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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pay Attention! Portland Business Alliance's Sit-Lie Bill Scheduled for Work Session Tomorrow

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 10:59 AM

The Portland Business Alliance's legislative push for a return to harsher sidewalk rules apparently has a bit of wind at its back. And if that matters to you, and civil rights really should, you ought to pay attention and start speaking out.

The group's specially written bill, HB 2963, has been sent from the House Judiciary Committee, which introduced it, to the the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee. And a work session on the bill is scheduled for 3 pm tomorrow. That's not quite a guarantee the bill will move on. But it does indicate it's likely headed to a public hearing.

The office of committee chair Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, said it familiar with the bill didn't have anyone available for comment this morning. The office of vice chairman Chris Gorsek, D-Gresham, said it wasn't familiar with the bill and declined to comment. Same for the office of vice chairman Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, which, like the House Judiciary Committee last month, suggested I get all my information directly from the PBA.

"We don't have any information on that for you," Bentz's office said. "Call the chief sponsor of the bill."

Update 1:20 PM: Becky Straus, the ACLU of Oregon's legislative director (and top lobbyist on Portland issues), says the session is all about sending the bill back to Judiciary and that the "assignment to Transportation was a mis-assignment.

I have, once again—leaving a message for PBA spokeswoman Megan Doern. Once again.

News of the bill was first reported by the Portland Business Journal. As a refresher, here's what I wrote in last week's paper:

A bill introduced by the House Judiciary Committee, at the urging of the powerful downtown lobbying group, would lift away state rules that limit how far cities can go in deciding who gets to use public sidewalks and who can't. The tightly worded bill, HB 2963, would allow cities to regulate sidewalks as they please.

While the bill's fate is highly uncertain, it raises the dark specter of a return to the city's old sit-lie regime—given its name because it banned otherwise law-abiding people from sitting or lying down on sidewalks. The old law died in June 2009 when Multnomah County Judge Stephen Bushong said it ran afoul of Oregon's constitution.

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