Max Denning

The 2019 Oregon legislative session opened last Tuesday, and in the first week, more than a thousand bills were introduced by legislators. With Democrats holding a super majority in both the state house and senate, Republicans may find it difficult to pass laws they sponsor.

That isn’t deterring Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove), who is the chief sponsor of nine bills. Barreto, the owner of Barreto Manufacturing in La Grande, said he believes his bills will have some success.

One of Barreto’s priorities is working to eliminate Oregon’s estate tax. Currently, any estate worth more than $1 million is taxable. The estate tax is graduated, beginning at 10 percent and climbing to 16 percent for estates worth more than $8.5 million. Barreto noted Oregon is one of only 15 states with an estate tax.

“There have been issues with farm succession and businesses, and the estate tax hurts all of that,” he said.

Barreto said with lots of talk of revenue reform currently in the legislature, tax reform is a good fit, and he would like it to be on the docket.

Among Barreto’s priorities are two bills on wolf and elk depredation. His first proposed bill would increase the fund for wolf depredation efforts to $800,000. He would also task the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with counting wolves and give funding commensurate with the number of wolves. He also said the elk population is growing significantly in Eastern Oregon.

“The number of (elk is) up in Union County and the La Grande area .... and they’re starting to affect farmers and ranchers,” Barreto said.

Barreto’s bill regarding elk depredation has not been officially proposed yet.

Barreto also co-sponsored a bill that would create the crime of “threatening to commit a terroristic act.” The proposal is a result of conversations between Barreto and La Grande Chief of Police Brian Harvey. The conversations stem from the 2016 arrest of two teenagers for allegedly plotting a mass shooting at La Grande High School. One of the students was originally charged with five counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder. The second individual was charged as a juvenile and therefore the details of his case are not public.

The older student ended up reaching a settlement where he pleaded guilty to a pair of first-degree disorderly conduct charges: a Class C felony and a Class A misdemeanor.

Both of the crimes proposed by the bill are Class C felonies with the maximum punishment of five years imprisonment. The crime of “threatening to commit a terrorist act” is described as “the person intentionally causes fear or terror to another person by conveying a threat to cause unlawful serious physical injury or death to two or more persons, one of whom is the other person, in a public place.” In addition, a reasonable person must believe the threat was likely to be carried out.

The details of the case of the alleged threatened school shooting and the arguments made by Harvey were disputed by the defendant’s lawyer, Wes Williams, who is now a circuit court judge. Williams said the police did not thoroughly investigate the defendant.

Williams said many of the defendant’s words, either on social media or at school, were “taken out of context” or were direct quotes from popular web series or videos.

See complete story in Monday's Observer