- Associated Press - Thursday, December 31, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Oregon lawmakers enacted more than 600 bills in the 2015 legislation session. About half of them take effect Jan. 1.

Here are a few of the most consequential new laws that will greet Oregonians in 2016:

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PAID SICK LEAVE

Workers will be entitled to at least a week of sick leave each year. If their employer has at least 10 workers, the leave must be paid. Smaller employers must provide unpaid leave. The bill was backed exclusively by Democrats, who said people shouldn’t feel forced to choose between caring for their health and maintaining their paycheck. The bill’s critics said it would make it harder for businesses to succeed and hire more workers.



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BAN THE BOX

Employers can no-longer ask about criminal records on job applications. They can still ask during a job interview, but the bill’s proponents hope people with convictions will get a chance to build a fuller picture of themselves for a potential employer. They say it’s extremely difficult for people with a criminal record to find work because they’re automatically excluded at an early stage. Critics worry the measure will put businesses at risk of lawsuits.

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BIRTH CONTROL

Oregon becomes the easiest place in the nation to get birth control under two new laws that vastly expanded access to contraception. One measure allows pharmacists to write women a prescription for birth control after they complete a risk-screening assessment, eliminating the need to see a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Another new law requires insurance companies to cover up to 12 months of birth control at a time.

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GAS PUMPS

Oregon and New Jersey are the only states that don’t let drivers fill up their tanks by themselves, but Oregon is easing up on its prohibition. Self-service pumping will now be allowed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., but only in small counties - those will less than 40,000 people. That covers a wide swatch of the state including almost all of eastern Oregon. The bill’s proponents say gas stations in sparsely populated areas can’t afford to stay open all night, making it difficult for motorists to fuel up.

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VOTER REGISTRATION

Oregon becomes the first state to use driver’s license records to automatically register people to vote. Starting Monday, the DMV will send records of eligible Oregonians who sign up for a new driver’s license to state election officials. Registered voters who move will also have their voter information updated when they change their address on their driver’s license.

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MARIJUANA TAXES

Beginning Jan. 4, the state will collect a 25-percent sales tax on marijuana products sold to people without medical cards. That means pot will become one of just three products with a tax applied at the point of sale. The others are hotel rooms and prepaid mobile phone credits. Oregon marijuana stores have been selling tax-free pot in limited quantities since Oct. 1 due to a quirk in the voter-approved initiative that allowed adults to buy the drug from licensed stores.

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