Oregon Criminalizes Everything

Gov. Tina Kotek signs a bill into law that criminalizes everything in Oregon; freed up funds may be given to law enforcement.

After House Bill 4002, a bill that recriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit substances, passed in the Senate on March 1, Oregon lawmakers proposed a bill that not only recriminalizes drugs, but all offenses recognized by the state as “unsightly.” This includes sleeping in public, bringing too much stuff on the bus, busking outside grocery stores and other activities that might be recorded and criticized in videos on social media.  The “I know it when I see it” bill was signed into law by Gov. Tina Kotek on April 1. 

“It’s time we hold Oregonians accountable,” Kotek says. “It’s clear our methods of criminal reform are not succeeding based on the crime running rampant in Portland.” She adds, “We must find a new path.” 

New methods have yet to be established. Kotek says the Legislature will take suggestions through statewide polls, but Oregonians will not get an official vote.

It is undecided what the state will do with the influx of incarcerated Oregonians. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum tells Eugene Weekly in an email that nothing is off the table, but the most likely course of action will be to turn prisons into “voluntary” work camps and make them profitable. 

“We don’t yet know what to do with the money the prisons would no longer need,” Rosenblum says, adding she will support giving it to state law enforcement and the excess to the federal government to help fund the military. 

“Whatever we do, we will not, under any circumstances, use it to fund Oregon’s K through 12 schools,” Rosenblum says.

Many details still need to be settled, but Speaker of the Oregon House Julie Fahey says in an April 1 press release that the Legislature will work them out next session. “First, laws are passed. Later, we figure out the logistics. Our best work is done when we just wing it,” Fahey says.

A proposed amendment to the bill that would have set criminal penalties for state lawmakers who fail to show up for work was shot down when Republican legislators boycotted a hearing on the measure. 

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