Several Oregon House committees will see changes in leaders and members in what may be a preview of the 2023 session, assuming Democrats maintain a majority in the chamber.
Perhaps the most significant involves Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, who will relinquish her leadership of the Judiciary Committee and take over a renamed Economic Development and Small Business Committee. Bynum is in her third term.
Rep. Jason Kropf, a first-term Democrat from Bend, will lead the Judiciary Committee.
The Housing Committee will be led by Rep. Maxine Dexter, D-Portland. She will succeed Julie Fahey, a Democrat from Eugene who became majority leader at the start of the 2022 session but had retained her position as committee chair. Fahey will remain on the committee.
These and other changes to interim committees were announced Friday, June 17, by Dan Rayfield, a Democrat from Corvallis who became House speaker at the start of the 2022 session.
Interim committees are scheduled to meet only two more times — Sept. 21-23 and Dec. 7-9 — before the legislators elected Nov. 8 (plus 14 senators in mid-term) begin the 2023 session on Jan. 9. But the committees will have the chance to shape bills for introduction in the new session.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the current House, 37-23. At least 21 seats will have new members; 24 Democratic and 15 Republican incumbents — including three appointees in each party — are seeking new terms.
The largest recent turnover of House seats was in 1973, when 27 new members took office after Oregon's conversion to single-member districts in 1972. Other large turnovers in the House took place during the term-limits era: 25 in 1999, excluding one returning member and one coming from the Senate, and 24 in 2001, excluding one returning member.
Bynum had led Judiciary, one of the House's busiest committees, starting with the 2021 session. She also had been deeply involved in drafting bills to change Oregon police practices during a June 2020 special session that Gov. Kate Brown called in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder by a police officer in Minneapolis. The murder spurred racial justice protests nationwide.
In addition to the full committee, Bynum led a subcommittee that produced more legislation affecting policing practices in 2021.
Rayfield said Bynum, a third-term member who also bid unsuccessfully for the speakership in 2021 and 2022, requested the change.
"I thank Rep. Bynum for her years of work as Judiciary chair and look forward to what she will accomplish in this new role," he said in a statement. "Her background as a local business owner makes her a natural fit for this 'chairship.'"
Bynum is a small-business owner, but not a lawyer. She will take over what had been the Economic Recovery and Prosperity Committee. Its chairman was Rep. John Lively, D-Springfield, who will hold the No. 2 position on the renamed committee.
"I am honored to bring my skills as an electrical engineer, local business owner, and proud Ducks football mom to bring Oregon to the forefront of consideration for business growth in our state," Bynum said in a statement. "Supporting small businesses, anchor industries like semiconductors, sports, manufacturing, food production, the arts and the growth of the middle class has always been a part of my desire to pass opportunity on."
Bynum will remain as a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Kropf's appointment will give Judiciary its first lawyer chair since Jennifer Williamson of Portland led the committee in 2019. For much of the past two decades, non-lawyers have led that committee.
Fahey acknowledged that when she became majority leader earlier this year, she would have to leave as chair of the Housing Committee, which she led in 2021. She remained chair during the 2022 session, but the position goes to Rep. Maxine Dexter, a first-term Democrat from Portland. Fahey will be in the No. 2 position, and also will lead the Rules Committee, which traditionally goes to the majority leader.
Details are still in the works, but Oregon's need for housing is likely to be a focus of the 2023 session.
Other changes announced by Rayfield:
• Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, will leave all his committee assignments. He is not seeking reelection.
• Business and Labor: Added Nathan Sosa, D-Hillsboro, a 2022 appointee to the House.
• Early Childhood: Added James Hieb, R-Canby, a 2022 appointee to the House.
• Health Care: Added Rob Nosse, D-Portland, as chair; Christine Goodwin, R-Roseburg, and Travis Nelson, D-Portland, as members. Rachel Prusak, D-West Linn, and Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, will remain as members. Prusak, who was chair, is not seeking reelection; Salinas, who was No. 2, is running for the 6th District seat in the U.S. House.
• Housing: In addition to Dexter as chair, Wlnsvey Campos, D-Aloha, remains as a member but loses the No. 2 position; she is running for the Senate. Chris Hoy, D-Salem, was removed; he won the May 17 primary for mayor of Salem.
• Human Services: Added Lisa Reynolds, D-Portland, as chair. Anna Williams, D-Hood River, and Ricky Ruiz, D-Gresham, will remain as members; Williams, who was chair, is not seeking reelection, but will be the No. 2 member in place of Ruiz.
• Rules: In addition to Fahey as chair, Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, will hold the No. 2 position. Barbara Smith Warner of Portland, the former majority leader, will remain as a member; she is not seeking reelection.
• Joint Ways and Means (budget) and Emergency Board, human services subcommittee: Added Andrea Valderrama, D-Portland, as House co-chair to succeed Nosse, who is leading the Health Care and Behavioral Health committees.
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