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SB 1553-B Passes in the Oregon Legislature!
Mar 06, 2024

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 757 and the Oregon Transit Association (OTA) applaud the Oregon Legislature for the passage of Senate Bill 1553 B, which adds the use of illicit drugs on public transit vehicles in Oregon to the offenses punishable under the crime of Interfering with Public Transportation. The organizations express their thanks to the bipartisan group of lawmakers who have sponsored this bill and helped move it forward to passage, and they now urge Gov. Tina Kotek to sign the legislation, which would become effective Jan. 1, 2025. 

If signed into law, SB 1553 B will make illicit drug use on transit vehicles a Class A Misdemeanor, which carries a maximum of one year in jail with a possible fine of up to $6,250. The bill also classifies this new charge as a drug-designated misdemeanor, allowing individuals convicted of the crime to access state-funded treatment in many instances. Senate Bill 1553 represents an important step forward in improving safety for transit drivers and riders by enabling law enforcement to prioritize responses to illicit drug use on transit and sending a clear message that transit vehicles are a drug-free zone.

"Transit vehicles are a unique type of enclosed public space where illicit drug use must not be tolerated," said Derek Hofbauer, Board President for the Oregon Transit Association. "Our transit systems are vital to the livability of the Oregon communities they serve. By supporting this legislation, lawmakers are giving transit agencies and law enforcement a necessary tool to improve safety for those on board transit.”

"This is an important step in supporting transit operators and other field staff as they work day in and day out to provide a public service in Oregon," said Shirley Block President of Amalgamated Transit Union 757. "Addressing the use of illicit drugs on board our buses and trains will create a safer work environment for our union transit workers and the riders who rely upon them.”

During the legislative process, SB 1553-B was amended in the House Rules Committee to narrow the applicability of the legislation to transit vehicles only. The original version of the bill would have applied to both transit vehicles and transit stations. However, House Bill 4002, which also passed during the 2024 legislative session, heightens repercussions and increases the availability of addiction services for those charged with drug possession and public drug use, which would include transit stations and stops.

Making public transit and our communities safer

Oregon’s transit agencies contribute to community revitalization and economic development while reducing traffic congestion and addressing local, regional, and statewide climate action goals. Senate Bill 1553 B is a piece of the coordinated statewide effort to address the widespread open use of illicit drugs in public spaces that has negatively impacted Oregon communities. This legislation will help to make public transit safer and more accessible to the benefit of everyone, particularly the families, essential workers, high school students, individuals with disabilities, and other Oregonians who depend on transit as a lifeline to jobs, education, and health care.

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