SALEM — A bill that would do away with mandatory minimum sentences for all crimes except murder in Oregon remains alive in the Legislature but is likely to undergo revisions that could include winnowing the list of applicable crimes.
Chief sponsor Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, said on Tuesday, April 13, that Senate Bill 401 has been sent to the Senate Rules Committee while a committee comprised of lawmakers, prosecutors, crime victims and others discusses potential changes.
Prozanski has said he is open to keeping mandatory sentences for sex offenses.
At this point, it appears SB 401 is the leading Measure 11 reform bill this session.
Another bill, Senate Bill 191, would have allowed Measure 11 offenders the chance to get out on early release credits. The bill was the work of a grassroots organization, Time Does Not Fit the Crime, made up of people with Measure 11 convictions and their families.
Prozanski, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a prosecutor, said the proposal lacked the broader political support it needed to remain in play this session.
SB 401 would allow prisoners to earn credit for early release through participating in prison programs, but it would apply only to offenders going forward.
Prozanski said the Measure 11 reform that had been part of a larger bill, House Bill 2002, have been removed from that proposal.
A fourth bill, House Bill 2172, had been put forth by Gov. Kate Brown. Prozanski said the governor’s office agreed that SB 401 would be the main vehicle this session for mandatory minimum sentencing changes.
He said he remains hopeful that SB 401will advance.
The bill is the most significant Legislative challenge since the passage of Measure 11 in 1994.
Proponents of the change say mandatory minimum sentences are outdated and disproportionately impact people of color. Prosecutors and some crime victims argue that mandatory minimums ensure defendants are treated consistently and serve every day of their sentences.
Any reduction to voter-approved sentencing requirements requires a two-thirds supermajority vote of each chamber.
That means proponents of changing the law will need all 37 Democrats and three Republicans in the House and all Democrats and two Republicans in the Senate to enact reform.