History of Oregon - Public Record Laws
Oregon became the 33rd U.S. state in 1859. It is the 9th largest state in the U.S. by size, however it is only the 28th most populated in the country. The size of the state is 98,381 square miles and holds an estimated population of almost 4 million residents. Previously, Oregon’s economy benefited from its natural resources such as timber, agriculture and fishing, however, the state strived to make a transition to more manufacturing such as computers and electronics.
Oregon state government is divided in 3 branches . The Oregon legislative branch comprises of the state’s senate and house of representatives. Elected officials and offices make up the executive branch and the judicial branch being the supreme court, court of appeals, tax court and circuit courts for each county.
There are 36 counties in Oregon with 476 cities. The state gave counties the power to enact local laws regarding county matters and are also the largest governing entity by size within the state. Services from a county include law enforcement, fire and rescue, tax collections, libraries, prosecutors, treasurer and circuit courts as well as other county offices and functions. Cities are governed by the mayor, city manager and council members, finance, municipal courts, public works and other local needs.
One of Oregon’s government duties, local or statewide, is to be and stay transparent to its residents. The Oregon public record law enacted in 1973 gives any member of the public the right to access records from government agencies. Oregon’s freedom of information act does not solely provide information regarding the government and its functions, but also provides that all government agencies which hold records are to make their files and records open to the general public. This includes information such as births, deaths and marriages from the Oregon health authority. Any individual can order an Oregon criminal history record checks from the state police and conduct a background check on a resident in that state. Technology has helped in expediting and making court records convenient to resident with an online access to trials such as criminal and civil cases. State and local licensing is also available for review in cases where a resident is looking for verify credentials of a professional. Many records such as license verifications are free and available online with an instant search. However, due to certain costs in producing and copying and maintaining records, some fees are required by the department. However, the law provides that no heavy burden of cost shall be imposed on the requestor under the FOIA rules.
An online public directory of Oregon’s public resources and government services assists individuals with where to look for the particular information they are seeking. A state agency’s role and name of its department vary from state to state. Oregon’s health authority is responsible in maintaining and providing birth and death records but another state’s agency with the same role may be named the department of health and human services, or the records are kept at county recorders offices. Court systems can also be confusing as in most states as well as Oregon the supreme court is the highest opinion in the state, however in the New York judicial system the supreme courts are the general jurisdiction trial courts below the appellate divisions. Oregon has many government agencies and services that many of its citizens are not aware of, therefore, viewing an expansive directory listing the various departments can reveal what is available to the general public at a glance.