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Senate works to clear one crime off the books

If this bill passes, you won't risk jail time by hauling 21 hay bales without the proper documentation.

EO MEDIA GROUP - The Oregon Senate has voted to repeal the crime of illegal hay hauling.There's no doubt this has been a busy, often challenging legislative session for the people who work in and around the Capitol.

Lawmakers have been massaging a proposal intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for months. Another group of lawmakers is working on a $2 billion education funding package, which businesses would be taxed to pay for. Bills on housing, campaign finance and public pension reform are percolating as well.

At least some things are simple.

Here's a little-known bit of trivia that likely won't be useful for much longer: Oregon has a criminal statute against unlawfully transporting hay. It's a class-C misdemeanor — the least serious category of crime under state law, but a crime nonetheless.

Anyone driving down a public highway with more than 20 bales of hay could, at least hypothetically, be pulled over by a state trooper, arrested and charged with unlawfully transporting hay, unless they are carrying signed documentation detailing how much hay they're hauling, what type of hay it is, when it was purchased, how much it was purchased for, where it was loaded, how it is packaged and more.

With just 57 words, Senate Bill 509 repeals the statute.

"This bill is one of the shortest ones ever," said state Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, who is a sponsor.

The law was originally intended to discourage hay thieves. But thanks to advances in farm technology, modern hay bales typically weigh about half a ton, making them much harder to steal than it was when they usually weighed less than 100 pounds, according to the Oregon Farm Bureau, which is pushing the bill.

The statute is little-known and seldom enforced, but hay truck drivers still occasionally report being pulled over and questioned over it, the bureau said. Its representatives argue SB 509 "would reduce excessive regulation and prevent Oregon farmers and ranchers from being cited as criminals for hauling hay."

It seems state legislators agree. The bill unanimously passed the Senate last month, and on Thursday, it flew through the House Judiciary Committee.

"I think it's a great bill," Rep. Sherrie Springer, R-Scio, said before the unanimous vote.

Its next stop is the House floor, where it seems unlikely to face much opposition.

"I actually did hear one argument against this bill," Sen. Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, said on the Senate floor.