Oregon Legislature wrestles big issues ahead of September session
Summer is normally a relatively quiet time in Oregon politics.
But 2021 has been about as abnormal as a year can be. The Legislature adjourned June 26, a day before Salem recorded a record-shattering high temperature of 117 degrees.
Politics remains broiling as well, with a special session in September to decide Oregon's political map for the next decade, electioneering for 2022 gearing up, and the reopening of the Oregon Capitol to the public.
Some of the front-burner issues in the weeks ahead:
Clock running on gun initiative: A gun control bill approved by the Legislature this year becomes law 91 days after the adjournment — Sept. 25. A proposed ballot measure to overturn the restrictions needs to gather 74,680 signatures by Sept. 24 to put the law on hold until a vote in the November 2022 general election.
Veto deadline: The adjournment of the House and Senate also started the countdown on how long Gov. Kate Brown has to veto bills or line-item veto specific appropriations in fiscal legislation. Under the Oregon Constitution, the governor has 30 weekdays to act. Brown's office confirmed Friday that the deadline is Aug. 6.
Capitol reopening: The Oregon State Capitol in Salem will reopen to the public on July 12, though it may look more like a massive home improvement project than a magnificent statehouse. The Capitol won't be very user friendly for a while, with major renovations going on through December 2022.
The public has been kept out of the Capitol since March 2020, when Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, ordered the shutdown at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Legislature has control over the statehouse and for the past 16 months, access has been limited to lawmakers, staff, journalists and a skeleton crew of building workers. The main entrance is fenced off, the House and Senate wings will be closed until winter, the back entrance will be torn-up for another 15 months, and parking will be harder to find with the underground garage shut for an overhaul through the end of next year.
Redistricting road show: Legislative hearings have been limited to virtual testimony during the pandemic, but a pair of key committees will be traveling the state in a "road show" in September.
The House and Senate redistricting committees are expected to receive long-delayed 2020 U.S. Census data in mid-August. The block-by-block numbers will allow the Legislature to re-draw the state's political maps with enough precision to stand up to court challenges.
Lines will shift for the 60 House and 30 Senate seats. New congressional district boundaries will also be up for revision, including where to place Oregon's new Sixth Congressional District, added to Oregon's delegation because of the state's rapid population growth since 2010.
The committees plan on traveling the state for public hearings prior to taking their plans to the Legislature during a special session scheduled to begin Sept. 20. The maps have to go to the Oregon Supreme Court by Sept. 27.
If the Legislature doesn't get the job done in time, a complex plan involving the secretary of state, a special judicial panel and the state Supreme Court will take a shot at sorting out the map mess.
The tentative hearing schedule, with locations to be announced later: Sept. 10, Oregon City/North Clackamas County, 3 p.m. Sept. 11, Central Portland, 9 a.m. Sept. 11, Hillsboro/Beaverton, 3 p.m. Sept. 13, Oregon Capitol, 9 a.m. and 1 and 5:30 p.m.
Election 2022 nearing start: Candidates who want to run for major party and non-partisan offices in the May 2022 primary have to wait until at least Sept. 9 to officially declare their candidacy.
The 2022 elections feature an open governor's seat for the first time since 2010. Also on the ballot: A U.S. Senate seat, six congressional seats, an Oregon Supreme Court judgeship, the state Bureau of Labor and Commissioner, plus at least half of state senate seats and all the state house seats. Added into the mix is a slew of local races: city councils, sheriffs, district attorneys, circuit court judges, county commissioners and more. The deadline to file for candidacy is March 10, 2022.
But fundraising race already started: Early electioneering has started in the form of campaign cash. Candidates don't have to wait for the filing deadline to set up fundraising committees. As of Friday, 42 candidate committees for 2022 were already listed on the Secretary of State website. Incumbents often wait longer to "revise" existing campaign committees to convert to the latest races.
Staying put: Former House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, who unsuccessfully sought the 2018 Democratic nomination for secretary of state, has said she was not interested in running for governor in 2022. Hoyle is among a squadron of top Democrats who could vie to replace Gov. Kate Brown, who can't run for office again because of term limits.
Hoyle made a political comeback in 2018, winning the race for Bureau of Labor & Industries Commissioner. She has said that is where she intends to stay, running for a second term next year. Hoyle's move so far backs up her words. She filed an early campaign finance revision with the Secretary of State listing the commissioner's job as the target of fundraising.
Incumbents all in for Congress: Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and all five of the state's incumbent U.S. House members have taken first steps toward re-election as well. While candidates must file for office with the Oregon Secretary of State, campaign finances are regulated under the Federal Elections Commission. As part of the process of federal fundraising, candidates must submit a "statement of candidacy" for 2022.
All five incumbent House members have filed "statement of candidacy" paperwork for the 2022 election. Wyden has announced his plan to run for re-election and filed a "statement of organization" for next year's race.
Bottom's up: One interesting document included in the 2022 state agency budget funding bills was a month-by-month review of spending at state liquor stores licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
A stand-out stat: Oregonians bought $20 million more in alcohol sold by state stores in December 2020 compared to December 2019. With the pandemic at its height and restrictions on dining throughout the state, Oregon residents took their tipple home. The OLCC listed $82 million in sales to consumers in December 2020. The previous December, sales were $62 million.
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