Oregon Legislature

'Toughest Sheriff' Joe Arpaio draws supporters, foes in Salem

The issue for some was simply about respect for U.S. laws, the nation's sovereignty and secure borders.

For others, it was a rejection what they saw as hatred. What seemed clear even before the rally started was that few would find any middle ground.

About 100 people gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday for a rally to hear Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, speak about immigration, drugs, gun laws, taxes and getting tough on crime.

The event was sponsored by the Oregon Republican Party.

Also in front of the Capitol, but across the street, about three times as many people gathered in protest of Arpaio, who is known for his conservative stances on immigration and hard-line policing.

Now 81, Arpaio has been sheriff for 23 years of the county that contains Phoenix and the 13th-largest metropolitan area in the nation.

During his 40-minute speech, Arpaio spoke of illegal immigration as an economic, diplomatic, and political problem. He joked about how the crowd across Court Street could have arrived at Capitol, prompting laughter from those crowded onto the steps.

While the counter-ralliers waited for the speech to start, they chanted "no hate in our state," and "love your neighbor."

Yrma Hernandez, a "40-something" Salem resident was among the counter-rally crowd and said she attended the event in the 90-plus-degree weather to support farmworkers.

"I'm here to support all the people who work hard for us in the fields," Hernandez said. "They deserve a chance to work, too — a chance to have work permits and green cards."

Arpaio, who is known as "America's Toughest Sheriff," has implemented some controversial programs and regulations — like chain gangs, two daily meals in jails instead of three, and a "tent city" where inmates reside in military surplus tents.

Hillsboro resident Brad Toman stood on the Capitol steps holding a full-sized American flag.

"I'm here today because I support the sovereignty of our nation and a secure border," Toman said. "The government doesn't seem to support us in enforcing immigration laws."

Toman said he became politically active when Oregon driver cards became an issue and said he was happy that 66 percent of Oregonians were against it.

"It showed me that there's a big silent majority here in Oregon," Toman said. "And I'm a bit disappointed in the number here on this side of the street, and the tact of those across the way.

"The signs they're holding refer to race. Immigration isn't about race at all. They play the race card because it's inflammatory."

Ruben Zamora, 25, was one of the few who crossed Court Street and ascend the steps.

"They called me a terrorist," Zamora said, who was wearing a plastic mask. "I said, 'Jesus commanded us to love one another.' All this hate creates a gut-wrenching feeling for me."

As part of the rally, three pairs of pink underwear were raffled as prizes. The garments' significance relates to Arpaio's tactic after several pairs of white underwear were stolen from the Arizona jail.

After the thefts, Arpaio had jail underwear dyed pink, reasoning that those who turned up wearing the pink underwear in release sweeps could be identified as thieves.

Hernandez said she didn't appreciate Arpaio's presence in Oregon.

"Joe needs to take his pink underwear back home with him," Hernandez said. "We don't need them here."

As Arpaio stepped away from the podium, he reminded the crowd of why he was there and chants from across the street continued.

"This is the greatest country in the world," Arpaio said. "Some things I do are controversial, and that draws a lot of national attention, but the most important thing is to remember that this greatest country in the world."

Undocumented student grant measure clears Senate

SALEM — State grants could go to college students who were brought to the United States as children but lack immigration papers under a bill that cleared the Oregon Senate on Thursday.

The 17-11 vote, largely along party lines, moved Senate Bill 932 to the House.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat from Portland and the bill’s chief sponsor, said that based on estimates, ...350 of them were likely to get them.

Given that lawmakers have boosted funds in the next two-year budget cycle to make grants available to 13,000 more students, Dembrow said the 350 would be a small share.

“They are exactly the kind of kids we should be investing in,” Dembrow said. “Most of these kids have lived here all of these years and they deserve a shot.”

But Dembrow, a community college instructor, acknowledged that his sponsorship of the bill is a shift from two years ago, when as chairman of a House committee, he was floor manager of the bill that allowed in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.

Dembrow said then that the 2013 bill, which became law, did not open the way for state aid to these students — unlike SB 932.

Jim Ludwick of McMinnville, spokesman and former president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, made a pointed comment about Dembrow’s 2013 remarks in written testimony filed for a June 15 budget subcommittee hearing.

“I remember nudging the person next to me and saying wait two years,” Ludwick wrote. “Here we are just two years later and the same advocates now want to do just that.”...

...If the House passes SB 932, Oregon would join California, Washington and some other states that allow state aid.

SB 932 Hearing - opportunity grants for undocumented students

Alert date: 
June 14, 2015
Alert body: 

Senate Bill 932 would let those students — who must be Oregon high school graduates — receive state-funded, need-based college scholarships through the Oregon Opportunity Grant program. The scholarships are up to $2,000 per student per year.

The Ways and Means Committee will be having a hearing Monday morning at 8:30am. 

If you can't make it to the hearing, please consider submitting testimony, so that the Committee will understand how many people oppose such a bill.  There IS an emergency clause on this bill, as well.  Designed to prevent citizens from referring the bill to the ballot - as OFIR did with SB 833 - the driver card bill.

Read the article in the Register Guard for possible ideas for testimony.

Send your testimony to Ways and Means:  WaysandMeans.EducationSub@state.or.us


Not everything is an emergency

Please read the Guest Column written by Oregon Senator Betsy Johnson, (D–Scappoose) that appeared in the Daily Astorian newspaper.

Senator Johnson exposes the misuse of the “emergency clause” by the Oregon Legislature.  She uses the vote on Measure 88 as the prime example of why bills should not have an emergency clause unless there is a true emergency.


Guest Column: Not everything is an emergency

By State Sen. Betsy Johnson

Published: May 21, 2015

Any law with an emergency clause is protected from the people’s veto power.

The Oregon Legislature is beginning to resemble a 9-1-1 call center. Almost everything is an emergency.

Increasingly these are the words you find in the House and Senate bills coming out of the Legislature: “An emergency is declared to exist, and this act takes effect on its passage.”

Any law with an emergency clause is protected from the people’s veto power. Voters cannot challenge it through the referendum process.

You might be surprised what constitutes an emergency. In this session so far, it includes bills like “banning the box,” which makes it unlawful for employers to ask job applicants to check a box if they’ve been convicted of a felony. Why would ex-felons’ job hunts constitute an emergency? There are many non-felons who endure extended job searches.

Or how about the “motor voter” law, HB 2177, which automatically registers licensed drivers to vote. What kind of an emergency exists that requires drivers to be automatically registered to vote?

Then there’s the recently approved gun law, SB 941, which requires licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks for private sales of legal firearms. (If you buy or sell on the black market, you’re exempt from this emergency.)

Soon to come is SB 822, an emergency bill requested by criminal defense attorneys, who want grand jury proceedings tape-recorded. Criminal defense attorneys, apparently, can’t wait to find out the identities of victims and witnesses.

At the rate we’re going, all bills will be deemed emergency acts. It will become routine. Perhaps that’s the point. If citizens complain that a controversial bill has been labeled an emergency to protect it from the people’s veto power, legislators can quell any suspicion by simply saying, “Most bills have an emergency clause.”

Voters still have some constitutional protection. Tax bills, for example, cannot be enacted as an emergency.

If you’re a citizen curious about the number of bills that were passed as emergencies in the last regular session, the information may not be readily available. If you call the legislative assembly office, they may direct you to the state legislature’s website and a section called “Citizen Engagement.”

There you’ll find a 190-page document called the “2013 Summary of Legislation.” One caller I know prowled through that, read the brief descriptions and effective dates of each bill that passed, and found that about half of the roughly 300 bills listed there were emergencies.

One bill that slipped through without an emergency clause was SB 833, and its fate is a lesson in why referendum power is important.

SB 833 allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver cards. Since it wasn’t an emergency, opponents had 90 days after the end of the legislative session to exercise the power of referendum. They collected enough signatures from qualified voters and forced SB 833 onto the November 2014 ballot. As Ballot Measure 88, voters rejected driver cards for illegal immigrants by almost a 2-to-1 margin.

The people’s veto power exists for a reason. It serves as a check on legislators who can become so focused on what happens inside the state Capitol building that they forget there’s an entire state outside the door.

We work in a grand, majestic building. It’s open to the public. But once the legislature is in session, a legislator’s time is often consumed talking to other legislators and lobbyists. We don’t always notice things like emergency clauses and whether they are really needed. Some of my bills have carried emergency clauses.

Our state’s frequent use of the emergency clause is not unique.

Former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, concerned about similar abuse in her state, began vetoing emergency clauses on bills, leaving intact the rest of the legislation. One of her first such vetoes was an emergency clause on a bill adding porphyria to the list of disabilities for special parking privileges.

The Olympian newspaper praised her in an editorial: “The Legislature’s overuse of the emergency clause should incense the public because it takes away their right to reject laws adopted by the Legislature. Where’s the outrage?”

Oregon’s constitution also allows the governor to veto an emergency provision in new bills without affecting the rest of the bill.

Governor Kate Brown should use this power. As Secretary of State, she pushed for the “motor voter” bill, ostensibly to make it easier for more voters to exercise their right to vote.

The emergency clause does exactly the opposite.

It takes away the people’s right to vote.

Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, represents District 16, covering Clatsop and Columbia counties and parts of Multnomah, Tillamook and Washington.

The people’s veto power exists for a reason.


From:  The DailyAstorian


Your letters and commentaries help spread the word

Many of us are neck deep in politics.  They call us activists - or worse.

Many of us are very informed, but prefer to stay out of the fray and simply be supportive at the ballot box.

But, the vast majority of people are uninformed voters.  And, in large part, it's because of the "low information voter" that we are in the predicament we find ourselves now.

Letters to the Editor, commentaries and opinion pieces are critical in reaching out to people who only glance at the newspaper - occassionally.  Or take a peek online once in a while.

Please read through the fantastic collection of letters written by folks inspired to simply speak up and express their frustrations!

A well written opinion piece by OFIR founder and longtime member Elizabeth VanStaaveren is a good example!

A recent commentary by OFIR member Rick LaMountain is a great place to start.


Polk County Republican Women welcome OFIR President

Alert date: 
April 6, 2015
Alert body: 

OFIR President Cynthia Kendoll will address the Polk County Republican Women Wednesday, April 8th at 11:30am at  the Oak Knoll Golf Course on Hwy. 22.



Controversial Oregon bill would give state college aid to illegal immigrants

SALEM — Oregon lawmakers are considering expanding a controversial 2013 law dubbed “tuition equity,” which allowed certain illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at Oregon’s seven public universities.

This year, Senate Bill 932 would let those students — who must be Oregon high school graduates — receive state-funded need-based college scholarships through the Oregon Opportunity Grant program. The scholarships are up to $2,000 per student per year.

Proponents of the bill argue that those eligible, who’ve often spent much of their life in this country, face an unfair disadvantage in paying for college, because they aren’t eligible for subsidized federal student loans or most public scholarship programs.

“The lack of access to any kind of financial aid is a real barrier for these students,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Portland Democrat who spearheaded the initial “tuition equity” policy and is a chief sponsor on SB 932.

“The Opportunity Grant program was designed for precisely this type of student: low-income, first-generation college attendee,” he said. “These students are Oregonians like everyone else.”

But the proposal comes at a tricky time for majority Democrats. Last November, Oregon voters thrashed, by a 2-to-1 ratio, a proposal to grant short-term driving licenses to illegal immigrants. Lawmakers had passed that measure in 2013 with bipartisan support.

Advocates at Oregonians for Immigration Reform, a group that fought that measure, have been caught off guard by SB 932.

“When legislators passed (the “tuition equity” bill) they said repeatedly that it wouldn’t allow these students to receive government financial aid,” said Jim Ludwick, a spokesman for the group. “Two years later, we’re going right back on it.”

The new proposal is also controversial because the Oregon Opportunity Grant program, the state’s primary college aid spending, has been woefully underfunded recently. Only around 20 percent of eligible students received the grants this year, essentially on a “first-come-first-served” basis.

To address that, lawmakers are proposing to bolster state funding for the grant program by around $30 million in the next two-year budget cycle, about a 25 percent increase.

But regardless, Ludwick said, passage of SB 932 would mean that “citizens will be competing against illegal aliens for these scholarships.”

“When you have such a resounding vote (on the driving license measure), with 35 out of 36 counties opposing it, it means that the vast majority of citizens don’t want special benefits for illegal immigrants,” he said. “I don’t think you could see it any other way.”

Dembrow countered that SB 932 and the drivers’ card vote as two “separate issues.”

“People understand who these students are,” he said. “They’ve grown up here, they’ve gone to our high schools ... Students from out-of-state can live in Oregon for one year and be eligible (for an opportunity grant). These students aren’t.”

The Oregon Opportunity Grant program doled out $58 million this school year to 35,000 students at eligible private and public Oregon community college and universities. Students’ families must have a gross income under $70,000 annually to be eligible. Students received a maximum of $2,000 this year.

Maria Saldana, a high school senior from Salem who has received federal deferred immigration status, was one of several students who urged lawmakers to approve SB 932 at a public hearing last month.

“I panicked when I realized that all my plans of paying for college with need-based financial aid, scholarships and even student loans would automatically be eliminated” because of her status, she said. “It is stressful knowing that I do not qualify for a lot of the help that my peers do.”
The number of students who have received in-state tuition rates in Oregon because the initial “tuition equity” bill, is “overwhelmingly small,” said Rep. Jessica Vega-Pederson, a Portland Democrat, at the hearing.

Thirty-two students used the program in the 2013-14 school year. An estimated 76 students used it in the 2014-15 fall term. Legislative analysts expect the number to grow.

Vega-Pederson also noted that six other states, including Washington State and California, allow illegal-immigrant “tuition equity” students to access state financial aid.

SB 932 also would make a couple of minor changes to the 2013 “tuition equity” law. It would remove the requirement that an illegal-immigrant student would have to start college within three years of high school graduation be eligible for in-state tuition. A requirement that they complete a college degree in five years would also be eliminated.

The bill appears to have some traction.

The Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee approved it on a party-line vote this week, sending it to the Legislature’s budget committee.

The bill also has one powerful sponsor: Senate President Peter Courtney, a Salem Democrat. Courtney was unavailable to comment on the bill this week.

Sen. Tim Knopp, a Bend Republican who voted “no” on SB 932 in committee, said he believes that the federal government needs “to act on immigration and secure our border.”

“Having states provide additional benefits to undocumented immigrants sends the wrong message to others that might wish to come to the U.S.,” he said.

“This bill has been portrayed as not being very costly,” Knopp added. “But if it costs a citizen the opportunity to receive their grant, that should be concerning to everyone.”

If SB 932 passed in its current form, the measure couldn’t be referred to voters, like the drivers’ license measure was. That’s because lawmakers have included an “emergency clause” in the bill, which means it would go into effect immediately on passage. Without an emergency clause, opponents would have the normal 90 days to collect the necessary signatures to refer the policy to voters at the next general election.

Dembrow said the emergency clause was included in SB 932 because he wants “tuition equity” students to be able to access opportunity grants in the coming school year.

But Ludwick said the bill clearly doesn’t address an actual emergency. The clause is being used to block a referral to voters, he said, as lawmakers often do with controversial bills.

“It’s clear that the framers of our Constitution wanted citizens to have a right to refer laws” to a public vote, he said. “The Legislature wants to deny citizens that right to the referral process.”

TAKE ACTION! Tell Your State Representative to Support Official English for Oregon

Alert date: 
March 17, 2015
Alert body: 

State Representative Sal Esquivel has introduced HB 3078, an official language bill in the Oregon House of Representatives. This bill would require that all official business of Oregon be conducted in English. Rep. Esquivel is a strong supporter of assimilation and understands how knowing English is the key to success in this country.

"There are at least 138 languages spoken in the State of Oregon," Esquivel said. "The State should dedicate itself to assisting people in attaining fluency in English, rather than attempting to learn and do business in the language of individual immigrants.”

Robert Vandervoort, Executive Director of ProEnglish, said "Making English the official language of Oregon will help the taxpayer and promote assimilation."

Contact your Oregon State Representative today. Tell your Representative to support HB 3078 and vote YES when the bill goes to the House floor.

ProEnglish is a self –governing project of U.S., Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and the nation’s leading advocate of official English.

We work through the courts and in the court of public opinion to defend English’s historic role as America’s common, unifying language, and to persuade lawmakers to adopt English as the official language at all levels of government.

Learn more about ProEnglish.

Oregon State Legislature open for business Monday, February 2

Alert date: 
January 30, 2015
Alert body: 

The Oregon State legislature will open Monday, February 2nd and run until early summer.

Please make an effort to contact your Legislator in person, by email or with a phone message and thank them for their service.  If you have suggestions or ideas, they would appreciate hearing from you.  Always be respectful, to the point and give an example of the issue to which you are referring.  Thank them for their time.

The Capitol is the people's house - own it.  Get involved, be a part of the process and work for toward solutions!

No worries - just walk in and make yourself at home!

Alert date: 
January 9, 2015
Alert body: 

Next week all Legislators will be at the Capitol building and conducting meetings Monday (12th), Tuesday (13th) and Wednesday (14th) and new Legislators will be sworn in, too.  They're gearing up for the upcoming 2015 Legislative session beginning February 2, 2015.

OFIR encourages you to visit your Capitol Building if you have not yet done so.  Walk the halls, sit in on a posted hearing, drop by your Legislators office and introduce yourself.  If they are newly elected, welcome them!

Always be respectful to everyone in the Capitol building.  Often Legislators are hurrying to meetings and don't have the time to chat.  Say hello to their office staff.

The Capitol building is yours and the people inside work for you.  You should feel comfortable in the building you own!

Remember to bring quarters for the meter.  Meters are strictly enforced!

Get involved, speak up and get busy!

If not you - then who?

If not now - when?

I'll see you at the Capitol!

Cynthia Kendoll - OFIR President



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