Lawmakerts are still working to determine how to continue to respond to the COVID pandemic and its economic and health effects. The Emergency Board met Friday to allocate additional COVID-19 relief funds, with a focus on distributing resources to local governments. Next week, on Wednesday, May 20th, state economists will release an updated revenue forecast, with income tax, lottery and gas tax revenues expected to be in steep decline. Already expecting major deficits, the Governor has asked agencies to plan to cut spending by approximately 17% for the remainder of the biennium. OFS is closely monitoring the plans for natural resource agencies and potential limitations of programs related to our membership. While legislators and the Governor continue to explore the scope and timing of a special session, the legislature will hold “virtual” committee meetings in late May and early June. The House is scheduled to meet remotely for interim committee days May 22-29, with the Senate meeting June 1-5.
Governor Brown issued re-opening guidance and authorized 31 of Oregon’s 36 counties to begin Phase 1 of re-opening, including allowance for restaurants, hair salons and other businesses to start operating with safety measures in place in those counties. The three Metro-area counties (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington) have yet to apply, and Marion and Polk counties are not yet re-opened. Still, in every county small retail shops, strip malls and a variety of other industries that have been on hold will be allowed to start back up, even where the counties are yet to meet hospitalization and tracing metrics. OFS is engaging with various agencies and work groups on sector specific re-opening issues. Of greatest concern are Oregon-OSHA developed restriction for agriculture, that at this time are not consistent with other industry sectors. We will continue to work with our partner organizations and state leaders to address these problems.
Finally, don’t forget that Tuesday, May 19th is the Primary Election deadline. It’s too late to mail your ballot, so if you plan to vote this election, you must drop it off at an official collection site before Tuesday evening at 8 PM. From a statewide perspective, the most interesting race is the race for Secretary of State, a position that may play a critical role in redistricting next year. Throughout the state, many races will shape the legislature, as both Republicans and Democrats vie for a large number of open-seats; many in districts where the winner of the primary will almost certainly win the general election due to uneven registration numbers. OFS will continue throughout the election cycle to meet with candidates and determine how to support those committed to the production of food and fiber throughout the state.