Numerous laws passed in 2021 long session

Oregon legislators passed hundreds of new laws in the 2021 session, many of which went into effect Jan. 1.

The Legislature considered a total of 2,519 bills, memorials and resolutions during the 2021 long session, and passed 719 – adding six more in special sessions that came after the normal session ended June 30. That actually is about a normal total for the Ore-gon Legislature in a long session.

Most went into effect Jan. 1, and were added to those that went into effect after passage last year.

The so-called “Trigger Lock Law,” which requires that gun owners safely store firearms, went into effect Sept. 25. Oregon joined 11 other states in requiring firearms to be stored in a gun room or safe, or have a trigger lock when they are not being carried or under the handler’s control. Failure to do so could result in a $500 fine, which would increase to $2,000 if a minor accesses an unsecured firearm.

Senate Bill 744 suspended existing skills proficiency requirements for high school diplomas for three years, through 2024-25, extending an existing suspension of Oregon Department of Education requirements. Proponents argued that, particularly during the pandemic, these requirements disproportionately hurt students with poor test-taking skills or who did not speak English as a first language. The new law also requires the ODE to review state graduation requirements by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

The “Love Letters Law,” HB 2550, which went into effect Sept. 25, prohibits the longstanding practice of prospective homebuyers writing a letter to the owners of a house they’d like to buy. In a hot real estate market, that can be the deciding factor when a seller’s faced with multiple offers. The law stops real estate agents from passing those personal pitches to sellers.

Proponents say these letters can be the only edge a first-time buyer has against deep-pocketed investors that purchase entry-level homes to flip or rent out. The concern is that such letters could violate fair housing laws by revealing a buyer’s race, religion, sexual orientation or marital status. In November, a Bend real estate firm filed a preliminary injunction in federal court to block the law, arguing that it violates free speech.

With many of the steps in the legislative process occurring virtually, including testimony from those with interests for or against proposed bills, and with a supermajority of urban Democrats controlling much of what occurred in Salem during last winter and spring’s long session, a lot was accomplished.

As is typical, many had to do with problem-solving in what many residents would consider specialized areas, but some will directly impact the broader population.

The May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, as well as its resulting outrage, prompted a number of bills aimed at improving police conduct and training, accountability and oversight, and combating racial discrimination in the state.

Following is a list of some of the new laws, particularly which impact the state as a whole:

Police Oversight

Introduced at Portland’s request, Senate Bill 621 allows local jurisdictions to set up and create parameters for community oversight boards that oversee police discipline. A corollary law, SB 204, provides civilian oversight boards with access to a database of police encounters and arrests.

Police Training and Certification

HB 2513, which passed both houses nearly unanimously, requires police officers to receive at least three hours of training in airway and circulatory anatomy and physiology, as well as CPR certification. It also requires police to call for emergency medical aid if a restrained person suffers respiratory or cardiac crisis.

HB 2936 requires that the Department of Public Safety Standards create a uniform background checklist and standardized personal history questionnaire for law enforcement agencies to use during the hiring process. It also directs law enforcement agencies to set standards for speech and expression for officers and exempts law enforcement from prohibiting employer access to personal social media accounts. Although the law took effect Jan. 1, it cannot be used to hire corrections officers until July 1, 2023.

Unanimously passed by both houses, HB 2986 requires that law enforcement officers in Oregon be trained to investigate and report bias crimes based on perceived gender.

Reporting Police Misconduct

HB 2929 doubles down on pre-existing requirements that police officers report misconduct or violations of minimum standards for physical, emotional, intellectual and moral fitness. It mandates investigation into such reports within 72 hours and provides a process for an officer to make such a report.

HB 3145 requires police departments to report details of officer discipline to the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training within 10 days. The state will then publish these reports in a publicly accessible database online. This law passed both houses nearly unanimously.

Tracking Use-of-force

HB 2932 requires that Oregon law enforcement agencies participate in the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection efforts and directs a state commission to analyze the data and report its findings to the Legislature every year.

Bye-bye, Booking Photos

HB 3273 limits the circumstances under which law enforcement agencies can release booking photos to the public. Agencies can release only photos of suspects being sought, though they can still issue booking photos to the people depicted in them, to victims of the offense, other law enforcement agencies and to a state mental hospital. This bill passed the House 54-4 and the Senate 17-13.

Police Handling of Unlawful Assemblies

HB 3059 gives police leniency at gatherings determined to be unlawful. Law enforcement officials are no longer required to command the crowd to disperse. The law also requires any arrests associated with “unlawful assemblies” to be based on crimes other than a failure to disperse. It passed the House and Senate unanimously.

Police Handling of Juveniles

SB 418 establishes that if an officer intentionally uses false information to elicit a statement from someone under age 18, that statement will be presumed to be involuntary. The burden will be on the prosecution to prove otherwise.

No Nooses

Though Oregon law emphasizes and generally protects freedom of speech and expression, SB 398 makes it a crime to display a noose with the intent to intimidate someone or to knowingly place a noose on public or private property without consent, where the display causes its target to be reasonably intimidated or placed in fear of bodily harm. Violators face up to 364 days in prison and a fine of $6,250. The legislation passed with one nay vote.


House Bill 2935, known as the “CROWN (“creating a respectful and open world for natural hair”) Act, prohibits employers and public schools from racially discriminating against people for their hairstyles. Examples might be braids, locs and twists, natural hair, hair texture and type.

Remote Meetings to Continue

Passing nearly unanimously in both houses, HB 2560 requires public governing bodies to make all meetings accessible remotely through technological means, whenever reasonably possible. They must also enable the general public to submit oral and written testimony remotely.

Alcohol-Free Gas

HB 3051 clarifies that the sale of gasoline in Oregon must contain at least 10% denatured fuel ethanol by volume or at least 9.2% anhydrous ethanol by volume. Oregon has required for years that gasoline sold for use in motor vehicles contain 10% ethanol or, in the case of anhydrous ethanol, contain it in concentrations of no less than 9.2% and no more than 10%. This law sets the latter as a floor, allowing for sale of fuel with concentrations above 10%.

Exceptions exist for premium gasoline (with an octane rating of 81 or above), and for gasoline sold for certain nonroad uses, such as aviation, or for gasoline used in antique vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, power tools and watercraft.

Tobacco Sales License

SB 587 requires Oregon Department of Revenue licenses for retailers who sell tobacco and e-cigarettes, in an effort to encourage the enforcement of ordinances and rules, particularly those involving juveniles.

Relief for RVs

HB 2809 allows state residents to park RVs on properties for up to two years if its main residence is otherwise uninhabitable as a result of a natural disaster. The two years begin the day the home became uninhabitable.

No Driver’s License Required

SB 569 prohibits employers from requiring employees or prospective employees to have a driver’s license as a condition of employment, unless the ability to legally drive is an essential part of the job.

College Fee Transparency

HB 2542 requires public universities and community colleges to prominently display descriptions of all mandatory fees charged to students. All fees must be published on the universities’ or colleges’ websites before the term the students will be charged. They must also explain their purpose and how the money will be used.

Arab American Heritage Month

Starting this year, each April in Oregon will be designated as Arab American Heritage Month, courtesy of HB 2914, which highlights that Arab-Americans have been making valuable contributions to every aspect of society, including science, medicine, law, business, education, technology, government, military service and culture, for more than a century. The late Victor George Atiyeh, governor of Oregon from 1979 to 1987, was the first Arab-American governor elected in the United States.

No Scrapping Catalytic Converters

Scrap-metal businesses will no longer be allowed to purchase or receive catalytic converters or their components, unless they come from a commercial seller or a vehicle’s owner, according to SB 803. Also, precise records will be required, which lawmakers hope will aid in apprehending individuals responsible for catalytic converter thefts, which have been numerous in the state and cost victims significantly. Violators could face civil penalties up to $1,000.

Nurses Can Talk Medical Marijuana

HB 3369 allows licensed nurses in Oregon to discuss the medical use of marijuana with patients. Neither they nor other medical providers will face possible civil penalties for discussing its use for debilitating medical conditions.

Cold Medicine Available Over the Counter

HB 2648, which allows people 18 and older to once again buy cold medicine, like Sudafed, from a pharmacist without a prescription, went into effect last year, but it is a new law, passed in 2021.

Lawmakers concluded that with a multistate system for tracking purchases, into which pharmacists will enter purchasers’ information, and meth production shifting to labs outside the country, Oregon’s law (one of two in the nation) banning the sale of cold medicine was obsolete. So HB 2648 repealed Oregon’s restriction.

Human Composting

With the passage of HB 2574, Oregon will allow natural organic reduction, or what some refer to as “human composting.” Ore-gon statutes previously generally restricted disposition of human remains to either cremation or leaving the body whole for burial or entombment. Alternative methods to reduce such remains have been developed, but have not been expressly allowed in the state.

Two such alternative methods gaining attention are hydrolysis and natural organic reduction. The first uses water, pressure, relatively lower heat than cremation, and an alkaline agent to reduce human remains to bone fragments and essential elements, similar to what cremation does. Natural organic reduction uses a contained environment to which straw, wood chips, and other natural materials are added to convert the human remains to soil.

HB2574 clarifies that disposition of remains may be permitted to occur through alternative authorized processes such as hydrolysis, natural organic reduction and any other process approved by the state’s Mortuary and Cemetery Board. The measure requires practitioners to obtain a certificate of authority from the MCB to operate an alternative disposition facility.

Penalties for Spreading Election Misinformation

Nope, this isn’t the stuff you see on commercials. Rather, the Legislature passed HB 2323 to prohibit false statements about election dates, ballot-delivery deadlines, voter registration deadlines, registration methods, ballot drop-off locations, and eligibility qualifications or an elector’s voter registration status within 30 days of a primary or special election or 60 days of a general election. Anyone who violates the law could face a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

Some Late Ballots Now In

HB 3291 requires counties to count ballots received within seven calendar days after an election if they’re postmarked and mailed by election day. Counties also must count ballots that arrive within seven days if the postal indicator is gone or not legible. Previously, state law only required counties to include ballots received by election day. The new requirement will delay how quickly results can be determined but is likely to lead to higher turnout.

Affordable Housing Boost

Simply put, SB 8 aims to streamline development of affordable housing on land zoned for commercial or light industrial uses. It restricts local governments from denying affordable housing applications, with certain exceptions, such as being located on a floodplain or an inability to be served by utilities. It also makes it easier for developers to appeal denied applications. Developments are required to serve people who earn 80% or below the local median income.

Tracking Homeless Deaths

SB 850 requires that death reports for homeless people list the person’s residence as “domicile unknown.” Based on an Multnomah County ordinance already in place, the bill is aimed at helping to track the number of people who die while experiencing homelessness.

Minimum Wage Increase

Although this law is not “new” and won’t kick in until July 1, Oregon’s minimum wage will increase this year.

The rate will vary depending upon an employer’s location, categorized by “standard” counties, which include Linn County; Portland’s metropolitan area; and “non-urban” counties, which generally are those with lower populations. Each location’s increase will be as follows: (1) standard counties, including Linn County – $13.50 per hour; (2) Portland metro region – $14.75 per hour; and (3) non-urban counties – $12.50 per hour.