by Jon Eames, Eames Consulting
Oregon faced a similar experience as the rest of the country with regard to election results. While expectations were high among Democrats to expand their majority in their respective chambers, the results were less than ideal for the current majority. Importantly, as of Monday, November 16, election results for a handful of districts have not been finalized as the vote margins are narrow. We expect contested ballots to be sorted out shortly and results certified on the 23rd. If the current results stand (and we don’t believe the results will change), Oregon saw a number changes in individual districts, but the make up of each chamber remained largely unchanged. House Republicans picked up one seat this cycle to bring their chamber total to 23 and the Democrats sit at 37. The Senate chamber did not see a change in its make up so the current division (18 Democrats, 12 Republicans), remains the same.
What does this mean for next the legislative session? Although the Democrats were hoping to reach a “walkout proof” majority (20 seats in the Senate, 40 seats in the House), Republicans will still be able to employ the tactic, if they choose, in the upcoming legislative session. While the threat of the walkout has not been explicitly made by the Republicans, the implicit threat will likely force the Democrats to curtail their progressive ambitions for the upcoming legislative session. In addition, the pandemic will take priority on policy changes and much of the Legislature’s capacity will be dedicated to passing the 2021-23 budget. Due to walkouts during the February legislative session, the backlog of unfinished legislative business is long and will also take up a significant portion of the Legislature’s work in 2021.
Finally, there are still many unanswered questions as to how the Legislature will conduct its business for the 2021 session. Decisions on the time, place, and manner have yet to be announced, increasing the uncertainty in an already challenging legislative environment.