A revised timeline for drawing the boundaries of Oregon's six U.S. House districts — including the new district Oregon gained as a result of the 2020 Census — has been approved by the Oregon Senate.
Senate Bill 259 moved to the House on a 29-0 vote Thursday, May 13. It would align deadlines for congressional redistricting with the new deadlines that the Oregon Supreme Court set for redrawing legislative districts.
For both legislative and congressional districts, the U.S. Census Bureau has told states that it will be mid to late August before states receive census-block data used to redraw maps to make district populations substantially equal. The normal deadline for delivery of that data is March 30.
"We will have in August the final figures that we will be able to begin on the specifics of mapping," Sen. Bill Hansell, a Republican from Athena who sits on the Senate Redistricting Committee, said. "In order to do that, we have to pass this bill."
Lawmakers in both parties went to the Oregon Supreme Court to seek an extension of a June 30 deadline for legislative redistricting specified in the Oregon Constitution. The court set a new deadline of Sept. 27. The deadline for congressional redistricting is June 30 in state law — which Senate Bill 259 would change, also to Sept. 27.
Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend, the top Republican on the Senate Redistricting Committee, said the bill gives lawmakers first crack at congressional redistricting at the same time as legislative redistricting.
"This is the way the process should work — the majority party and the minority party working together for the good of the people of Oregon," he said. "You have the opportunity to set the deadlines and set the path which we will be on, to try to come up with a plan."
In the Senate, the relevant committee is led by Sen. Kathleen Taylor, a Democrat from Milwaukie, and is split between three Democrats and two Republicans. In the House, as a result of a mid-session compromise, the counterpart committee is split evenly between three Democrats and three Republicans, and the co-chairs are Democrat Andrea Salinas of Lake Oswego and Republican Shelly Boshart Davis of Albany.
Lawmakers anticipate a special session in mid-September if they are able to agree on legislative and congressional districting plans.
If they fail to meet the Sept. 27 deadline — or if Gov. Kate Brown vetoes one or both plans and lawmakers are unable to muster the two-thirds majorities for an override — there are separate processes.
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat, would do legislative redistricting under the Constitution.
A special panel of five retired judges, one from each of the current districts, would oversee congressional redistricting under state law. The panel is empowered to appoint a special master, also a retired judge, to gather information for a congressional plan.
The bill also sets deadlines for appeals of any plans approved by the Legislature, the secretary of state or the special panel — and how the Supreme Court specifies changes before the plans are final. The court is the ultimate decision-maker for both plans.
The bill does not change final deadlines for filing of candidacies for state and federal offices the May 17, 2022, primary election. The final day of filing would remain March 8, 70 days before the election, and the final day of filing voters pamphlet materials is March 10.
The opening day of filing for some state and federal offices would hinge on when the Oregon Supreme Court makes final legislative and congressional district plans after the end of public appeal periods. Under normal circumstances, filing would open on Sept. 9, but neither plan would take effect by that date under the court's revised timetables.
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