Lawmakers have fewer than 60 days to complete their work in the 2021 legislative session, but now face slowdown tactics in the Senate that jeopardize priority bills still in play. Meanwhile, the Legislative Redistricting Committee will have the extra challenge of squeezing in a sixth congressional district following apportionment announced last week.
Senate Republicans began refusing to waive the constitutional requirement to read bills in full before floor votes, citing their anger at Governor Brown for imposing stricter restrictions on businesses because of rising COVID-19 infections in some counties. That may force Senate President Peter Courtney to reach a deal to end the slowdown, as House Speaker Tina Kotek was forced to do because of similar tactics by House Republicans.
The House deal evened the political representation on the Redistricting Committee and potentially guaranteed at least $2 million in one-time investments from American Rescue Plan funding for every House district. The Senate slowdown comes as a May 14 deadline approaches when most bills must be scheduled for a work session or languish for the session set to end in mid-June. Courtney may be forced to narrow Democratic legislative priorities for the remainder of the session to end the Senate slowdown.
The House is reducing its lengthy backlog of bills, some of which ironically were in the queue in the 2020 short legislative session when Republicans staged a walkout that led to an abrupt, early adjournment. House Bill 2935 was one of those bills, which passed on a 58-0 vote last week. The bill would prohibit public schools and employers from discriminating based on hairstyles.
The Senate slowdown comes as a May 14 deadline approaches when most bills must be scheduled for a work session or languish for the session. Courtney may be forced to narrow Democratic legislative priorities for the remainder of the session to end the Senate slowdown.
Sixth Congressional Seat
Oregon was one of six states to be apportioned an additional congressional seat based on the 2020 Census. Texas picked up two new seats, while seven states, including California, lost seats. As was the case in 2010 when Oregon narrowly failed to gain an additional seat, several states bemoaned their failure to gain a seat or avoiding the loss of one. Apportionment can be challenged in court, but challenges will have to wait until the Census Bureau releases detailed population data in late summer.
Where to carve out a sixth congressional district will be a challenging task with Southern Oregon and Central Oregon as potential rivals as the center of the new district. Republicans will push for a seat that is at least competitive, but they will want to ensure they don’t unwittingly put the sprawling, solidly red Second Congressional District in play. Oregon’s congressional delegation consists of four Democrats and one Republican. Three of the four Democrats are from the Portland area and the fourth is from Eugene.
Police Accountability Bills Pass House
The House passed a bipartisan package of nine policing reform bills aimed at creating more accountability. The bills take steps against bias in policing, report acts of misconduct and create more transparency in policing. This article has a list of the specific bills and their summaries. The measures now head to the Senate where they are expected to pass.
Gun Bill Passes House After Extensive Floor Fight
The House narrowly passed amended Senate gun legislation. The House added safe gun storage provisions to SB 554B, after deleting a provision that would have allowed local governments to ban guns in their buildings. The bill retains a ban on guns in the state Capitol and still gives authority to schools, universities and Portland International Airport to ban guns on their premises. The modifications were made in consultation with Senate backers of the bill. House passage was on a 34-24 vote, with three Democrats opposing it. The amended version of the bill returns to the Senate for concurrence.
Senate Approves Wildfire Victim Housing
The Senate approved a House bill to ease zoning restrictions in urban areas to allow conversion of hotels and motels into emergency shelters and affordable housing for homeless wildfire victims. The legislation, which passed on a 19-8 vote, now goes to the governor’s desk for her signature.
Driver’s License Changes
New Oregon residents can obtain an Oregon driver’s license without passing a state traffic law test under provisions of House Bill 2137 now headed to the Governor’s desk. The bill also extends the grace period for drivers with expired licenses or vehicle registrations, which is in response to long delays in getting appointments at DMV offices.