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New laws range from guns to pumping gas


January 10, 2018 | View PDF

With the new year comes a whole slew of new laws.

In addition to the distracted driving (“Cell Phone”) law, which went into effect pronto on Oct. 1, the Oregon Legislature passed about 750 bills in 2017, many of which took effect Jan. 1. They cover the gamut, from pumping gas to gun ownership by people who are deemed a danger to themselves.

Here are some highlights of what changes Oregonians may notice this year:

Cell Phones

This shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody by now, but if you’re touching your phone (or one of numerous other portable devices) as you drive, you’re probably breaking the law.

Sweet Home Police Chief Jeff Lynn said the new law really isn’t significantly different than what was already on the books.

“It just changes, somewhat, the definition of a mobile electronic device.”

The law now encompasses any type of mobile electronic device, Lynn said, even technically in the case of something like an iPod when the driver is thumbing through the music. The devices may not be in the driver’s lap.

The new law increases the fine for a first offense, subsequent offenses and a first offense that contributes to an accident. It also allows for jail time for frequent violators.

A court may suspend a fine for a first offense if the offender completes a distracted driving course, and the law directs the Oregon Department of Transportation to develop standards for a distracted driving avoidance course.

Expanded Bottle Bill

Oregon’s 10-cent bottle bill, which allows people to redeem a 10-cent deposit when they return empty beer, water or soda bottles or cans, has expanded to include more than 5,000 different brands, including bottled and canned coffee, tea, kombucha, hard cider, fruit juice and other beverages.

Wine, distilled spirits, animal- and plant-based milk and meal replacement products continue to be excluded from the program.

Gas Tax

Oregon lawmakers approved a package of new taxes and fee increases designed to fund $5.3 billion in transportation projects over the next several years.

The one Oregonians may feel most is a hike in the gas tax, up 4 cents to 34 cents per gallon. Employees will see a new payroll tax deduction on their paychecks of 1/10 of a percent.

The state is also debuting the nation’s first bicycle tax. New bicycles sales will be taxed a flat rate of $15, when the bicycle has a wheel diameter of 26 inches or more and a price of $200 or greater. New vehicle sales will be taxed 0.5 percent. Car registration fees will rise by $13 to $43 and title fees by $16 to $93.

Move Over Law

Drivers have been required to move out of the lane when an emergency vehicle is pulled over on that side, but the law now requires all motorists to move over or slow down when any vehicle is parked or idling on the shoulder, displaying hazard lights, flares or other emergency or distress signs. Drivers may now choose whether to change lanes or slow down to 5 mph below the speed limit, which they must do if a second lane isn’t available.

Failing to do so is a Class B traffic violation, which could result in a fine of up to $1,000.

Gun-Removal Orders

Another new law gives families a legal tool to remove loved ones’ access to firearms that pose a risk to themselves or others. The law is designed to prevent suicides and mass shootings

A family member, cohabitant or police officer may seek an extreme risk protection order from a court for a period of 12 months, during which time the person who is a danger would have their firearm confiscated. The order can be contested and would need to be renewed annually.

“I don’t think it’ll be used a huge amount, but it has potential,” Lynn said. “In essence, it prohibits the person it is issued on from possessing a firearm or ammunition. It might be a tool, but we just don’t know.

“In the last 19 years, I can’t think of an incident where we would have (initiated the process).”

Once the extreme risk protection order is served by a county sheriff, the person must surrender firearms to a law enforcement agency or certain third parties, such as a licensed gun dealer, within 24 hours, Lynn said. The police will store the firearms for safekeeping during the period of the order.

Age Requirement Upped to 21

for Tobacco/Vaping Purchases

Oregon is the fifth state to increase the age to legally buy tobacco and vaping products to 21. The law imposes harsh penalties for clerks and store owners who violate the law.

Smoking-related diseases are a leading cause of death of Oregonians, and advocates say the new law will reduce the number of teenagers who take up smoking and prompt some existing smokers to try to quit. Oregon offers one free session of smoking-cessation counseling through the Oregon Tobacco Quit line, 1-800-784-8669.

Initially, police may provide some education to underage smokers and vapers, Lynn said, but they “could get cited off the bat.”

Free Abortions

for Undocumented Residents

The Reproductive Health Equi-ty Act will allow Oregon residents who do not have legal residency to obtain a no-cost abortion at taxpayer expense.

The new law also provides women access to other reproductive health care services with no out-of-pocket costs and will eventually require health insurance plans sold in Oregon to cover abortion. This was a partisan vote, as state legislators passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act without a single Republican vote in favor.

Kids in Courtrooms

A new law, which passed unanimously in the Legislature, requires that youths in juvenile court no longer be physically restrained while in the courtroom unless the court finds that there is a clear risk of of dangerous or disruptive behavior, the risk of physical harm they pose and their flight risk.

Outlawed items include handcuffs, chains, straitjackets and leather or plastic restraints, which must be removed before the young person enters the courtroom and remain off during the proceedings.

The new rules also apply to the transportation of young people by the Department of Human Services or the Oregon Health Authority.

Self-Serve Gas in Rural Counties

A new law allows gas stations in rural counties with less than 40,000 residents to allow customers to pump their own gas.

Fender Bender Threshold Increased

As of Jan. 1, drivers who end up in a crashes resulting in damage under $2,500 do not have to report it. This is an increase from the $1,500 threshold that had been in place since 2014.

Drivers are still required to report to the DMV within 72 hours if damage caused by the crash is more than $2,500, a vehicle is towed from the scene or the crash caused injuries.

Overtime Rule

Manufacturing employers will have to get advance written consent from most employees before they work more than 55 hours in a week.

Manufacturers will also be barred from having employees more than 60 hours a week, unless they get temporary exemption due to seasonal work with perishable foods.

Manufacturing employers will also have to calculate each employee’s overtime by the week (for more than 40 hours) and by the day (more than 10 hours) and then pay whichever sum is greater.

Whip-It Restriction

A new law prohibits businesses that sell nitrous oxide canisters, or their employees, from selling or delivering nitrous oxide canister to anyone under 18 years of age.

Its purpose is to restrict access to nitrous oxide canisters, often known as “Whip-its,” which are intended to be used for baking purposes but can also be abused as an inhalant drug.


Businesses are prohibited from sale to and purchase of dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant, to persons 17 and younger without a prescription. The first violation is a warning. Further violations are punishable by fines.

“It’s been around for quite awhile,” Lynn said of the medicine. “Kids are abusing it. Teens call it ‘Triple C.’”

In large quantities, the drug creates a potent hallucinogenic high, Lynn said.

Manufacture of Controlled

Substances as Arson

State law has expanded arson charges related to manufacturing controlled substances if a person causes a fire or explosion that damages or recklessly risks damaging buildings or property or injuring persons, including police officers and firefighters.

The law already addressed meth labs and has been expanded to specifically address butane honey oil labs, which are related to recent marijuana legislation.

Transgender Birth Certificates

Transgender Oregonians can now “update” their name and gender on their Oregon birth certificate without the involvement of the courts. A new law “also updates an outdated public posting requirement in the court process that risks publicly outing individuals and sharing private medical and personal information,” according to a statement by the bill’s sponsors.

Unlawful GPS Use

It is now a crime to affix a GPS device to a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner. A violation is a Class A misdemeanor. It is enhanced to a Class C felony if the offender has a prior stalking-related conviction or is subject to a restraining order.

Early Voter Registration

Though the federal (and state) voting age limit remains at 18, teenagers in Oregon can now turn in their voter registration cards starting at age 16 so that they are already registered by the time they become old enough to vote.

Marriage Officiating

If you’re getting married but aren’t religious, you can now skip the ordained minister. A new law authorizes secular officiants to marry couples in Oregon if they’re authorized by a secular organization, defined in the bill as “an organization whose members subscribe to secular values, beliefs and practices and that is not affiliated with or controlled by a church or particular religious authority.”

Hitting a Biker

A new law expands the definition of vehicular assault from striking pedestrians and bicyclists to include striking motorcycle riders or passengers, or their motorcycles.

It also provides that the state’s vehicular assault statute now be known and may be cited as the “Milkman Mike Act” in honor of an Oregon biker who worked for years for motorcyclists’ rights before his death (not in a crash).

Bingo Prize Increase

Charitable or fraternal organizations authorized to operate bingo or lotto games can now pay out prizes up to $5,000 for a single game, up from the previous maximum of $2,500.

Public Records Transparency

A new law, which was requested by state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, sets deadlines by which public officials must evaluate and respond to the public’s requests for government documents. Many other states have such timelines, which are intended in part to prevent government officials from stonewalling information requests.

The law, which received broad support in the state Legislature, sets a 15-day time limit for agencies to release records in most cases. It also contains exceptions to the deadline for school districts, community colleges and universities when their central administrative offices are closed, and for all governments when they’re short-staffed or meeting the deadline would impede other crucial work.

The bill was the result of a year of work by a task force organized by Rosenblum to review Oregon’s public records law and suggest improvements.

Worker’s Death Benefits

A number of new laws make it easier for survivors of workers killed on the job to receive benefits.

One increases the allowed age of dependents of a worker who died on the job and simplifies eligibility for benefits. The bill allows a dependent to receive benefits until age 19 and specifies that the benefit level is the same regardless of the child’s dependence on the worker’s surviving spouse or age at the time of worker’s death.

Benefits will be paid for up to 48 months when the dependent is in a post-secondary education or training program through age 26.

Another has increased the Workers’ Memorial Scholarship Account, which awards scholarships to dependents or spouses of workers killed or permanently disabled on the job. The account increases from $250,000 to $1 million.

A third raises the minimum and maximum benefit for workers receiving a permanent total disability award. The minimum went from $50 or 90 percent of the worker’s weekly wage to 33 percent of the state average weekly wage. The maximum is now 133 percent of the state average weekly wage, compared to the previous maximum of 100 percent of the state’s average weekly wage.

Child Occupant Protection

The law now requires children under the age of 2 to be properly secured in a child safety system in a rear-facing position in a vehicle. The law took effect on May 25. Any child age 1 or older prior to the effective date is exempt from the requirement.

Drone Law

Drone operators face new restrictions from a bill that took effect last June.

Basically, a drone may not be flown continuously over a house, annoying the occupants, Lynn said.

The law prohibits a drone operator from flying a drone to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly harass or annoy the occupant.

Weaponizing a drone – causing it to fire projectiles, is a class C felony under the new law, while law enforcement may use drones without a warrant for accident scene reconstruction.

– The New Era Staff and Paris Achen of Pamplin Media Capital Bureau contributed to this story.


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