The Oregon Democrats continue to maintain their supermajority in the state legislature, outnumbering Republicans 37-23 in the House and 18-12 in the Senate. The Democrats with their 3/5ths majorities held the power to pass revenue-related bills without Republican support.
The past legislative session which adjourned on Saturday, June 26, was certainly a long and strange journey. In the words of Jerry Garcia, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
The Covid-19 pandemic swept across our state and nation necessitating emergency measures not seen since the last century. Governor Brown issued her statewide “Stay Home, Save Lives” executive order in March of 2020. Non-essential businesses were forced to close, schools shuttered, unemployment skyrocketed, the incidence of homelessness dramatically increased, and we all made personal sacrifices to keep our community safe.
Our lawmakers this session would have plenty of work if they only had to contend with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but there would be more to come. Labor Day 2020 would begin one of the worst fire seasons in our state’s history with approximately 1.07 million acres burned, the second-most on record. The cost to fight the fires was staggering at $354 million.
Further, the horrific death of George Floyd captured on video would spur a racial justice movement which spread across the nation. The movement, while mostly peaceful here in Eugene erupted into violence last July as tensions rose resulting in a riot declaration and damages to downtown. The racial justice movement has sparked a statewide discussion on community equity, racial justice, and the future of policing.
In a session of firsts, the Oregon House of Representatives voted to expel Rep. Mike Nearman for his decision to help demonstrators, some of them armed, enter the closed Capitol during pandemic related restrictions. Rep. Nearman currently faces two criminal charges as a result of his actions.
Social distancing forced legislators and the public to meet virtually through online platforms, such as, Zoom, as the public was barred from the Capitol. While this online meeting format allowed people to testify from the comfort of their homes or offices, it had some unintended negative consequences making this one of the least transparent legislative sessions. It was difficult for government affairs professionals to get accurate information on legislation. Meetings normally conducted face to face disappeared entirely. The time to react to a bill change was non-existent, making this a truly challenging session.
Legislative Report from Oregon Business and Industry (PDF)
Oregon State Chamber of Commerce Legislative Report Card (PDF)
Each year, OSCC presents its Legislative Priorities, which represents the legislative priorities of Oregon’s local business communities as represented by the 80 local chambers of commerce members of the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.