Virtual hearings set for four Oregon special session bills
The public can weigh virtually in on the four bills that the Oregon Legislature will take up at its third special session of the year scheduled Monday, Dec. 21.
A committee of the legislative leadership and six other members will meet from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. The Saturday session is planned if public testimony must be carried over from Thursday, so participants are advised to sign up Thursday if they want to testify virtually.
The Capitol itself has been closed to the public since March 18, although lawmakers met for special sessions June 24-26 and Aug. 10 under protocols to ensure safety during the coronavirus pandemic, such as physical distancing and mask wearing.
The bill drafts have only Legislative Counsel numbers, which will be assigned regular bill numbers when the special session opens Monday. They will be the only bills considered during the actual session, unless the committee adds something during its meetings.
• A bill to allow to-go cocktails in sealed containers — the limit is two cocktails per "substantial" food item — and limit fees that third-party platforms such as websites or mobile apps can charge restaurants for deliveries and takeouts. The provisions of this bill would end 60 days after the governor declares an end to the pandemic emergency, going back to March 8.
• A bill to extend the moratorium on residential evictions, now scheduled to expire Dec. 31, and create a compensation fund for landlords willing to forgo 20% of past-due rents by tenants. The House Committee on Housing heard an earlier version of this bill on Nov. 23; there have been changes.
The proposed landlord compensation fund would start at $150 million and other tenant-based rental assistance at $50 million. Both would be overseen by the state Housing and Community Services Department.
• A bill to provide limited liability from pandemic-related lawsuits for public schools and other educational institutions if they follow state COVID-19 guidelines. Exceptions would be for lawsuits alleging discrimination or challenging wages and hours.
• A bill to allocate $400 million to the state emergency fund, which the legislative Emergency Board can spend as follows: $400 million for expenses related to the pandemic, such as testing, contact tracing and vaccine distribution; $100 million for expenses related to the Labor Day wildfires; and $100 million for other purposes.
The Legislature's second special session on Aug. 10 allocated $200 million for the emergency fund to the E-Board, but Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said only about $17 million remains. He said the E-Board hopes to retain about $200 million that can be carried over to the 2021 regular session, which starts Jan. 11. The board exists only between sessions of the full Legislature.
The Legislature rarely meets in December after general elections, although lawmakers did convene for a one-day session on Dec. 14, 2012, to consider a tax break that then-Gov. John Kitzhaber requested to retain the world headquarters of sportswear giant Nike outside Beaverton. The most recent special session that went into December was back in 1963, although the session took a nine-day break after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22.
Members of the special-session committee are Senate: President Peter Courtney; Republican Leader Fred Girod of Lyons; Sens. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland; James Manning Jr., D-Eugene and Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer. House: Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland; Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby; Reps. Teresa Alonso León, D-Woodburn, Julie Fahey, D-Eugene and Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass.
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