Oregon's newly minted Gov. Kate Brown made history Monday by signing a bill to register all voting-age Oregonians with DMV-issued IDs to vote. The legislation, which Brown had initiated while still Secretary of State, allows residents to opt-out of voter registration, instead of requiring them to opt in. The move is expected to add about 300,000 voters to the rolls. Brown told reporters at Monday's signing ceremony that the bill would reduce the costs and inconveniences associated with voting, as well as make it more secure. Oregon already has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country, a fact that is often attributed to the state's vote-by-mail system. Newly enrolled voters will receive notification in the mail instructing them how to opt-out or select a party affiliation. Those who don't choose a party will be labeled unaffiliated.
An effort by Oregon legislators to make it more difficult for parents to opt their children out of vaccinations failed before it really got started. Senate Bill 442, which had been introduced this session and sought to remove non-medical exemptions to Oregon law requiring school children to be vaccinated, was met with organized opposition from both lawmakers and parents and eventually withdrawn by its sponsor, family physician and Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton), last Wednesday. A similar bill also failed to take hold in Washington State. But the Pacific Northwest is not alone in trying to clamp down on non-medical exemptions in the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak. According to the Statesman Journal, 15 states have sought this year to strengthen childhood immunization requirements.
Though drought is typically a summertime topic, scientists and others are increasingly sounding the alarm about water shortages in winter. A senior water scientist with NASA recently wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that California has just one year's worth of water left in its reservoirs and there isn't much groundwater left either. Apparently, this January was the driest since 1895, when precipitation was first recorded. Serious stuff for sure, but what does it have to do with Oregon? Just this Tuesday, two Oregon counties—ironically, Lake and Malhuer—joined all but one California county in declaring a drought emergency. And it's only March. And beyond the immediate impacts of drought, Central Oregon LandWatch Executive Director Paul Dewey agrees with a growing concern that Oregon will become a destination for climate change refugees. In other words: Expect more Californians.