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Wednesday, June 26, 2019
‘Credible threat from militia
groups’ closes Capitol Saturday
By Claire Withycombe
Oregon Capital Bureau
Oregon Capital Bureau/Claire Withycombe
Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, speaks in support
of a bill to allow undocumented immigrants and others
without proof of legal residence to get an Oregon driver’s
Oregon House
approves licenses
for undocumented
By Claire Withycombe
Oregon Capital Bureau
The Oregon House June
18 passed legislation that
would once again allow
the state to issue driver’s
licenses to undocumented
immigrants and others
who can’t prove they are
legal residents.
Democrats Rep. Teresa
Alonso Leon of Wood-
burn and Rep. Diego Her-
nandez of Portland carried
House Bill 2015, which
passed 39-21 after about
30 minutes of discussion.
It now heads to the
In 2014, Oregon voters
rejected a measure to cre-
ate a separate driver’s card
for people without proof
of legal residence.
But the bill House
members approved Tues-
day would allow people
who can’t prove they’re in
the country legally to get
the standard license now
offered by the DMV after
Jan. 1, 2021.
By that time, the fed-
eral government will no
longer accept standard
licenses as valid iden-
tification for boarding
an airplane or entering
secured federal govern-
ment facilities. Next year
the state will begin issu-
ing Real ID-compliant
licenses, documents that
meet stricter federal stan-
dards and require recip-
ients to prove their resi-
dency status.
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
many states, including
Oregon, allowed people
to get driver’s licenses
without proving their
In 2007, then-Gov. Ted
Kulongoski, a Democrat,
issued an executive order
requiring people applying
for drivers’ licenses, driv-
ing permits and ID cards
to document their citizen-
ship or that they were in
the U.S. legally.
The federal govern-
ment also began enacting
stricter Real ID standards,
which go into effect Oct.
1, 2020.
Without an avenue
to get a driver’s license,
immigrants can’t legally
get to work or to doctor’s
Leon said in a floor
If they drive without
a license, they risk being
deported if caught.
Alonso Leon described
the impact on people who
could not drive to get
to work, school or other
She said that being
unable to drive legally is
hard especially for peo-
ple who live in rural areas,
where public transporta-
tion is minimal or non-
existent. Some have lost
their livelihoods because
they don’t have a license,
Alonso Leon said.
“Imagine the pain
and frustration that par-
ents must feel when they
can’t do that simple task,”
Alonso Leon, whose voice
began to break with emo-
tion. “The simple task like
going to the grocery store,
to buy baby formula, dia-
medication. While this
has been challenging for
many parents, they are not
deterred. They have taken
to walking for miles to get
to work or to that grocery
store, on shoulder-less,
dim roads, to make sure
that their children have
their basic needs.”
The bill, which still
requires people to take
the driver’s test and pay
the associated fees for a
license, would benefit not
just undocumented immi-
grants, Alonso Leon said.
Oregonians who have
lost their documentation
for whatever reason — to
a natural disaster, domes-
tic violence, or are home-
less — could also get
licenses to drive under the
new provision.
Hernandez emphasized
public safety and pointed
to Connecticut, which he
said passed a similar bill
four years ago and has
seen a decline in hit-and-
run incidents. Licensed
drivers in Oregon must
have car insurance.
The vote was largely
along party lines, with
most Democrats voting for
the bill and most Repub-
licans voting against it.
However, there were some
departures from the party
line, including Republican
Rep. Cheri Helt of Bend.
“We are a nation of
immigrants,” Helt said.
“Immigrants have con-
tributed and continue to
contribute to the well-be-
ing and the progress of
our American society, but
currently they are faced
with the difficult decision
of choosing to take their
kids to school or break-
ing the law. This bill will
allow parents to safely and
legally drive their children
to school.”
Helt said she supported
legal immigration, but
that undocumented immi-
grants needed a pathway
to citizenship.
“Until the federal gov-
ernment steps up to cre-
ate one, I will be support-
ive of mothers and fathers
who are simply wanting
to take their children to
school safely and legally,”
Helt said.
The bill contains what’s
known as an emergency
clause, which means it will
go into effect immediately
once Gov. Kate Brown
signs it.
It also means that oppo-
nents can’t refer the bill
to voters via the initiative
R-Keizer, who opposed the
bill, moved to send the bill
back to the House Rules
Committee to remove the
emergency clause so that
voters could consider the
measure in 2020.
“Listen to the peo-
ple,” Post said, referring to
2014, when voters rejected
a similar policy.
Supporters of the new
bill have said they believe
the political environment
around immigration has
changed after the 2016
presidential election. They
pointed to the failure of
Measure 105, a state bal-
lot measure last fall that
would have repealed Ore-
gon’s decades-old law that
prevents state and local law
enforcement from expend-
ing resources to “detect or
apprehend” people whose
only violation of the law
is being here without legal
A Saturday session of the Oregon
Senate was cancelled Friday afternoon
after Oregon State Police reported a
“credible threat from militia groups”
planning to meet at the Capitol.
Senators were advised to avoid the
building and have their employees do
the same, according to a message sent
from the Senate Democratic caucus
office Friday and obtained by the Ore-
gon Capital Bureau.
The development came as the Sen-
ate’s 11 Republicans remained missing
from the Capitol, hoping to pressure
legislative leaders into modifying con-
troversial cap-and-trade legislation that
was to have been voted on by the Sen-
ate Thursday.
Senate will NOT be meeting tomor-
row (Saturday),” the message read.
“The State Police superintendent just
informed the Senate president of a cred-
ible threat from militia groups coming
to the Capitol tomorrow. The super-
intendent strongly recommends that
no one come to the Capitol and Presi-
dent Courtney heeded that advice min-
utes ago by adjourning until 10 a.m.
“Please make sure your staffs know
not to come in tomorrow,” the message
continued. “We are still planning to
come in Sunday.”
In an email to the Oregon Capi-
tal Bureau, a spokeswoman for Sen-
ate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem,
said that the Capitol would be closed
Saturday “upon recommendation of the
state police of possible threats by mili-
tia groups.”
A spokesman for the Senate Major-
ity Office could not be immediately
reached for comment late Friday.
Individuals associated with Ore-
gon militia groups have been active
on social media since the Republi-
cans disappeared. Some have called
on a defense force to protect the sena-
tors from the state police. One militia
leader specifically identified a Repub-
lican senator as asking for militia help
but that senator denied to the Ore-
gon Capital Bureau making any such
On June 20, the Oregon III%ers (3
percenters) posted on Facebook a “call
to action” for its members across the
state to “provide security, transporta-
tion and refuge for those Senators in
need.” The group did not threaten or
encourage violence in its Facebook
“We will stand together with unwav-
ering resolve, doing whatever it takes
to keep these Senators safe,” according
to the post.
“Oregon III% leadership has made
the decision to support Oregon Repub-
lican Senators to walk out,” according
to the group’s post. “In doing so we
have vowed to provide security, trans-
portation and refuge for those Senators
in need. It has come to our knowledge
that nearly all Senators are currently
safe outside of the state. Your leads will
keep you informed as needed for any
further action. Be ready, stay vigilant.
Mobilization orders will be issued only
by Liaisons or County Leads, ORIII%
Bylaws Code of Conduct will be
adhered to throughout this operation.
We will stand together with unwaver-
ing resolve, doing whatever it takes to
keep these Senators safe.”
Gov. Kate Brown, acting at the
request of legislative leaders, directed
State Police Superintendent Travis
Hampton to find and return the sena-
tors to the Capitol.
She was acting on authority in the
Constitution and Oregon law, state offi-
cials said.
Republicans’ absence was intended
to deny the Senate the 20 members
required to meet. Democrats num-
ber 18, not enough to legally meet for
Oregon House votes to increase
cigarette tax to $2 per pack
By Mark Miller
Oregon Capital Bureau
Oregon took a step closer
Thursday to taxing e-cig-
arettes and other vaping
On a 39-21 vote, the
House approved increasing
the cigarette tax to $2 per
pack, up from $1.33, as part
of a change to the law that
would also slap new taxes
on cigars and nicotine inhal-
ant devices.
However, the tax increase
— which is scheduled for
2021 — still needs to pass
the Senate and get voter
tax increase serves two
Rep. Rachel Prusak,
D-West Linn, said making
tobacco and nicotine prod-
ucts more expensive could
discourage people from
starting to smoke or vape.
The U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services
says when people become
smokers, they’re almost
always under 25, and nearly
nine in 10 start smoking
when they’re under 18.
Teenagers and younger
adults tend to have less dis-
posable income than mil-
lennials and older adults,
and supporters of the tax
increase hope that a higher
price tag on cigarettes and
cigars will effectively pre-
vent cash-strapped young
people from buying them
and becoming addicted to
“A tobacco tax indeed
discourages our youth from
ever starting to smoke, and
it definitely encourages
those who have started to
quit,” said Prusak, a public
health nurse. “We know that
the best way to deter access,
particularly by young peo-
ple, is to raise the price.”
The tax would also raise
about $350 million per
biennium for the Oregon
Health Authority. Support-
ers say that money will help
the poor, the elderly and
other vulnerable groups by
improving access to health
Opponents argue that
tobacco taxes are regres-
sive and exploit the poor
and working class. Because
the new taxes are passed
along to consumers, they
essentially force smokers
and vapers to pay more for
a product to which they are
chemically addicted.
“I don’t believe that we
can actually price people
who are addicted to this out
of the market,” said Rep.
Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass.
“We might be able to keep
some people from using it
— maybe. But as far as those
who are already addicted, I
mean, go hang out with any
group of homeless people
EO Media Group
The Oregon House voted to increase the cigarette tax to $2 per pack.
and see that those who have
addictions still find ways to
access those addictions, no
matter what the cost of that
substance is.”
According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Pre-
vention, smoking is more
prevalent among poorer
Americans, who are already
hit hardest by sales taxes.
Oregon does not have a gen-
eral sales tax.
For the first time, the tax
would also apply to e-ciga-
rettes and similar products.
Vaping has become an
increasingly popular “alter-
native” to smoking and
smokeless tobacco.
While studies suggest
that vaping has a less neg-
ative effect on users’ health
than smoking, public health
experts warn that it can
still lead to nicotine addic-
tion and may encourage
more people to begin using
tobacco products.
Smoking is the leading
cause of preventable death
in the United States, accord-
ing to the CDC.
Prospects for the tobacco
tax increase looked bleak
throughout most of the leg-
islative session. However, a
compromise was brokered
earlier this month between
Democrats and moderate
Republicans under which
the tax hike will be referred
to voters in November
Eighteen senators will
still have to approve the bill
before the new taxes head to
the ballot. With the Senate at
a standstill due to a Repub-
lican boycott, it’s unclear
when or if that will happen.