2001 Legislature Review
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2001 Legislature: Not Bad, Considering...
As we look back on the 2001 Legislative Session, we will remember it as a session that could have been very contentious for civil liberties that managed to tone down most of the divisive rhetoric and seek consensus. While there were certainly exceptions, ACLU succeeded in accomplishing almost all of our major goals.
The Legislature convened on January 8th and adjourned on July 7th (5:15 a.m. to be exact). There were a record number of bills introduced (3,294) and we reviewed every single one. Of those, we tracked well over 800 that raised civil liberties implications and actively lobbied on more than 150.
What do we look for? Bills that effect: Free Speech, Equal Protection, Church and State, Privacy, Reproductive Freedom, Juvenile Rights, Due Process, Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Criminal Law, Search and Seizure, Criminal Due Process, Election Reform, Free Press, Racial Justice, and Corrections.
Here are some of the highlights. We have again created voting record scorecards for the House and the Senate, to allow easy evaluation of the performance of your representatives on these important issues.
DNA and Privacy
Genetic Privacy and Research (SB 114).
developments in biotechnology and their potential to invade privacy were the
focus of several bills this session. Legislators of both political parties
who were trying to craft adequate privacy safeguards looked to the ACLU for
guidance. This bill is a comprehensive revision of Oregonās landmark
genetic privacy act. We strongly supported the bill in its final form
because it strengthens privacy protections and provides specific remedies
for violation of the law. We also proposed amendments to provide important
new protections that require disclosure, and an opportunity to opt-out,
before any genetic material may be obtained for anonymous research. The
addition of our amendments was instrumental in helping the bill to achieve
broad bi-partisan support. Senate vote (25-5) House vote (52-3).
Innocence Act (SB 667).
This bill allows convicted
felons to seek DNA testing of evidence if identity was an issue at trial. We
worked hard to craft a consensus bill that eventually was supported by
prosecutors and law enforcement agencies as well as criminal defense
attorneys and other civil liberties advocates. The new Oregon law includes
more crimes than similar proposals in other states and÷at our request÷also
includes review by an interim group to report to future legislatures and
recommend whether the legislation should be renewed and expanded because of
advancement in technology or other reasons. We also pushed to include a
requirement that law enforcement agencies keep all biological evidence while
the new law is in effect. Obviously, if evidence isnāt kept, then the
existence of any opportunity to have a test is meaningless. SB 667 passed
both chambers unanimously.
Criminal DNA Database
(HB 2664) Unfortunately,
the Legislature also greatly expanded the DNA criminal database, requiring all
felons to provide DNA samples, including those presently on parole or
probation. Currently, DNA is obtained from those convicted of certain
crimes, such as rape and residential burglary (which can be a precursor to
rape), where there is a nexus between the crime and the type of DNA evidence
that is left. We opposed this wholesale expansion of the DNA database
because DNA reveals intimate medical and genetic information not only about
the person from whom itās taken, but also their blood relatives. Senate
vote (21-8) House vote
Separation of Church and State
Ten Commandments (SB 746).
Introduced by Senator
Charles Starr (R-Hillsboro), SB 746 would have allowed the display of the
Ten Commandments in public schools. It unexpectedly came out of committee
when Sen. Avel Gordly (D-Portland) agreed to provide a courtesy vote in
favor (even though she opposed the bill) so that it could be debated on the
Senate floor. We argued that the bill was unconstitutional under both the
federal and state constitutions, and would have required schools to prefer
one religion over another by forcing them to select which version of the 10
commandments they should post. After a contentious floor debate, SB 746 was
defeated by only two votes, 16 to 14. Senate vote (16-14)
Senate Scorecard Vote.
Free Press and Free Speech
Witnessing Executions (HB 2096).
After our 1999 court
victory that guaranteed the right of news media and other witnesses to view
the entire execution process, the Dept. of Corrections proposed legislation
to reverse the court decision. We worked closely with news organizations to
help craft a compromise that allows corrections officials to show witnesses
the first part of the execution process through a live overhead camera prior
to the window shades being raised for direct viewing of the remainder of an
Furnishing "Obscene" Material to Minors (HB
2413). The state law that prohibits furnishing "obscene"
material to minors has been the subject of numerous court challenges because
of its sweeping prohibitions and vagueness. As a result of the most recent
Court of Appeals decision ruling it unconstitutional, Rep. Lane Shetterly
(R-Dalles) introduced a bill to bring it back to life. Although we lost our
effort to replace the bill with a new law that would prohibit an adult from
preparing a child to engage in unlawful sexual activity, legislators
supporting the bill promised to revisit the issue between now and 2003.
Senate vote (22-7) House vote (46-12)
Abortion Access Restrictions (HB 3830).
A host of
anti-choice legislation was introduced this session, including so-called
partial birth infanticide, parental notification, creating the crime of
homicide for abortion, and a prohibition on state-funded abortions. All of
those bills died in committee without a hearing. The biggest threat to
reproductive freedom was HB 3830, which we called the "Abortion
Censorship and Government Propaganda Act." It would have required a
mandatory 24-hour waiting period for abortions and forced doctors to inform
women of inaccurate anti-abortion "medical" information. After
intense pressure on one pro-choice Republican, the bill came out of
committee and was headed for defeat on the House floor. Wanting to avoid a
nasty floor debate, and as a compromise to moderate Republicans who did not
want a floor vote on anti-choice legislation, House leadership linked this
bill to the contraceptive equity bill (SB 608 described below) and both were
pulled from the floor and set back to committee to die.
Contraceptive Equity (SB 608).
Unlike the anti-choice
HB 3830, the contraceptive equity amendments added in the House to SB 608
had sufficient bi-partisan support to pass. The House amendments would have
required insurance companies that provide prescription coverage to include
contraceptive coverage. As noted above, House Republican leaders convinced
moderate Republican members to support sending the bill back to committee so
that they could avoid voting on HB 3830 (above). We are currently reviewing
whether to soon file a court challenge based on anti-discrimination law.
Equal Protection÷Gay & Lesbian Rights
Bullying, Intimidation & Harassment of Students (HB 3403).
In contrast to last sessionās divisive actions by House leadership in
support of a "Defense of Marriage" constitutional amendment, this
session was very quiet on issues effecting gay and lesbian rights. The good
news is that the few bills that were hostile died a quiet death in
committee. On the other hand, no pro-active legislation was heard. We did
successfully work behind the scenes to amend HB 3403 to focus on preventing
the damaging effects of bullying and harassment of students rather than
trying to prevent speech. The language of this bill is sufficiently
inclusive that it should provide a tool to combat anti-gay and lesbian
harassment in the schools. Nevertheless, itās not enough and we still want
to see state law prohibit discrimination in schools based on sexual
Civil Forfeiture (HB 2429) and Criminal Forfeiture (HB
3642). Our biggest steps forward on criminal justice issues this session
came as a result of the successful passage of Measure 3, the civil
forfeiture reform initiative approved last fall. We spent countless hours
working to craft a consensus bill (HB 2429) to implement the reforms of the
civil forfeiture process required by Measure 3. At the same time,
prosecutors and police proposed to create a new criminal forfeiture law (HB
3642) that would require an increased burden of proof for the government,
but also permit them to use the money seized for law enforcement and
prosecution. The combination of the two laws provides more protections for
innocent property owners than the forfeiture laws of any other state or the
federal government. Although we eventually were neutral on the criminal
forfeiture bill, we are very pleased at the dramatic steps forward on
Government Eavesdropping (SB 654).
SB 654 expands the
power of police officers to use body-wires for undercover operations,
including drug and prostitution stings, without prior judicial approval.
Although the testimony focused on providing officer safety, the truth is
that the government is listening and taping conversations of Oregonians and
using those tapes not for safety but as evidence against a person in court.
One of the basic principles of the protection against unreasonable searches
and seizures is that government must first obtain a search warrant from the
court ö after showing probable cause that a specific person has committed
a crime. Here, there is no showing of probable cause ö there is not even
any judicial oversight in cases of innocent people who are subjected to this
Death Penalty Expansion and Protections (HB 2092, SB 140,
SB 156). Three bills were introduced this session, two that would have
expanded the death penalty and one that would have barred execution of
mentally retarded. We opposed HB 2092, which would have added a possible
sentence of death to those who murder a witness in a juvenile proceeding and
SB 156, which would have added murder of reserve police officers. On the
other hand, we testified in support of SB 140, which would have prohibited
execution of the mentally retarded. All three bills ended up in the Senate
Judiciary Committee at the end of session where they all died.
Racial Justice and Equal Protection
Racial Profiling (SB 415). Governor Kitzhaber
included $300,000 in his budget to encourage collection and analysis of
traffic stop data by police agencies. That funding was added to SB 415 along
with the creation of a new statewide committee to discourage racial
profiling by law enforcement and foster improved relationships between
police and communities of color.
Discrimination in Charter Schools (HB 3395). We
drafted amendments to the state charter school law to prohibit
discrimination based on race and religion, which had been omitted
unintentionally when the law was first approved 4 years ago. The changes
were adopted without controversy.
Ban on Bilingual Education (SB 915). Introduced by Senator Charles
Starr (R-Hillsboro), this proposal would have required so-called
"immersion" language instruction for English-as-a-second-language
(ESL) students. We joined scores of other organizations and individuals
opposing the bill and it died in committee.
Dingfelder-did nottake office until April 6 and did not vote on SB/HB 2092
|Copyright October, 2005
, ACLU of Oregon
Last updated October 19, 2005