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Oregon politics: After 100 days, time crunch looms larger in the Capitol

Oregon politics: After 100 days, time crunch looms larger in the Capitol

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It's a new month, but the same headaches for Oregon's Legislature.

The 2021 session of the Legislature hit the 100-day mark on Thursday. The constitution gives the House and Senate 160 days in even-numbered years to initiate, bloviate and legislate before being forced to gavel the session closed.

When lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday morning, they had just just 56 days left — no matter what. The Oregon constitution requires the Legislature to shut down by June 28.

The TSA released travel figures from this weekend, showing that it screened more than 1.6 million passengers at U.S. airport checkpoints Sunday. While that is the highest number of screenings since March 2020, it is still lower than levels seen in 2019. Wake Up With Cheddar breaks down the significance of this number.

In legislative parlance, the House and Senate must "Sine Die" — a Latin word twist that roughly translates to adjourn without a future date to meet in 2021.

The clock was started on Jan. 19 and doesn't stop for nights, weekends, holidays, COVID-19 shutdowns, Senate walk-outs or House slow-downs.

And when it is over, it's over. All bills left are dead. Ideas can come back the next session, but have to start over again.

Third witching hour

The Legislature has its own automatic Spring cleaning with four "witching hours" during the session that kill off bills stalled in committees. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, estimated early in the session that up to 4,000 bills and resolutions were introduced.

Hundreds of bills stuck in the maze of the Legislature's 43 committees were culled by earlier deadlines. The next witching hour is May 14 when bills must be scheduled for a final committee vote in the second chamber (House bills in the Senate, and vice versa). There are a few "safe harbors" for legislation. Bills in Rules, Revenue and joint (House-Senate) committees are exempt from the deadlines.

Legislation resurrection

When legislative leaders reverse themselves and want one of the dead bills to move forward after all, the job is done with a "gut and stuff" move. A bill that has moved forward can be sent to the Rules or another deadline-exempt committee where its entire contents are removed and an amendment becomes the entire text of the bill. Look for the move as the Legislature scrambles when the end of the session gets close.

Encore, Encore!

Sept. 20 is the start date for the special session of the Legislature to deal with overdue redistricting maps. Lawmakers received a letter from leadership last week.

East meets West 

Sept. 20 is also the 30th anniversary of East Germany and West Germany voting to unify into one nation. Getting western Oregon and eastern Oregon to unify might be a harder trick. The Cascades make for a much prettier Wall than the one that stood in Berlin.

Feeling for an economic pulse

On Friday, the preliminary June state revenue forecast was sent to key government planners. The report won't be made public until May 19. But an early version was sent to the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors and the state Department of Administrative Services. The quarterly reports measure how much money the state is taking in and spending.

Wrong way repeat?

The revenue forecasts are a best educated guess — and sometimes prove wrong. The June 2020 report forecast a sharp recession that would require major cuts by the state. By the next report in September 2020, the fiscal storm had disappeared as strong tax revenues from higher earning residents came in. Aided by a major infusion of federal aid, the state has been swimming in cash so far this year.

How fat a wallet

Oregonians voted yes in November on Measure 107, closing a court-imposed loophole that campaign contributions were protected activity under Oregon's expansive freedom of speech guarantees in the state constitution. Two bills were introduced this session to put numbers on the limits. House Bills 2680 and 3343 are both parked in Rules with no additional action scheduled. The differences between the two bills come down to the size of the biggest donation allowed. The Legislature may punt on the issue and send it as a referendum on the 2022 ballot. After saying "yes" to limits, voters would be asked "how much is too much?"

Empty executive office pending

With Gov. Kate Brown unable to run because of term limits, the 2022 governor's race will be the first since 2010 without an incumbent on the ballot. Democrats have won every election for the state's stop job since 1986. It's not surprising that "every Democrat who can fog a glass," as one wag recently put it, is rumored as eyeing the May 2022 primary. Candidates can't officially file for office until Sept. 9, and can wait to jump in as late as March 8, 2022.

GOP for governor

Speculation of which Republicans might get into join what recent history has shown as a quixotic run for governor has started early. Bud Pierce, the GOP nominee in the 2016 special election for governor won by Kate Brown, has announced he plans to run. Oregon Catalyst, a popular conservative website, recently posted an online poll asking readers to pick from among five names getting some early buzz as possible GOP standard-bearers. Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam came out on top. Others included Pierce, Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg (who is also the Oregon Republican Party chair), Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, and Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith. Candidates can't officially file for office until Sept. 9, but expect more straw polls across the political spectrum over the summer.


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