The 2021 Legislative Session officially begins on Thursday, January 21 and will run through the month of June. Over 1800 bills were pre-session filed and publicly posted to the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS), with another 1000 bills expected to be introduced on opening day, one of the highest number of bills in recent memory. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Capitol is closed to the public and all hearings, work groups, and meetings with individual legislators will be done virtually. In addition, with the ongoing threats of unrest and violence the start of the Legislative Session was delayed two days. Our elected legislators have never had an easy job, but with the ongoing political tensions, pandemic, virtual meetings, economic slowdown, and large government revenue losses and budget deficits, the 2021 Session will no doubt have its fair share of daunting challenges.
The House and Senate will begin with once-weekly floor sessions to vote on bills, with multiple weekly sessions likely beginning in April. In an effort to slow down the legislative process to ensure sufficient public input, deadlines and timelines have been extended. While a virtual session is new, different, and problematic to some, it also presents an opportunity for increased access to the legislative process for members of the public who would normally have to travel significant distances to meet with their legislator or testify before committees. If you are interested in meeting with your state legislators (virtually) this year please reach out to your AOC team or lookout for the OACES Capitol Day invite in the coming weeks. With the current transportation revenue shortfalls, budget deficits, and other issues facing county departments, it’s a good time to meet and update your county’s legislative delegation on OACES priorities.
With the retirement of a significant number of state legislators and the creation of several special committees to address wildfire and COVID recovery, the Joint Committee on Transportation membership has changed. Representative Susan McLain replaces Representative Caddy McKeown as House Co-Chair, Representatives Nancy Nathanson and Karin Power replace Representatives Witt and McKeown, and Senator Chris Gorsek replaces Senator Sara Gelser.
The policy conversation around cap and trade has, for the time being, been moved to agency rulemaking under the Executive Order 20-04, directing state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore the legislature is not expected to consider a large carbon bill this session. Major transportation conversations will include expanding the voluntary OReGO program to a mandatory statewide road usage charge program, creating timelines around 100% renewable energy, EV infrastructure expansion, speed setting authority for cities, and possible technical revisions to tolling statutes. During their first meeting, the Joint Committee on Transportation is expected to approve the introduction of the county right of way permit fee bill as a committee bill, and AOC legislative affairs staff is working diligently to shore up broad support among legislators.
As the 2021 Legislative Session progresses, your AOC team will be updating you at regular OACES meetings, newsletter articles, requests to testify or meet with legislators, and legislative surveys and requests for technical information. As always, if you have questions or need more information please contact Legislative Affairs Manager Mallorie Roberts (firstname.lastname@example.org) or CRP Director Brian Worley (email@example.com).