Salem, OR—2019 Regular Session
The 2019 session of Oregon’s 80th Legislative Assembly adjourned for the last time on June 30th, when it was Constitutionally required to do so. In total, the Legislature passed approximately 779 bills, 524 of which have been signed into law by the Governor. Frequently, when the Legislature enacts a law that creates a new program or authorizes additional funds to be spent, the Legislature will also require that the program or spending be audited to ensure that it is carried out as efficiently as possible. This is one of the core functions of the Secretary of State’s office, through the Audits Division.
Because of this, the Secretary of State’s office keeps track of numerous bills every legislative session.
This session, four particular bills were passed which apply to the Secretary of State’s office. SB 224
was introduced at the request of former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson as this year’s omnibus elections bill. The bill clarifies and creates a number of efficiencies within Oregon’s elections process, which the Secretary of State’s office oversees through the Elections Division.
Among other things, the bill prevents voters from being removed from the voter rolls due to inactivity, enables military and overseas voters to request a ballot electronically, and removes various unconstitutional provisions of current election law. These changes could save the state substantial administrative and legal costs down the road.
limits the use of electronic signature sheets, also known as “e-sheets,” for initiative and referendum petitions. E-sheets are easy to fill out and submit, and they help many Oregonians to participate in the petition process who would otherwise have to rely on petition circulators. They are particularly important for individuals who live in rural communities or are home bound. SB 761 requires that e-sheets contain the full text of a measure (which can be dozens of pages long), prohibits the distribution of e-sheets by mail, e-mail, or in person, and requires voters to sign and fill out e-sheets in multiple places. This will make it difficult for Oregon voters to print and submit e-sheets, and will make them more confusing to fill out. Oregon has a vibrant culture of voter engagement and outreach. The Secretary of State’s office is not aware of any abuses and has actually found that e-sheets have a higher validity rate than regular petitions. As such, the Secretary of State’s office did not support this bill and testified in committee.
was also worked on by former Secretary Richardson, along with Governor Brown and The Bus Project. The bill requires pre-paid postage for ballots, which will allow voters to return completed ballots without having to purchase a stamp. One of the missions of the Secretary of State’s office is to ensure broader access to voting. SB 861 furthers that goal by helping Oregonians to turn in their ballots with minimal obstacles, and Secretary Clarno was pleased to support its passage.
Perhaps the biggest change to election law in 2019 was HB 2015.
This bill significantly rolls back Oregon’s historic automatic voter registration process, also known as Oregon Motor Voter. State and Federal law require that individuals be citizens of the United States before they can register to vote. Under Oregon Motor Voter, individuals who visited a branch of the Oregon DMV were automatically registered to vote since they were required to provide proof of citizenship in order to obtain a driver’s license. HB 2015 removes this requirement for most forms of licenses. As a result, many individuals who cannot prove citizenship will be able to obtain driving privileges, but fewer Oregon citizens will be automatically registered to vote.
The Legislature also considered a number of other controversial bills this session, one of which was HB 2020.
This bill would have created a regulatory framework to reduce carbon emissions by creating a new Climate Policy Office, placing a cap on total carbon emissions, and creating a market for emissions credits. Although it did not pass, HB 2020 was perhaps the most controversial bill this legislative session, drawing crowds of demonstrators both in support of and opposition to its passage—including several miles of logging trucks.
Secretary Clarno met with activists on both sides of the issue to listen to their concerns. Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice brought several local public officials and members of the timber community to Salem to sit down with the Secretary, and the Secretary took time to meet with members of the environmental community, including Caesar the No Drama Llama. Spirited debate and public participation are the cornerstone of our form of government. The Secretary of State’s office appreciates all those who made their voices heard on these and other issues this legislative session.
Child Welfare Oversight Board
You may recall that, in January 2018, the Secretary of State’s office released an audit of Oregon’s child welfare system, revealing that chronic management failures and high caseloads jeopardize the safety of some of the state’s most vulnerable foster children. In that audit, the Secretary of State’s office made 24 recommendations to the Department of Human Services. In June of this year, Secretary Clarno released a follow-up report, determining that, while each of those concerns had been recognized by DHS, only 8 have been fully implemented. Two months before, Governor Brown issued Executive Order No. 19-03,
establishing the Child Welfare Oversight Board to advise her on directing DHS to address the crisis, and appointing Secretary Clarno as one of its members. The Secretary of State’s office believes there is nothing more important than the well-being of our children, and Secretary Clarno remains committed to doing everything possible to address this terrible situation.
On July 3rd, the Secretary of State’s office released its Cybersecurity Controls Assessment
for the state Department of Administrative Services. The Audits Division has concluded that, for a variety of reasons, DAS—which is the central administrative agency of Oregon state government—lacks basic cybersecurity safeguards and a security management program capable of identifying actions items that will ensure systems are secure going forward. Among these reasons is the agency’s fragmented organizational and governance structure, numerous legacy applications within various business units, and the fact that the agency’s Chief Information Officer lacks the necessary authority and staffing to carry out its official responsibilities and ensure consistent cybersecurity controls agency-wide. Due in large part to these deficiencies, agency systems and data may be at risk of unauthorized use, disclosure, and modification. The Secretary of State’s office has recommended that the Department take immediate action to address the findings outlined in the report.
Filling Legislative Vacancies
If a seat in the Oregon Legislature becomes vacant when there are more than 61 days until the next general election, a new legislator must be appointed. Candidates to fill such vacancies must be registered to vote in the legislative district in which the vacancy exists and must have been a member of the same political party as the former member for at least 180 days. First, the relevant political party must nominate between three and five candidates within twenty days of when the seat becomes vacant. Then, the Commissioners for the Counties constituting the legislative district in which the vacancy exists must appoint one of the nominees to fill the vacancy. For legislative districts that encompass multiple counties, each County Commissioner’s vote is weighted according to the number of voters from that county in the legislative district. This process must be completed within thirty days of when a seat becomes vacant. If it is not, the Governor may unilaterally appoint the next member within ten days. While House appointees serve for the remainder of the unexpired term, Senate appointees serve only until the next general election.
On June 28th, Secretary Clarno administered the oath of office to Denyc Boles, former State Representative for House District 19, who was appointed by the Commissioners in Marion and Polk Counties to fill the vacancy in Senate District 10 left by the passing of Senator Jackie Winters. Senator Boles was sworn in at Redmond’s new City Hall, in the former Redmond Union High School building. Given the time constraints identified above, the ceremony took place in Redmond since that is Secretary Clarno’s hometown, and it is where Senator Boles happened to be passing through while visiting her son in Central Oregon. Many friends, family, and elected officials attended the ceremony, including Redmond Mayor George Endicott, Redmond City Councilor Krisana Clark-Endicott (Mayor Endicott’s wife), former gubernatorial candidate and State Representative Knute Buehler, Bend City Councilor Chris Piper, and current State Representatives Jack Zika and Cheri Helt.
On June 3rd, Secretary Clarno appointed Mary Beth Herkert to be the Director of the new Civics Education Program. Having served as the State Archivist for fourteen years, after serving the Archives Division
for many, many years before that, Mary Beth has dedicated so much of her life to Oregon history and to the Secretary of State’s office. She holds a master’s in history and is a Certified Archivist and Certified Records Manager. As Director, Mary Beth is responsible for managing the Kid Governor Program,
ensuring that classrooms all across Oregon have access to the State Constitution, and much more. The Secretary of State’s office is pleased that she will be tackling this new role for Oregon.
Congressional Town Hall
On July 5th, Secretary Clarno attended a town hall meeting with Congressman Greg Walden in Redmond. Congressman Walden represents south, central, and eastern Oregon in the U.S. House of Representatives. During the event, which approximately 300 people attended, Congressman Walden discussed his support for expanding veterans’ services in the rural parts of our State, as well as his work to address the opioid crisis and his advocacy for additional funding to provide better conditions for undocumented immigrants at our southern border. Secretary Clarno appreciates Congressman Walden for recognizing her at the event and, more importantly, his commitment to engaging with his constituents and answering their questions. It is so important that our elected officials be held accountable to the people they represent. The Secretary of State’s office appreciates all those who took the time to be there and make their voices heard.
Japanese Consul General
On June 13th, Japanese Consul General Takashi Teraoka hosted Deputy Secretary Rich Vial and a number of state legislators for a dinner to discuss, among other things, the Japan Exchange and Teaching
(JET) Program. Founded in 1987, JET has sent more than 66,000 participants from around the globe (including nearly 34,000 Americans) to work in schools and serve on boards of education and in government offices throughout Japan. Oregon is one of the main participants in this program, sending dozens of people to take part in this unique experience each year. Having briefly lived in Japan during the early 1970’s, Deputy Secretary Vial was grateful for the opportunity to engage with the Consul and his staff, and to speak a little Japanese!
Ruth Miles, Interim Director of the Corporation Division,
represented the Secretary of State’s office at the 50th Anniversary of Pi-Ume-Sha Treaty Days in Warm Springs on June 29th. Tribal leadership used this occasion to emphasize the importance of their treaty with the United States, signed in 1855, and to tell the story of how Pi-Ume-Sha came to be. This photograph gives you only a small sense of the color and pageantry of this incredible celebration of life and culture. What it doesn't show you is just how many dancers were present, of all ages, and the families and vendors that traveled from out of state to be at this pow wow. “The blessing, drumming, singing, and dancing all came together in a powerful, transformative way,” said Ruth.
Andrea Chiapella, Secretary Clarno’s Legislative Director, represented the Secretary of State’s office at the 30th Restoration Celebration of the Coquille Indian Tribe in Bandon, also on June 29th. In 1954, Congress declared that the Coquille tribe was “terminated.” For many years, the Tribe worked to restore their treaty rights and were finally successful in doing so in 1989. This year marks the 30th anniversary of that restoration, which was celebrated with a pow wow, salmon bake, and potlatch. “It was wonderful to observe the culture and ancestral traditions of the Coquille alongside their tribal members and leaders,” said Andrea. Secretary Clarno was honored to receive a hand-carved paddle, commemorating the event. The Secretary of State’s office hopes these accounts inspire you to learn more about local tribal culture!
As always, it is an honor to serve as your Secretary of State.