Oregon Lawmakers Move to Protect Domestic Violence Victims

Legislators appear willing to address weaknesses in Oregon laws protecting victims of domestic violence. After passing the House last week on a 37-23 vote, the "boyfriend loophole" bill—designed to take guns away from those convicted of domestic violence or subject to stalking orders—appeared poised to pass out of the Senate Judiciary Committee at press time. That would set up a Senate floor vote on Gov. Kate Brown's top priority for the short session. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1562, which broadens the definition of strangulation and increases the penalty for that crime from a misdemeanor to a felony, won unanimous approval by the Senate on Tuesday and now moves to House.

Wheeler Adds Support for Increasing Car Theft Convictions

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has added his voice to a chorus of support for a bill that would make it easier to convict people arrested behind the wheel of a stolen car. In written testimony submitted to the House Rules Committee on Feb. 20, Wheeler said the legislation would "help address the growing problem of car theft in Oregon, the impacts of which are acutely felt within the city of Portland." He noted the skyrocketing number of vehicle thefts in Portland disproportionately impact low-income residents whose most valuable possession is often a car. House Bill 4161 has support from prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement leaders and many legislators, including committee chairwoman and House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D–Portland). The most likely obstacle for the bill now would be a costly fiscal impact estimate, which killed a similar bill in 2017.

Republicans Add New PAC

Although Democratic dominance of the Oregon Legislature and most statewide offices looks set to continue, Republican funders are doing their best to fight back. The latest entrant: ActionPAC, a new entity formed by GOP political consultants Jim Pasero and Bridget Barton, whose Oregon Transformation Project funded a brief GOP takeover of the Clackamas County Commission in 2012. Now with a $250,000 initial contribution from Hank Swigert, the 87-year-old scion of the family that founded the Portland steel foundry Esco Corp., Pasero and Barton will seek to "promote a stronger Oregon economy and a more business- and job-friendly atmosphere." ActionPAC hasn't begun spending its money yet.

Proposed Business Tax Draws Legal Challenge

A proposed Portland ballot initiative to impose a tax on large retailers to pay for renewable energy projects faces a technical and legal challenge. The initiative, backed by environmental advocates, would institute a 1 percent tax on Portland sales by retailers with at least $1 billion in sales nationally and $500,000 in Portland. On Feb. 13, Pat McCormick—a Portland public relations consultant and spokesman for the successful campaign to defeat Measure 97, which also would have imposed a tax on large retailers—sued in Multnomah County Circuit Court over both the ballot title and whether the initiative is constitutional.