‘Motor voter’ bill passes legislature

STATE GOVERNMENT ROUNDUP: Brown’s signature legislation as SOS heads to her for final passage; House committee bristles at GMO bill.

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Gov. Kate Brown’s signature legislation as secretary of state is a signature away from becoming law.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that would automatically register voters using driver records 17-13.

“I applaud the Senate for passing House Bill 2177, Oregon’s motor voter bill,” said Brown in a statement. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to participate in our elections. As secretary of state, the motor voter bill was my top priority, and I look forward to signing this bill into law.”

The Portland Tribune reports on the ramifications of the impending law:

According to Gina Zejdlik, senior policy adviser to Brown and her chief of staff when Brown was secretary of state, the bill would add 300,000 to 400,000 voters to Oregon’s 2.2 million registered voters. Estimates put the total eligible but unregistered at 800,000. The bill authorizes electronic transfer of records from the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division to the secretary of state, which maintains the Oregon Centralized Voter Registration system that ties in Oregon’s 36 counties.

Under current practice and a 1993 federal law, people are asked if they want to register to vote or change their address when they obtain a driver’s license. But those changes are made in paper form. Driver records would not be transferred for those who are under age 18, those who are legally in the United States but are not citizens, and police officers, survivors of domestic violence and others whose records are already shielded from disclosure.

“Our democracy is about each and every citizen. With passage of HB 2177, we are empowering our democracy by removing barriers for citizens to vote,” said Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland) in a news release. “While other states take steps to limit voter participation and to disenfranchise voters, the Oregon Legislature is bucking that trend. We are leading the nation. Today we are making history by giving more Oregonians the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.”

House committee bristles at GMO bill

A  House Committee criticized a pair of bills that aim to ease tensions between farmers who use GMOs and those who do not.

A task force created House Bills 2674 and 2675 after six months and more than $100,000 of studying the issue, the Statesman Journal reports.

But a committee of lawmakers said Thursday they were wary of allowing the “illogic of Europe” — as Chairman Brian Clem said — to affect Oregon farmers, despite overseas markets banning wheat crops grown in the state due to fears of contamination.

From Tracy Loew’s SJ story:

Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, said neighboring farmers should be able to work out conflicts among themselves.

“As a general overall policy, I am extremely concerned when we start down the pathway to what crops does the state of Oregon determine are OK for farmers to grow,” Witt said.

Rep. Mike McLane was bewildered as to how cross contamination could be an issue, saying “If (cross-contamination) occurred prior to genetically engineered plants, then how did the state survive 156 years of being one of the best agricultural states in the country?” 

The plight of Oregon Republicans

Oregon Republicans were visibly frustrated with Wednesday’s contentious clean fuels vote.

The Statesman Journal’s Hannah Hoffman examined what it is like being a Republican in a House full of Democrats:

Being a member of the minority party is a frustrating experience. Nearly everything is beyond your control. The majority party (in this case, Democrats) appoint committee members, hold majorities in committees, select which bills get heard, decide whether to pass amendments to those bills and ultimately decide just about everything about how the legislative process will work.

But no one elected Republicans to sit back and keep their mouths shut. They got here because people liked their ideas and sent them here to do something with them. All of that lengthy process of making motions and submitting reports on Wednesday is one way Republicans find an outlet for those ideas. In a perfect world, every bill would be the offspring of both Democrat and Republican ideas, but we don’t live in a perfect world.

The consolation prize? At the very least, GOP lawmakers can talk about their ideas.

“The majority party is served by having the voices of dissent in their ear at every step of the process,” Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli said.

Environmental leaders laud Oregon’s clean fuels bill

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard was praised Thursday by environmental leaders after passing Wednesday.

The Portland Business Journal published a roundup of praise from green organizations:

I want to thank the leadership of Oregon’s House of Representatives and Senate, along with all those who supported this legislation. Their hard work, courage, and leadership against an unprecedented and unscrupulous opposition was a powerful demonstration of their commitment to improving Oregon’s economy, the health of our citizens, and protecting our environment. This is a proud day for Oregon.

— Doug Moore, executive director, Oregon League of Conservation Voters

A Clean Fuel Standard in Washington would drive innovation in clean energy, clean up our air, and drive down consumer spending on transportation, while keeping more of our transportation dollars in our local economy. Washington should join the rest of the West Coast and implement a Clean Fuel Standard.

— Statement issued by Perry England, vice president of MacDonald-Miller and LeeAnne Beres, executive director of Earth Ministry, steering committee members of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy





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