March 2012 - Oregon voters approved a ballot measure in 2010 to send their legislators to Salem annually, rather than every other year, and this 2012 session marked the first annual session under this new law. The constitutional provision caps the session at 35 days in even-numbered years. Though members of the legislature proceeded through much of the session with the ambitious expectation of adjourning at the end of February, the final gavel fell just one day short of the constitutional limit in the evening hours of March 5th.
To see how your legislator voted on civil liberties issues, download the ACLU of Oregon's 2011-2012 Legislative Scorecard (PDF).
In contrast to a regular long session when thousands of bills are introduced, only about 300 bills were put forth this session. The break neck pace, however, was not sufficient for even this scaled down volume. More than in prior long sessions or even special short sessions in the past, bills were pushed through in the interest of time but at the expense of proper scrutiny. While we managed to emerge with a few successes and civil liberties fairly intact, we were disappointed to see one bill in particular move forward with significant implications for the privacy rights of Oregonians 65 years and older (see description of HB 4084 below for more detail). In a regular long session, a bill like this one would have been routed through the Judiciary Committee so that those members could properly amend the bill to protect criminal due process and privacy safeguards. Instead, because time was limited and the bill was a priority for legislative leadership, amendments were adopted quickly in the budget committee and crucial concerns were put off for later sessions. We share hope with many legislators and advocates that this process does not set the precedent for the future of short annual sessions.
This session we saw proposals in several civil liberties areas, including a great deal that touched on criminal justice or privacy issues. Short summaries of those bills are included in the full legislative report (PDF). To find full text of the bills, you can visit http://www.leg.state.or.us/bills_laws/.