“This was a serious, serious breach of trust.”

House Speaker Tina Kotek, reporting that Rep. Mike Nearman let right-wing protesters in the Oregon Capitol during the Dec. 21 Special Session riot.

Organizational Days Kick 2021 Legislative Session

Safety concerns are paramount with dual threat of COVID-19 and violence

Masked legislators will convene at the State Capitol for organizational days January 11 for swearing-in ceremonies and other business. Gov. Brown’s State of the State address will be postponed. While journalists and staff are allowed inside the building, members of the public are not, due to safety concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. This poli- cy provoked a riot during the third special session on December 21 and legislators re- port being apprehensive not only about protection from COVID, but personal safety for them and their staff. These have been magnified by the assault on the U.S. Capitol Building and leadership has developed a plan to address the heightened risks. This will include mandatory trainings on building security protocols, including potential evacua- tions.

Oregon’s Capitol building will not be open to the public until Marion County COVID-19 infection rates fall below the high-risk threshold. It’s considered an “extreme risk” county at the present time as COVID cases surge. Legislative leadership will meet weekly starting in February, to assess Capitol risk level. The session starts Monday, January 19.

2021 Senate Membership Changes

A resignation and an appointment – Sen. Alan Olsen, R-Canby, announced his resignation this week. Kayse Jama, the executive director of Unite Oregon was appointed to replace the senate seat held by Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, the new secretary of state. Sen. Jama, a refugee from Somalia, is said to be the first Muslim member of the Oregon Senate.

Virtual Session and public participation

Committee hearings and work sessions will be online – Rules will be adopted by the House and Senate that will allow for public hearings to be held virtually and that includes work sessions (votes) on bills. Members will be required to be in-person for votes on the House or Senate floor.

Legislative Bills

Over 3,000 bills expected to be introduced this session; no bill hearings week one – Pre-session filed bills will be available on the Oregon Legislature’s website as early as Sunday, the day before the legislative session. There will be no bill hearings the first week of session as legislators and the public adapt to the virtual session. Expect state agency overviews and informational hearings.

Major Health-Related Issues

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for legislation to improve Oregon’s health system. Here are some issues that will take center stage in the coming weeks.

  • Telehealth pay parity
  • Out-of-network (surprise) billing reimbursement
  • Primary care payment reform
  • Behavioral health parity compliance
  • Decriminalization of mental illness
  • Vaccinations (removal of non-medical exemptions to attend school or daycare)
  • Safe storage of firearms
  • Suicide Prevention

The Game of Session For those who are new to the legislative process or need a refresher, here’s a quick rundown of the rules, players and stakes.

  • Big Session vs. Short Session 2021 is a long session In odd-numbered years, legislators begin the regular (as opposed to the short 35-day session in even-numbered years) session. This year it begins January 19 and lasts ap- proximately six months. The constitutional date of adjournment is June 27, but that can be extended on a day-by-day basis by a majority vote.
  • The Key Players Democrat Gov. Kate Brown is in her final term and will be focused on her legacy. While pandemic and health equity concerns are paramount, her administration will be focused on improving Oregon’s behavioral health system.
  • Senate Leadership
    • Senate President Peter Courtney
    • Senate Democratic Leader Rob Wagner
    • Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod
  • House Leadership
    • House Speaker Tina Kotek
    • House Democratic Leader Barbara Smith Warner
    • House Republican Leader Christine Drazen

Current Legislative Membership – The House and Senate have Democratic supermajorities. The Senate President and the House Speaker designate the committee chairs and members. There are sixteen in- coming freshmen to the House this session and three, soon to be four, new state senators.

  • Senate 18-11 (Resignation of Sen. Alan Olsen)
  • House 37-23

Key Committees

House Behavioral Health Committee: Tawna Sanchez, Chair, Raquel Moore-Green, Vice Chair. Rob Nosse, Vice Chair Cedric Hayden, John Lively, Lily Morgan, Lisa Reynolds, Andrea Salinas

House Early Childhood Committee: Karin Power, Chair, Sheri Schouten, Vice Chair, Jack Zika, Vice Chair John Lively, Courtney Neron, Lisa Reynolds, Suzanne Weber, Boomer Wright

House Health Care Committee: Rachel Prusak, Chair, Cedric Hayden, Vice Chair, Andrea Salinas, Vice Chair Teresa Alonso Leon, Wlnsvey Campos, Maxine Dexter, Christine Drazan, Raquel Moore-Green, Ron Noble, Sheri Schouten

House Subcommittee on COVID-19 Maxine Dexter, Chair Cedric Hayden, Vice Chair Wlnsvey Campos, Raquel Moore-Green, Andrea Salinas

Joint Ways and Means – Human Services Subcommittee Rep. Rob Nosse, Co-Chair, Sen. Kate Lieber, Co-Chair Rep. Wlnsvey Campos, Rep. Cedric Hayden, Rep. Duane Stark, Rep. Anna Williams Sen. Tim Knopp, Sen. Sara Gelser

Senate Health Care Sen. Deb Patterson, Chair, Sen. Tim Knopp, Vice Chair
Sen. James Manning Jr., Sen. Dallas Heard, Sen. Lee Beyer

Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Recovery Sen. Sara Gelser, Chair, Sen. Dick Anderson, Vice Chair Sen. Kate Lieber, Sen. Art Robinson, Sen. Kathleen Taylor

Senate Education Sen. Michael Dembrow, Chair Sen. Chuck Thomsen, Vice Chair Sen. Sara Gelser, Sen. Art Robinson, Sen. Chris Gorsek

Universe of Bills

In a long session, up to 3,000 bills are introduced. Over 2,800 bills were pre-session filed, meaning that legislators are getting a head start on their work. Legislators will be able to introduce unlimited new legislation until February 23. After that, each legislator gets one or two priority bills (depending on chamber rules) to use at any time during the session.

The Clock

Session starts on Monday, January 19, and the pace will be frenetic until the policy committees close on May 28.

Here are the major session deadlines:

Tuesday, February 23 – Bill introduction deadline
Friday, March 19 – Original Committee ‘Work Session’ posting deadline Tuesday, April 13 – Original Committee ‘Work Session’ deadline
Friday, May 14 – 2nd Chamber ‘Work Session’ posting deadline
Friday, May 28 – 2nd Chamber ‘Work Session’ deadline
Friday, June 18 – Leadership targets this date for Sine Die
Sunday, June 27 – Constitutional Sine Die

The Stakes

The state will grapple with a $2 billion budget deficit against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

The Wild Card(s)
When will the Republicans walk out?
Senate Republicans walked out twice in 2019 and Republicans in both chambers walked in 2020 bringing the short session to a halt with only three bills passed. The question now is not “if” but when.


Oregon’s Lieutenant Governor?
Rep. Nearman lets protesters into Oregon Capitol
Oregon lawmaker’s applauded by U.S. Capitol violence
Rep. Janelle Bynum ends speaker bid but leaders pledge changes

For more information about the legislative process, please contact Katy King: KatyKing01@gmail.com

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