March 6 Legislative Update by Jon Eames
Late yesterday afternoon, the Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek, announced from the floor that the House will effectively end their work this legislative session. Speaker Kotek, in an impassioned and emotional speech, announced no further floor sessions will occur prior to the constitutionally mandated end to the Legislative session on March 8th at midnight.
For a refresher on how we got to this point:
In a typical session you’d expect to see a Sine Die announcement at the exact time the House and Senate finished their legislative business, adjourning for the year. However, this is not a typical session. A week and a half ago, Senate Republicans, followed shortly thereafter by their colleagues in the House walked out of the Capitol building and have yet to return.
Oregon’s House and Senate Republicans hold enough seats in each chamber to deny the majority Democrats a quorum necessary to consider final passage of bills on the respective chamber floors. The walk-out is centered on one bill: the Cap and Trade climate policy which Democrats have publicly set as their top priority this session. The denial of quorum prevents not only passage of the climate bill, but also halts the passage of all other bills on chamber floors.
Over the last couple weeks Democrats engaged in contingency planning by moving all bills which have the support to pass to a place in the process where they could move most expediently if Republicans were to return to the Capitol.
Today, House and Senate Republicans announced their willingness to return to the building on Sunday March 8th, the constitutionally required end date of session, to complete the unfinished business of the 2020 session. Implicit in this announcement was the understanding Republicans would have the authority to use procedural hurdles to prevent the passage of any legislation of which they did not approve, meaning they would still be able to prevent passage of Cap and Trade should Democrats attempt to move a vote of the bill on the floor.
In light of the early end to the session, Speaker Kotek also announced the Governor’s plan to exercise executive action on climate change in the coming days and that the emergency board will meet on Monday March 9th to distribute emergency funds to address Coronavirus and the Umatilla Basin flooding.
This premature end to session means many bipartisan policies and critical agency budget adjustments have been caught in the crosshairs. Speaker Kotek indicated Legislative leadership and the Governor are developing plans to call the Legislature back into “special session” at some time in the next 30 days. However, no formal announcements have been made. It is also important to note a special session is no different than a regular session in that the same dynamics could be at play if the Cap and Trade policy is still on the table.
We will continue to update you as new information becomes available.