Hill to Hall April 15–20

April 15: Bill proposed to change laws on drone interference passes Oregon Senate

Senate Bill 581 passed the Oregon Senate on Monday and is headed to the House for approval. S.B. 581 would change the criminal offense for repeating drone interference of conventional aircrafts to a misdemeanor. The current punishment for the offense includes a violation and fine, similar to a speeding ticket. Violations of the law through representative drone interference include preventing the landing or taking off of an aircraft, hitting an aircraft in flight or using lasers in the direction of an aircraft. Last summer, Oregon firefighters experienced similar issues with drones when fighting forest fires.

April 16: Portland Public School to close in response to teachers union strike

Portland Public Schools preemptively announced a shutdown on May 8 in response to a statewide teacher walkout. The walkout—organized by the union Portland Association of Teachers—is to protest a lack of funding for schools. The event will also protest large classroom sizes, out-of-date facilities and teachers unable to give students individual attention. To make up for the day missed, students will attend an extra day at the end of the year.

April 17: Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley to stop taking money from corporate PACs

Senator Jeff Merkley, D–Ore., announced he will be the state’s first congressional member to stop accepting money from corporate Political Action Committees. In his previous re-election campaign in 2014, Merkley accepted approximately $1.2 million from corporate entities. Merkley confirmed that he will not be running for President in 2020, but will instead be seeking re-election as an Oregon senator. Other Oregon representatives’ funding has come from corporate PACs—for example, Representative Peter DeFazio’s, D–Ore., latest disclosure agreement showed nearly half of the $320,000 raised for his re-election campaign has come from PACs of companies like Intel and Nike.

April 18: Governor Kate Brown declares Oregon child welfare program a crisis

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown defined the Oregon child welfare program a crisis, partly in response to a recent lawsuit against the Oregon Foster care system from a child advocacy group. Earlier this year, a released 2018 audit revealed the Oregon foster care system has been housing children in institutions accused of abuse and converted juvenile detention facilities. Brown promised to take steps in solving the issue through her new executive order, including an oversight board led by herself and an on-site crisis team to implement the Board’s recommendations.