COVID-19 case pauses Oregon House session on redistricting
A confirmed coronavirus case caused the Oregon House to cancel its session Tuesday, Sept. 21, pausing the partisan squabbling over passage of Democratic congressional and legislative redistricting plans.
Speaker Tina Kotek said testing would be made available to those in close contact with the individual, who was not named. She also said people who are fully vaccinated need not isolate themselves.
The House session was rescheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Also, all interim legislative committees scheduled for the rest of this week have been canceled, including Senate committees.
Kotek, a Democrat from Portland, had started the session Tuesday morning, but then recessed immediately until 1 p.m. She said then that talks with Republicans were continuing over how to proceed with the plans after two House committees advanced the bills that passed the Senate on Monday.
The Senate adjourned after passing the plans on identical votes of 18-11, all Democrats for and Republicans and the lone independent against. One Republican was excused.
Republicans, who number just 23 in the 60-member chamber, had protested Monday afternoon when Kotek created two committees, instead of one, for the separate plans. The House's 2021 session redistricting committee, and the interim committee, had been split evenly with three Democrats and three Republicans.
One committee advanced the congressional plan, which gives Democrats a shot at five of Oregon's six U.S. House seats, after the lone Republican member boycotted the meeting and the two Democrats passed it. Oregon gained a sixth U.S. House seats as a result of the 2020 Census.
The other committee advanced the legislative plan on a 5-3 vote. Republican Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner, a veteran of three redistricting cycles during his 21 years in the House, joined the four Democrats on the evenly split panel to do so. Smith said he thought it was better for lawmakers to try to craft their own plan rather than leave it to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat who assumes that responsibility if lawmakers fail to do so by Sept. 27.
Senate Bill 881 (congressional) and 882 (legislative) await votes of the full House.
After Kotek adjourned the House, Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby said she agreed with the COVID-19 protocol, which resulted in at least two House shutdowns during the 2021 regular session.
"In the meantime, we will continue ongoing conversations with Democratic leadership on the redistricting process.
"It's in the best interest of Oregonians that we salvage an opportunity to pass fair maps. They deserve fair representation despite the unexpected actions taken by the speaker yesterday.
"We need fair maps for Oregon and that's still possible."
Oregon lawmakers did agree on congressional and legislative maps after the 2010 Census, and the maps were not challenged in court. For congressional redistricting, it was a first since 1981, when Oregon gained a fifth U.S. House seat. For legislative redistricting, it was the first time in a century.
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