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Shorter list of new laws for 2021

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Last year, Oregonians had to adjust to new laws that required shoppers to bring their own bags and prohibited most plastic straws at restaurants and fast-food stands. And then the pandemic put those laws on hold.

Most years, there are plenty of new laws that begin on Jan. 1. This year, lawmakers spent much of the year dealing with the pandemic, such as passing legislation to distribute personal protection equipment and now, vaccines.

That leaves few big legislative changes. But in a year that put most of our lives in turmoil, fewer new laws may be OK with most of us.

Here’s a rundown of what is changing:

Tobacco-tax increase

A series of cigarette tax increases and a new tax on inhalants began Jan. 1.

The new taxes were approved by Oregon voters in November as part of Measure 108.

Cigarettes are now an extra $2 per pack of 20 or $2.50 per pack of 25. Little cigars must now be sold in packs of 20 or more and taxed as cigarettes.

Vaping and e-cigarettes will be taxed at a rate of 65 percent of the wholesale purchase price.

The cap on the cigar tax rose from 50 cents to $1.

The new tax revenue goes to the Oregon Health Authority to fund health care coverage for low-income families, including mental health services, and public health programs.

Obtaining identification

Oregon no longer requires proof of legal residency to get a driver’s license or state ID card.

However, they’ll still need to provide proof of name, identity and Oregon residency. Those who are unable to provide proof of U.S. citizenship won’t automatically be registered to vote after getting a driver’s license.

And their new license won’t be Real ID-compliant, which the Transportation Security Administration begins enforcing on Oct. 21.

Drug decriminalization

Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize possession of illegal drugs for personal use with the passage of Measure 110 in November.

Penalties will drop for those with small amounts of drugs such as heroin, LSD and methamphetamine. Most of those caught possessing face a $100 fine, which may be waived if the person seeks treatment.

People with felony convictions or two or more past drug convictions may face more serious penalties.

Laws pertaining to the sale or possession of large quantities of drugs remain unchanged.

Measure 110 aims to shift the focus to treatment and recovery services, making them available to anyone who seeks them. Oregon Health Authority will establish a temporary recovery center by Feb. 1 to assess treatment needs over the phone and, once addiction recovery centers open throughout the state on Oct. 1, the assessment will be passed on to them.

Eviction moratorium

An emergency moratorium in 2020 on the eviction of renters has been extended through June 30 for those who lost jobs and can’t pay because of the pandemic. Those who are working but struggling could be eligible for some of the $200 million in rental assistance.

A new addition to the moratorium establishes a $150 million fund that ensures landlords have a way to recover money owed by renters who’ve stopped paying.

Protections for schools

House Bill 4402 provides temporary liability protection for schools that are complying with COVID-19 emergency rules. Schools are not protected if they are not following Oregon Occupational Safety & Health and Oregon Health Authority rules.

Mixed drinks to go

A bill to provide some relief for restaurants affected by COVID mandates includes allowing restaurants to sell and deliver to-go mixed drinks in sealed containers, and caps the fees charged by third-party delivery providers.

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