|Oregon State Capitol|
By Peter Wong
Lawmakers are poised to overhaul how Oregon classifies thousands of sex offenders and how they get on and off a state registry.
The House approved House Bill 2549 on a 48-11 vote Saturday and moved it to the Senate, which will take it up today as lawmakers hope to close their 2013 session.
Lawmakers also gave final approval to the remaining agency budgets — the Department of Human Services, which has the largest workforce, and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. All agencies have temporary spending authority through Aug. 15.
The sex-offender registry bill is among dozens to emerge from the budget committee.
Oregon has almost 20,000 sex offenders, but it largely has been a one-size-fits-all system. About 16,000 have undergone an assessment by the Department of Corrections; 4,000 have not.
The bill would set up three tiers. The first tier would consist of those considered at the least risk of offending, and offenders could get off the list in five years. The second tier would consist of those at moderate risk, but who can petition to be reclassified in 10 years.
The third tier would consist of those most likely to reoffend. For those convicted of specific crimes — first-degree rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration, kidnapping and burglary, the latter committed with other qualifying crimes — those offenders would have some reporting obligations during their lifetimes.
Dec. 1, 2016, is the deadline for the new classification process.
Information about some sex offenders considered “predatory” is posted on a website maintained by the Oregon State Police, which also is in charge of overall sex-offender registration for adults and juveniles.
A group has worked for two years to devise a new registration system.
Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, said the bill strikes a balance between a need to keep tabs on higher-risk offenders and a release of those who have served their punishment and have not committed another crime.
“This is a good bill that is going to help deliver justice,” said Krieger, a retired Oregon State Police trooper.
“What we are going to do is look at the risk to the community and whether or not somebody can get off the sex offender registry,” said Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, the bill’s floor manager. “This gives law enforcement the tools they are asking for to be able to understand who is in the community and what risk they pose.”
Meanwhile, the House gave final approval to the Department of Human Services budget on a 38-21 vote.
Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, said the budget makes additions to benefit children, families, older people and those with disabilities.
There are more slots for employment-related day care and a program moving families from welfare assistance to work, more child-welfare workers, more mental health care for older people and more assistance for people with disabilities.
“For the first time in many years, we’re going beyond just prioritizing cuts and what we can try to preserve,” said Nathanson, co-chairwoman of the human services budget subcommittee.
“This budget is making strategic investments to improve outcomes and to reduce the need for higher-expense, high-cost interventions in the long run.”
But Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, said he had doubts.
“I believe some of the investments in this budget are 100 percent appropriate,” said Freeman, who was subcommittee co-chairman in the 2011 session. “But I believe there are other things in this budget that are unsustainable, and we are spending too much money.”
The total budget for the next two-year cycle is $9.1 billion, $2.3 billion of which comes from the tax-supported general fund and most of the rest from federal grants.
The workforce is about 7,500 full-time employees.
The Senate gave final approval of the budget for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission on a 23-7 vote. The agency, which has a monopoly on sales of hard liquor and enforces state liquor laws, does not draw from the tax-supported general fund.