Another legislative session is in the books, and with it comes hundreds of new laws.
Many of the more than 850 bills passed won’t have a noticeable impact on the average citizen’s day to day life, but others could result in a stranger smashing in your car window or finally having to learn how to pump your own gas.
Starting Oct. 1, it could also result in a $2,000 fine for checking sports scores on your phone while driving. Previously it was only illegal to text and drive, but House Bill 2597 outlaws all hands-on use of a mobile electronic device while driving, including but not limited to posting on social media, taking photos, inputting a destination on GPS or scrolling through a playlist on your phone. The maximum fine for violations is $2,000, and third-time offenders will be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a traffic violation.
Before the legislature adjourns on Monday, here is a small sampling of other new rules that might affect you:
In your vehicle
• For everyone who wishes they could pump their own gas in Oregon, House Bill 2482 allows self-service fueling at gas stations 24 hours a day in counties with a population of less than 40,000 east of Multnomah County, including Morrow County, starting Jan. 1. Stations with a retail space such as a mini-mart must still provide an employee able to dispense fuel between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
• If you spot a toddler or pet locked in a dangerously hot car with no parent in sight, House Bill 2732 allows you to break into a car to remove them if the person acts in good faith believing that the child or animal is in immediate danger. The person must have first confirmed that the doors were all locked, proceeded to do the least amount of damage needed and called law enforcement as soon as “reasonably practical.” The bill took effect immediately upon passage.
• It’s not just police cars you’ll be required to move over for starting on Jan. 1. Senate Bill 34 requires drivers on roads with more than one lane in the same direction to move to a lane non-adjacent to any vehicle pulled over with hazard lights flashing, flares set out or other indications of distress. If there is only one lane, passing drivers must slow down by at least five miles per hour instead.
• If you get into a crash, Senate Bill 35, effective immediately, increases the threshold for reporting motor vehicle crashes to law enforcement from $1,500 to $2,500 worth of damage. The legislature also passed House Bill 2403, requiring drivers to exchange insurance information after all crashes. If leaving a note for a vehicle owner who is not present, the note must include the insurance carrier and policy number.
• Anyone who fancies themselves an amateur detective will have to forgo the old “Tracking device on the car” trick. Senate Bill 483 makes it illegal to attach a GPS device to a person’s vehicle without their knowledge. The misdemeanor offense becomes a felony if the perpetrator has previously been convicted of stalking or has a restraining order against them. It does not apply to law enforcement.
• Students in Oregon will be learning more about the historical contributions of social and ethnic minorities — including women, people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities and the LQBTQ community — during social studies after House Bill 2845, which directs the Department of Education to write statewide “ethnic studies standards” for K-12 social studies curriculum, with the help of a diverse advisory group. The department will also develop more financial literacy curriculum thanks to the passage of House Bill 2229.
• Juniors and seniors in high school will be able to register to vote thanks to Senate Bill 802, which lowered the voter registration age to 16 starting in January. The actual voting age, however, remains at 18.
• If you forget to pay your child’s lunch bill, don’t worry about “lunch shaming.” House Bill 3454 bans schools from making students do extra chores, throwing away their lunch or otherwise publicly identifying them as having an overdue balance on their lunch accounts. Instead, schools are directed to work directly with parents on settling the bill.
• Worried about police interviewing your child while they are at school? House Bill 3242 requires law enforcement to record interviews with minors when investigating a felony.
• School volunteers with direct and unsupervised contact with students will also have to undergo a background check first thanks to House Bill 2992.
• Hermiston can finally move forward on building a new skate park after Senate Bill 327 restored recreational immunity to cities and other property owners who offer up their property for free recreational use by the public. The law removes the threat of lawsuits that has been hanging over cities since the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a jogger injured in a hole in a city park could sue the worker who left it unattended.
• 20-year-old smokers will have trouble getting their cigarettes after Senate Bill 754, which raises the minimum age for smoking and buying tobacco products from 18 to 21 starting in January.
• Planning a wedding but not the religious type? House Bill 2113 allows a secular institution “that occupies a place in the lives of the organization’s members parallel to that filled by a church or particular religious authority” to perform marriages starting Jan. 1.
• Cans and bottles have been worth a 10 cent deposit — twice what they used to be — since House Bill 2746 passed in April.
• Teens and young adults who have hesitated to report a sexual assault because there was under-aged drinking involved are now being given immunity from being prosecuted for drinking if the drinking only came to light because someone contacted law enforcement or emergency medical services to report a sexual assault. The victim will also be protected from such prosecution, even if they were not the one to report the assault.
• If you’ve decided the time has come for a vasectomy, you no longer have to wait for a physician. House Bill 2103 permits nurse practitioners to perform vasectomies starting Jan. 1, making Oregon the third state in the country to do so.