The Oregon legislature is currently meeting virtually for “legislative days”, whispering about a special session, and careening towards the 2021 session without much clarity as to how business will be conducted next year. Over the course of this week and next, legislative committees are holding online public hearings to get updates from state agencies, discuss potential policy proposals, and hear from various stakeholders. High on this list this year are the pandemic, wildfire and equity and inclusion.
At the same time, legislative leaders and the Governor continue to haggle over whether to call a special session before Christmas. Several debates rage. First, whether the Governor should invoke the yet-to-be used Article X-A provision of Oregon’s Constitution, which would allow for session to be held “electronically” instead of in person so long as the state is experiencing a “catastrophic disaster.” Secondly, legislators are talking about the scope of any impending special session and the list of items on the docket. At the top of the list is the extension of the moratorium on evictions, and some accompanying funds for landlords who are eating those costs. Maybe of great importance to many Oregonians this year is the potential to authorize “cocktails on the go.”
We are also rapidly approaching the January 19th start date for the 2021 session. This week’s legislative days hearings are revealing several issues coming next year and the first round of bill drafts must be submitted by Dec. 21st and will likely be published around Jan. 11th. At this point, we expect the legislature to convene officially in-person, but then pivot to an online hearing and committee process, with legislators returning in person to the Capitol at a later date to formally start taking floor votes. The public, lobbyists and trade organizations like ours are carefully watching to ensure the process allows public input and an appropriate level of consideration for bills before passage.
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