CDC, is alarming.
According to news reports, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 555, which represents grocery store workers, said, “Telling essential employees to be the mask police and asking customers for their medical information puts them in harm’s way…”
A recent survey conducted by the local Chamber of Commerce in Medford found that 93% of businesses do not want to condition maskless service on asking customers for medical information. The ACLU has said that vaccine passports, “threaten to exacerbate racial disparities and harm the civil liberties of all.”
“Our local businesses have gone through a lot this year,” continued Sen. Thatcher. “The last thing we should be doing is making them play mask and vaccine cop. They have much more important things to do, like getting back to normal so Oregonians can earn a living.”
The legislation comes as Oregon approaches a 70% vaccination rate, the threshold the Governor has set to “fully reopen the economy,” although it is still unclear what that means given the Governor’s constant shifting of the goal-posts.
According to the New York Times, Oregon is one of 3 states in the nation that have refused to set a date for reopening. Oregon’s vaccine passport scheme runs contrary to the approaches taken by California and Washington, which have both opted to trust their residents.
SB 872 is waiting to be first read, after which it will be referred to a committee by the Senate President.
For the 85th year, the Nation’s Greatest Rodeo will take place June 30-July 4, and tickets are on sale now!
The rodeo is the biggest event in the small town of St. Paul, Oregon and one of the top twenty largest rodeos in the nation.
Fans know it best for the fun it provides. Rodeo clown JJ Harrison will be on hand to provide the laughs, and the Full Throttle trick riders will entertain in flashy sequined costumes, while they do gymnastic stunts on the backs of galloping horses!
And the food! The St. Paul Rodeo is known for its homemade strawberry shortcake, complete with locally grown berries and a big dollop of whipped cream on top! Plus, there’s barbecue chicken, cotton candy, popcorn, and more!
It’s good to be able to rodeo and invite fans to return, said Cindy Schonholtz, general manager of the St. Paul Rodeo, who has an informal “theme” for this year’s rodeo: “More fun in ’21.”
“We are proud to be a family celebration where moms and dads, kids and grandkids, grandmas and granddads can get together, enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate Independence Day.”
Tickets range in price from $16 to $26, not including a convenience fee, and can be purchased online.
As Covid restrictions are lifted, more tickets will be released for sale.
“Come and celebrate with us at the St. Paul Rodeo,” Schonholtz said.
Rodeo performances are at 7:30 pm nightly, June 30-July 4, with a 1:30 pm matinee on July 4.
For more information, visit the rodeo’s website or call 800.237.5920. Covid guidelines will be in place during the rodeo. Tickets purchased earlier in the year will be honored.
SB 483, by Senator Taylor is another attack on business owners. The bill creates a presumption that a person engaged in retaliation or discrimination against employee if person takes certain action against employee or prospective employee within 60 days after employee or prospective employee has engaged in certain protected activities -- such as filing a complaint.
Recent bills focus on jobs, not employers, not owners. The report out by State Economist Gail Krumenauer told us it must be favorable. That there was an increase in jobs. But under the surface the big producers of Gross Domestic Product in Oregon, privately owned, showed no recovery.
It seems that State Democrats want us to focus on already adequately protected employees instead of other things like the basic health of the economy? The Bureau of Labor and Industry only shows a business is closed permanently after four quarters of no reporting. The Secretary of State statistics don’t show a loss until the license is not renewed. We are sitting in a time spot where a lot of the loss of private business ownership is concealed.
The one report out was one reported by Small Business Association on Portland. They reported 19.4 percent of business district business is closed, in the first quarter of 2021. A 14.7 percent rate for the city overall. Jacob Pavlik, of Colliers Real Estate Research, reported 900,476 feet of unoccupied space for first quarter in the City of Portland.
Oregon Live.com said there were 13,000 businesses closed spring of 2020. This is the largest tally in 30 years and twice as much as any single quarter.
A referendum on SB 554 seeking to overturn the recently passed law has been filed by a handful of state legislators in Oregon.
State Representatives Mike Nearman (R-Independence), E. Werner Reschke (R-Malin) and David Brock Smith (R-Gold Beach) filed the referendum and now have about 4 months to gather 79,680 valid signatures. If they are successful in gathering these signatures, SB 554 will be presented to the voters in November 2022.
The referendum effort looks to capitalize on gathering signatures at events such as the State and county fairs that are aiming to have a big come-back after a year of Covid lock-downs. They have an online presence as well at www.ResponsibleResponse.com.
The bill as passed requires a person to secure a firearm with a trigger or cable lock, in a locked container or in a gun room, with violations punished by a maximum of $500 fine or maximum of $2,000 fine if a minor obtains an unsecured firearm as result of the violation.
It also requires a person to report the loss or theft of a firearm within 72 hours of the time the person knew or reasonably should have known of the loss or theft. Punishes violation of this requirement by maximum of $1,000 fine.
It also authorizes the boards of public universities, community colleges or school districts to adopt policies providing that affirmative defense for concealed handgun licensees possessing firearms on school grounds does not apply, effectively making these places gun-free zones.
Critics have been outspoken about SB 554 since it's inception, citing that it merely criminalizes some normal and legal behavior of responsible firearms owners, and does nothing to reduce societal violence. It makes criminals out of responsible citizens, and does not help improve public safety. It seems SB 554 also restricts one's ability to defend oneself at home.
House Democrats voted to oppose legislative action that would ensure schools are fully reopened for in-person learning in the fall.
Representative Vikki Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville) made a motion to pull her bill, HB 3399, from Rules Committee to the House floor for a vote. The proposal would require each public school to offer full-time, in-person classroom instruction during the 2021-2022 school year.
The motion failed on party lines with House Republicans voting in support and House Democrats voting in opposition to fully reopen schools.
“We have to get our kids back in the classroom for full in-person learning,” said House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby). “They have suffered enough. Oregon families need certainty. They need to know that they will have the choice to return to school full-time by the fall.”
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and the Audits Division have now released the 2020 Government Waste Hotline Report, summarizing the activity of the Government Waste Hotline for 2020. The hotline received 273 initial reports in calendar year 2020, ranging from requests for information to reports that warranted further investigation.
The hotline is for members of the public and state employees to report alleged waste, inefficiency, or abuse of state funds or resources by state agencies, employees, or contractors. Tips and complaints to the hotline have steadily increased over time, from 149 ten years ago to 273 in 2020, an increase of nearly 85 percent. This year, reports to the hotline included:
157 reports closed after the person reporting was given alternative contacts more appropriate to address their concerns, such as a state agency’s human resources department or a local government’s board or commission. Several of these cases did not involve state funds or resources or were personal legal matters outside the purview of the hotline.
39 reports requiring further review to determine whether the described concerns involved waste, inefficiency, or abuse of state funds. For most of these reports, the allegations were not substantiated.
38 reports were referred directly to another public body that could more appropriately investigate the allegation.
20 reports were closed after the person reporting did not respond to our requests for additional information needed to proceed with an investigation.
18 reports were high-level suggestions for improving efficiencies, not allegations of wrongdoing. These were added to the division’s internal database of ideas for future performance audits.
One report remains open and may result in a management letter to the involved agency.
“My mission as Oregon Secretary of State is to build trust with Oregonians so that public services can make a difference in their everyday lives,” Secretary Fagan said. “The Oregon Government Waste Hotline is one of many tools we use to build trust through transparency and accountability in state government. Anyone who has knowledge of or concerns about state government waste, inefficiency, or abuse can report this information confidentially to our hotline.”
Complaints include allegations of fraud, theft, unethical or improper workplace conduct, time theft, and misuse of state resources, such as state vehicles or other property. State law ensures confidentiality to every person making a report through the hotline.
Upon receiving a tip or complaint, the Audits Division conducts an initial investigation of the allegation to determine if the matter should be further investigated. The Audits Division is required to notify the Oregon Government Ethics Commission if potential violations of Oregon ethics laws are discovered. Law enforcement must be notified if potential criminal activity is discovered.
A 2020 study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that tips are consistently the most common fraud detection method. The study indicated organizations with a reporting hotline have a higher likelihood of fraud being reported and addressed than organizations without a hotline.
Last week was one of the final deadlines as the 2021 Legislative session winds down. Bills must have been moved out of the committee in the second chamber to remain alive, with a few exceptions.
Bills that had been sent from the House to the Senate needed to be moved out of committee either to the floor or to a revenue, rules or ways and means committee. The same process applies for bills sent from the Senate to the House.
While there have been plenty of bills that have moved beyond this deadline, it is always interesting to see what the second chamber decided to kill. Here are a few of the highlights.
Senate bills killed by House committees
SB 605 Killed in the Ag and Natural Resources committee. This bill proposed an expansion process for rural fire protection districts. The issue was brought forward by Sen. Frederick (D - Portland) on behalf of one county who is not connected to his district.
SB 594 Another Sen. Frederick (D – Portland) bill that stated out as prohibiting school districts from using monitoring software on students’ computers. It was amended by the Senate Education Committee into a study of software that could be used. The House Education Committee chose not to even hear the bill.
SB 314 Would allow electric companies to recover the costs from rate payers for installing additional Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure. Environmental groups opposed the bill because it also contained provisions for expansion and improvements to CNG (compressed natural gas). The House Environment & Energy Committee chose to allow it to die knowing that the cost recovery for the electric companies only portion was contained in HB 2165 which had already moved through both chambers on a party line vote.
SB 299 Would have allowed for the creation of children’s service tax districts with the implementation of a permanent special tax district if approved by the voters. The tax service district would be based on property value and would be in addition to the current property taxes that fund K-12 education. Introduced by Sen. Rile (D - Hillsboro), Sen. Wagner (D – Lake Oswego), and Rep. Schouten (D - Beaverton), the bill passed out of the senate with bi-partisan support. However, Counties, Cities and others could not get behind a new tax that would undermine programs for children outside of the K-12 system.
SB 441 This is another example of a bill that died because an almost identical House bill had already run been successful. The bills modified the criteria for erecting roadside memorials for deceased veterans. SB 441 and HB 2700 were almost identical but HB 2007 allowed for individuals also identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Both measures had bipartisan support.
House bills killed by Senate committees
HB 2495 It did not receive overwhelming support in the House due to the perception that it was jumping the gun on the Toxic Free Kids Act (TFKA) which has not yet had time to be fully implemented. The bill brought forth by Rep. Neron (D- Wilsonville) and Sen. Dembrow (D - Portland) sought to strengthen the limitations in chemicals that could be detected in children’s products as well as expand on the reporting requirement.
HB 2958 After leaving the house with forty-seven supporting votes, it was surprising to see the Senate kill this bill. Brought forward by Rep. Nosse (D - Portland) Rep. Grayber (D -Tigard) and Sen. Lieber (D - Beaverton) it sought to allow pharmacists to prescribe, dispense and administer HIV prevention (not treatment) medications. However, the issue that could have been the demise of the bill, was the amendment that was adopted requiring insurance agencies to pay for the prescriptions.
HB 2758 The bill moved out of the house by the will of the majority party and would have required the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to have two commissioners with public health backgrounds. To gain Republican support, the House committee adopted an amendment that said it would only affect commissioners appointed after the change. However, there was also a push to add a commissioner that was a representative of the cannabis industry.
HB 2616 Sometimes bills are introduced to solve one landowner’s issue but fall victim to partisan politics. HB 2616 looked to fix a problem for a single pond owner in Southern Oregon. He had purchased a piece of property only to discover that the pond on it was constructed by the previous owner without a permit. In 2020, a bill was also introduced to try and help solve the pond problem. It passed the House and Senate committees and the House floor by unanimous vote but died due to the session walk out. Now it appears to have died because of partisan politics. Three House Democrats who supported the bill in 2020 voted no this time in committee and then convinced 16 more Democrats to join them in voting no on the floor of the House. However, it still managed to move to the Senate. During the 2020 Session, the bill received unanimous support in the Senate Environment and Natural Resource Committee, but this time, with a new committee Chair, it only received a courtesy hearing and then died for lack of action. Unanimous support one session and partisan politics the next.
As the days for the 2021 session draw to a close, one thing is sure, the two Chambers of the Legislature maintain a historic difference of opinion on many matters, and politics still plays a part in what makes it into law.
Oregon House Democrats have opposed renewed efforts from Republicans to adopt HB 2339, otherwise known as ‘Ezra’s Law,’ a bill to allow for sentencing that better reflects the impacts of permanent injuries for victims.
The bill is named after Ezra Thomas who was just 2 years old when his mother’s boyfriend, Josue Mendoza-Melo, attacked him. Today, as a result of the injuries, Ezra cannot walk, talk or see. While Ezra’s injuries have given him a life sentence of disability, Josue will serve no more than 12 years in prison.
The proposed law would secure longer sentences for people who cause permanent physical injury to their victim.
“This is a very sensitive bill that provides parity in sentencing for victims,” said House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby). “Consequences for violent person-on-person crimes should reflect the permanent damages that someone suffers as a direct
result of a criminal’s actions."
"This bill should have bipartisan support this session and should not be a political issue.”
"It’s a terrible result for victims that this attempt was sidelined by partisan agendas," said Representative Daniel Bonham (R-The Dalles), a chief sponsor of the original bill.
"We shouldn’t let politics get in the way of an issue as important as this." Earlier this session, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee refused to allow ‘Ezra’s Law’ to move to a work session. The scenario mirrors a similar situation that almost happened to ‘Bailey’s Bill,’ a proposal that protects victims of sex crimes with appropriate sentencing. This bill was also held hostage, and almost died, in favor of proposals that would reduce prison sentences for violent crimes.
“Ezra, and victims like him, should not have to wait for true justice,” said Representative Bonham.
Are they trying to hide the social justice agenda?
Recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor may impact the direction of many bills being considered by the Oregon Legislature. Judge O’Connor approved a temporary restraining order forbidding President Biden’s administration from giving out grants in a program aimed at prioritizing applicants due to their race and/or gender after he told plaintiff Philip Greer he is likely to succeed.
Greer prepared an application on behalf of his restaurant and is otherwise eligible to receive an RRF grant, but for the allegedly unconstitutional prioritization scheme.
At issue is the fact that the Biden administration directs prioritization of restaurants that are owned and controlled by women, veterans, and people deemed “socially and economically disadvantaged,” which includes those owned at least 51 percent by some Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations. The lawsuit goes forward claiming “this is illegal, it is unconstitutional, it is wrong, and it must stop.”
Oregon’s leadership has been following the Biden administration in bills covering education, land use, energy, and business. These are a few examples of bills that could result in an unconstitutional law suit:
HB 2001 Requires school district that is making reductions in educator staff positions to retain teacher with less seniority if teacher has more merit and if retention of teacher is necessary to maintain school district's diversity ratio.
HB 2060 Identifies economically disadvantaged students based racial or ethnic groups… for purposes of Student Investment Account distributions.
HB 2518HB 2518 establishes and allocates funding to the Oregon Brownfield Properties Revitalization Fund to support a forgivable loan program for minority-owned and woman-owned businesses and emerging small businesses.
HB 2567 Directs Secretary of State to study and make recommendations regarding best practices for conducting audits related to equity issues pertaining to historically disadvantaged groups.
SB 247 Directs Department of Energy to study opportunities and challenges in Oregon for renewable energy, energy equity and development of clean energy workforce.
HB 3110 Requires board of directors of publicly traded corporation to have specified proportion of female directors and directors who are members of underrepresented communities.
HB 3112 Establishes Equity Investment and Accountability Board and Office within office of Governor to provide equity oversight of cannabis industry to issue license being racially inclusive.
Could it be that “socially and economically disadvantaged” is being used to pull on the heart-strings to hide the social justice agenda?
Numbers were recently released for Oregon jobs on May 18, 2021 by State Economist Gail Krumenauer on jobs, states a monthly gain in employment in the government sector and in leisure and hospitality. She states a 59% return of jobs that were lost between February and April 2020.
How do these numbers look as far as they impact the GDP -- the value of goods and services provided in one year -- in Oregon? First the section of measured economy for Leisure and Hospitality is only 4.4 percent of our GDP. Oregon statistics also cite that regular unemployment received; 100% replacement wage as unemployed, but those in the leisure and hospitality trade received 134% of their wage. Ironically those best off under unemployment now have more jobs.
Government and government enterprises has a 25.68 GDP. Krumenauer reports 2,300 more jobs in government. What are those? Are they new regulators, like OSHA inspectors? Government regulates, it legislates, it does not create anything.
An example of what that GDP translates into: Agriculture, has a 13.2% or 50 billion of all Oregon sales. 10.6% or 22.9 billion of Oregon's net product and 13.8% of part time and full time jobs. This information from Agricultural statistics State of Oregon.
Now that your nearly asleep, why do all these numbers matter?
Jobs lost in Oregon; 46.9% were in the leisure or hospitality section. These were the highest paid under unemployment to the tune of 34% more. So, is a reduction in their unemployment really a win?
Industries still showing significant stress among those which are significantly affecting our GDP are manufacturing, metal machinery, wood, electric products, transportation and equipment, and other durables. These industries represent a large part of our GDP. They are all still underwater in April of 2021. Aerospace is in fact still going lower and timber or wood at levels of the 1920’s.
Reality is these numbers show that private enterprise is still suffering or still declining. These sectors actually produce products. The example of agriculture above shows that production enterprises filter down through several parts and layers of our economy.
Products equate to consumer spending. Consumer spending is the number one biggest component of GDP or 2/3 of GDP.
Governor Kate Brown’s state budget included a quarter billion-dollar tax increase on mostly small businesses. According to the Taxpayers Association of Oregon, Brown wants to gut the 2013 small business tax savings and raise $273 million by closing tax loopholes. If Governor Kate Brown gets her way, small family-owned businesses will be paying more taxes than big C-corporation businesses on the same level of revenue.
What should be a sign of relief to receive $1.4 billion from the federal relief bill passed in March, may be costly. There are strings attached to that windfall. If states accept the funds, they are restricted from lowering their taxes. Governor Brown’s push for new taxes is not what state governors are doing in states that are thriving.
Iowa was sent $95 million to get kids back to school. Governor sent the money back and said our kids are back in school already.
Kristi Noem, Governor of North Dakota, also refused federal funds saying their state is open for business and doesn’t need those kinds of restrictions.
Tennessee Governor, Bill Lee, has a billion-dollar surplus and wants to make tax cuts. “We don’t want government to tell us what to do on immigration or what our kids learn in school.”
Oregon’s $1.4 billion is after Oregon received $1.1 billion for Oregon schools, and $155 million for capital projects, and $1.5 billion for county, city and other local governments. The numbers start whirling when you think that in 2020 Oregon received $1.8 billion designated for specific projects by the emergency board, and $499 million for schools from Congress’ December relief bill, and $2.45 billion from the CARES act earlier in 2020. How much did all this money prop up the rosy May forecast?
Why would we accept restricted conditions to not lower taxes when accepting additional funds? Not to speak of the begging and graveling the counties and cities need to do to get their share released. While the state is focused on relief from the impact of COVID-19, the priorities seem to go deeper.
Despite all that inflow of federal dollars, the legislature still wants our kicker refund. Some bills take advantage of the emergency to justify tax credits for undocumented without social security numbers, landlords, spouse seeking degree, teaching in rural schools, and increasing workforce. And more specifically, health bills such as HB 2337, introduced by Representatives Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn) and Courtney Neron (D-Wilsonville), are coming out of the legislative session in lock-step with federal requirements for funds. HB 2337 appropriates $2 million General Funds for two pilot mobile health units. The bill “declares racism a public health crisis; requires a study of the collection of information with respect to race, ethnicity, preferred spoken and written languages, and disability status; establishes grants to operate two mobile health units for underserved communities as a pilot program; and requires OHA to develop recommendations to fund culturally and linguistically specific intervention programs across all relevant state agencies.”
HB 2474 is another bill that will impact low-income families the most by the costs to businesses, stop production, and delay harvesting increasing food costs during an emergency. “During a public health emergency, the amount of time an employee must work for an employer before becoming eligible to take leave is reduced from 180 to 30 days and eligibility for employees can be reestablished if they separate and are reemployed by the same employer within 180 days or because of a temporary cessation of scheduled hours.”
The Federal government is shoveling out money rewarding states that made bad policies, and now enabling them to stick with those bad policies. Federal funds may not be the relief we hope for when it’s used for new projects that demands new taxes. What were policies to help the low income is having the reverse effect.
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been the agency which has been responsible for fining businesses for non-compliance with COVID-19 regulations. The director, Michael Wood, appeared before the House Health Care SubCommittee on COVID-19 to answer various questions.
After Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen made it clear that businesses could not use an "honor system" to allow customers into their stores, State Representative Cedric Hayden asked Woods what the fine would be for a business using the honor system. Woods explained some less-than-relevant scenarios and then said:
If an employer refused to comply or simply said, "I'm going to use the honor system. I don't care what the State says." Well, the minimum penalty for a willful violation is $8,900.
At this point in time, it appears that many -- if not most -- businesses are not checking vaccination status at the door, and OSHA isn't doing anything about it.