Willamette Professors Testify at State Legislature

by University Communications,

Four law professors recently testified on high-profile bills that lawmakers are considering at the midpoint of the 2013 Legislature.

Professor Keith Cunningham-Parmeter testified at a hearing on several gun-control bills sponsored by state Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland. The bills would expand background checks for gun buyers, prohibit concealed handgun licensees from carrying guns into schools and require gun purchasers to pass a firing range test.

Professor Susan L. Smith also testified at the hearing. “Based on my review as a law professor at Willamette University, these gun safety bills currently pending in the Oregon legislature in no way violate the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Smith said. “All of the legislative proposals on gun safety fit well within the confines of the most restrictive reading of Supreme Court decisions. More than 90 percent of Americans, including Oregonians, support universal background checks.”

Professor Norman Williams, director of the Center for Constitutional Government, testified on a proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution. The amendment, which would have to be referred to a vote of the people, would require that initiative petitions proposing a law or constitutional amendment with fiscal impact would provide a new tax or fee or an increase in the rate of the existing tax or fee to cover immediate and future costs of the law or amendment. Williams also testified on a bill requiring people who use escrow agents to deposit trust funds in interest-bearing accounts, and for the interest to be distributed to public benefit corporations whose purpose is to finance legal services to low-income clients.

Professor Gilbert Carrasco, vice chair of the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs, testified in favor of a bill that would grant temporary driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who have lived in Oregon for at least one year and can prove their identity.

“This is not an immigration issue. This is a public safety issue,” Carrasco said. “State-based policies that continue adversely to affect Hispanic residents are counter-productive in a society that prides itself on equal protection for people of color and those of diverse ethnic backgrounds.”