SALEM — Members of the House Judiciary Committee dusted off a seldom-used rule last week to force a hearing for Bailey’s Bill.
Officially named Senate Bill 649, Bailey’s Bill increases penalties for criminal sexual contact with an underage victim if the offender is the victim’s teacher. Currently, a coach convicted of sexual abuse in the third degree receives harsher penalties than a teacher who commits the exact same crime. The legislation is named for Weston-McEwen High School student Bailey Munck, who testified on March 25 to the Oregon Senate’s judiciary committee, telling of sexual abuse in 2019 during a volleyball road trip by Andrew DeYoe, an English teacher and scorekeeper for the volleyball team.
Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, and Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Milwaukie, introduced and shepherded the bill through the Senate. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full Senate, where it was passed without opposition. The bill then headed to the House, where it seemed a legislative slam dunk.
But last week, committee chair Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, indicated she likely wouldn’t be scheduling a hearing for the bill, essentially stopping its progress. The deadline was Friday, May 14.
So on Wednesday, May 12, Hansell feared the worst. But by the end of the day his worry whipsawed to jubilation. Rep. Ron Noble, R-McMinnville, called to say the nine members of the judicial committee invoked House Rule 8.20 that says if a majority of committee members request a hearing in writing, the chair must schedule a hearing within five days.
“Every single Republican and Democrat on the committee signed a letter requesting a hearing,” Hansell said. “It’s scheduled for (Tuesday, May 18).”
Chief House Clerk Tim Sekerak mused he had never seen the rule invoked in his almost 10 years at the Oregon Capitol. He said Deputy Chief Clerk Obie Rutledge has worked there since the early 2000s and also doesn’t remember the rule being used.
“This is an extremely rare occurrence,” Sekerak said. “When this many members of a committee want to do something, the chair usually works something out.”
Noble, a former McMinnville police chief, said he knew about the rule because he studied the rulebook the same way he studied the criminal code as a law enforcement officer.
“It’s in my nature to get a feel for what’s out there,” he said.
Noble said committee members tried other strategies first. When efforts to urge Bynum to schedule a hearing failed, they finally resorted to House Rule 8.20. Noble said all nine members simply thought the bill deserved to be considered.
“People who we entrust with our youth must be held to a higher standard,” he said. “They have to be held accountable.”
Rep. Bobby Levy, R-Echo, who is shepherding the bill on the House side, felt relief when the bill became unstuck. Bynum had stopped by Levy’s desk to let her know the bill was moving again.
Levy said she had communicated with Bynum about her reasons for holding up the bill, but said, “I’m going to let her speak for herself.”
A request to Bynum by the East Oregonian was not returned by press time. However, Bynum told Oregonian reporter Chris Lehman that she is frustrated about legislation designed to dial back the effects of Measure 11 that is stalled. She expressed no reservations about Bailey’s Bill, but seemed to be using it as a bargaining chip.
“I don’t have any problems with the bill itself,” she told the Oregonian. “I just have a problem with picking and choosing who gets justice.”
Levy is all in. She hopes to meet Munck, now 17, and tell her how proud of her she is.
“It’s criminally wrong that teachers aren’t held to the same high standard as coaches,” she said. “Children are our greatest assets and we need to protect them.”
Levy will testify on May 18, along with Hansell, Munck and others.
While testifying remotely to the Senate Judiciary Committee of the Oregon Legislature in March, the teenager was direct.
“What is the significant difference between a teacher and a coach? Do coaches somehow carry more authority than a teacher might?” she asked the senators. “Coaches and teachers should be prosecuted equally as they both have responsibility for students’ safety and they both have positions of authority and power over their students and players.”
If Munck’s abuser, DeYoe, had been a coach, he might have been convicted of a Class C felony, a crime that carries sentences up to five years in prison and a $125,000 fine. But DeYoe wasn’t technically a coach. Instead, DeYoe, 31, got a lighter sentence. In the plea deal, he forfeited his teaching license, terminated his housing lease in Athena and agreed to have no contact with minors who are not family members. He spent a night in the Umatilla County Jail and will serve five years probation. He wasn’t required to register as a sex offender.
Adding the words “and teachers” to the existing law would close the loophole, said Munck and others who testified that day. This is a simple fix, they said.
“This is a solid bipartisan bill,” Levy said. “It should pass out of the House with full support and go to the governor’s desk to be signed.”