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Bedbugs & Other Issues

<<< Oregon legislators considering bills on bedbugs, ‘vexatious litigants,’ driverless cars and other quirky topics >>>

 The Oregonian… February 5, 2013 By Yuxing Zheng,

Need to get to the store but can’t drive or take public transportation?  That might not be a problem once driverless cars become popular in Oregon.  Before that happens, Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, wants the state to get ahead and set up a way to test — and eventually approve — these vehicles for Oregonians…  “I think people think it’s a little bit George Jetson-ish, but it’s a serious issue,” Gelser said about her bill. “Technology is really offering new tools for people to be more self-sufficient. I want us to be one of the first states to get these on the road and to make it available to citizens who need it.”

Gelser’s robocars bill is among a smattering of quirky, off-beat or uniquely Oregon bills that have been introduced this legislative session, which got under way Monday. In between balancing a $16.5 billion budget and finding more money for schools, lawmakers will also consider bills dealing with bedbugs, unlabeled onions, “vexatious litigants,” and Boring and Dull matters. Some of these bills could become law. Others are dead-on-arrival.

The bedbugs bill has a public hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. today. House Bill 2131 would exempt from public disclosure the locations of where pesticides have been applied to combat bedbugs. It would also allow people who own or lease the site to remain anonymous.  Public health officials would have access to that information. The goal is to encourage more people to report infestations by offering them some privacy, said Steve Keifer, a tourist facilities specialist with the Oregon Health Authority who handles bedbug complaints for hotels and other licensed lodging sites.  “If you have a bedbug outbreak in your house, do you want everybody to know your name?” Keifer asked. “It would just ensure their privacy rights are protected.”

Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, is hoping to solve another pesty problem: “vexatious litigants.” House Bill 2520 would make it harder for a person who has lost five or more civil proceedings without an attorney in the past seven years to pursue further lawsuits. A “vexatious litigant” would be required to put up bond money that, if the person lost in court, would go toward the defendant’s attorney fees.  Thompson sponsored the bill on behalf of a constituent who is an attorney. He hopes it will streamline clogged courts and “get the nonsense out of the system.”  “Everybody gets their day in court,” Thompson said, “but how many days in court do they need before somebody says ‘This is stupid’?”

There are also bills dealing with marijuana, alcohol and tobacco.

Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, seeks to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of illnesses that qualify for medical marijuana. A public hearing on Senate Bill 281 is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday.

Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland, is back with legislation to amend the state Constitution to permit sobriety checkpoints. The Oregon Supreme Court previously ruled such checkpoints unconstitutional.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland,  proposes to reclassify nicotine as a Schedule 3 controlled substance, like ketamine, and require prescriptions to obtain cigarettes and tobacco. Unlawful possession or distribution would be punishable by up to a year in jail, a $6,250 fine or both.

Greenlick and Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, also want to impose a tax on the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages.  Neither bill is likely to pass.

Two agriculture bills stand out as headscratchers to the average reader. One would eliminate requirements for permits to transport unlabeled onions 50 or more miles. Another would repeal laws regarding the inspection of prune packers and the grading of prunes.

State officials haven’t required onion permits or inspections of prune packers for years, and both bills are intended as “housekeeping” measures to get the obscure rules off the books, said Bruce Pokarney, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which requested the bills.

Then there are the bills that could only exist in Oregon. Senate Bill 127 would allow drivers to pump their own gas during mandatory, emergency evacuations. (Though, would lifelong Oregonians who’ve never driven out of state know how to pump their own gas?) That bill is scheduled for a March 7 public hearing.

Several Clackamas County legislators propose to designate Aug. 9 as Boring and Dull Day, in honor of the “twinning” of Dull, a village in the Perthshire area of Scotland, and Boring, the unincorporated Clackamas County community.

And come Feb. 14, forget Valentine’s Day. Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, wants to designate it as Oregon Statehood Day to celebrate the state’s birthday. Perhaps confectioners can create some green, heart-shaped sweets for the occasion?

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