By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
Tomorrow, February 1, we will gavel in for the 2022 legislative session — the period of time in which Oregon’s legislature convenes to pass budgets and bills into law. In odd-numbered years, sessions can last for up to 160 days, but in even-numbered years like this one, the session is limited to a maximum of 35 days. This is where we get the terms “long” and “short” session.
The Capitol will be open this year. The building will be accessible to the public 8:00AM-5:00PM Monday – Friday. Please note that there will be new security measures at entrances to ensure the safety of all staff and visitors.
Our constitution requires legislators to be in the chamber to vote so floor sessions will continue in-person. Long planned seismic renovations have been completed in the office wings so legislators are available for limited appointments. But the hearing rooms are still under construction, so committee hearings and work sessions will once again be held virtually.
I am looking forward to meeting with colleagues in-person each day, learning about the policy goals of my peers and of state agencies, and of course passing legislation that will benefit all Oregonians. I hope that you will take the opportunity to participate in the Session as much as possible. Citizen engagement is a vital component of good governance.
There are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Committee hearings, work sessions, and floor sessions will stream live on the Capitol’s legislative website and in viewing locations within the Capitol. Anyone, of any age, can submit written testimony or testify remotely. To learn how to track a bill, contact a legislator, or submit testimony, visit the Capitol’s “Get Involved” Page.
I have also included a “how to” guide for participating in the Session, which you can read below. I would love to hear your opinions on bills and get a better sense of the priorities that the residents of House District 10 have. Please reach out to my office via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share your thoughts.
I will do my best to keep you updated on the Session through this newsletter every week.
It has been argued that short sessions should be limited to budget fixes and technical bills rather than large policies and new programs. Others respond that there are things that cannot wait two years in between long sessions. This year, legislators are limited to two bills each. That will certainly reduce the number of proposals and focus the debate. But the fact is that members can introduce measures on any subject they wish, large or small.
The real limitation on what happens in a short session is the clock. There are procedural requirements that take time for public notice, hearings, and floor debate. Essentially a bill in the House needs a week for hearings and another week to get to the floor. If it passes, the process repeats in the Senate. That means a bill moving smoothly and without amendments or other delays needs a month to pass in a session only five weeks long. In 2020, parliamentary tactics were used to bring the session to an abrupt end, and virtually nothing passed.
We have lots to do in little time. I’m hopeful that it will be relatively drama free.
You can use the links below to look up all the bills introduced. Priorities outlined by legislative leaders this year include affordable housing, education, public safety, advancing the Private Forest Accord, allocating $100 million for in investments in child care services, a $200 million package to bolster the state’s workforce and $38 million to help small businesses — through a recovery fund, expanding technical assistance, and increasing funding to regional economic development organizations. Other proposals include allowing agricultural workers to receive overtime wages, and a measure paying essential workers who stayed on the job through the pandemic a $1000 “stimulus” from the state. There is a bill to legalize self-service gas statewide, a bill to better address illegal cannabis, and another to limit the Governor’s emergency powers.
That sounds like a lot. It is a lot! But what makes this session particularly unusual is the need to make decisions on the spending of significant funds sent to Oregon from Washington DC. Doing that well in just five weeks is daunting. But the alternative is to leave the job after session to the Emergency Board. If we don’t spend those federal dollars now, they will be lost. And I’d rather the full legislature do the job with hearings, debates, and votes, than to leave the task to 20 members with little debate, largely directed by legislative leadership.
Best estimates are that Oregon has about $2 billion in unexpected tax collections and federal pandemic money to spend. The Governor has proposed the legislature should reserve $500 million of that for the next two-year budget cycle, starting July 1, 2023, because she expects state revenue to flatten.
My own two bills for the session are fairly technical and locally focused.
HB 4072: Visitors to the Coast who want to enjoy recreational fishing and crabbing must now pay $32.50 for a one-day license. Washington and California each offer versions of the same licenses for $10-$20. Clearly this puts our recreational fleet at a competitive disadvantage. My bill reduces the one-day angling and shellfish license fee from $32.50 to $23.00 at current prices, a reduction of about 30%. A similar proposal last session failed to pass but was supported by ODFW, Oregon Charter Operators, NW Steelheaders, and the Oregon Hunters Association.
HB 4076: Many of you will recall a terrible accident off Pacific City where a dory boat injured a surfer. The courts held the state partly responsible for the accident. As a result, State Parks is now considering limiting some activities or access along the coastline. My measure would allow continuing beach use and access by limiting the state’s liability if there is a recreational accident.
For those of you with interest in specific proposals, or a general interest in the day-to-day process, the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS) will let you stay informed or get engaged. Here are a few links to help.
Visit the Oregon Legislature’s Citizen Engagement Page HERE:
Watch House and Senate Floor Sessions and Committee Hearings HERE:
Track all 2021 Session bills and votes on OLIS HERE:
Learn more on using OLIS HERE:
See instructions for how to testify on a bill HERE:
Last week I wrote about the national blood shortage and the concern that elective surgery or emergency treatment could be affected. In response, I received several letters commenting on the FDA policy that donations cannot be accepted from a man who has had sex with a man within the past three months.
To be clear, I think this policy is shameful. Any policy that continues to categorically single out the LGBTQ+ community is discriminatory and wrong. Given advances in blood screening and safety technology, a time-based policy for gay and bisexual men is not scientifically sound, continues to effectively exclude an entire group of people, and does not meet the urgent demands of the moment.
The Red Cross appears to agree as they say, “The Red Cross recognizes the hurt this policy has caused to many in the LGBTQ+ community and believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation. We are committed to working with partners toward achieving this goal.”
I’m pleased to see our U.S. Senator Ron Wyden working for a change in this national policy. Meanwhile the shortage continues, and I urge all who can to sign up to donate. The best way to find out when and where blood drives are scheduled is to go to www.redcrossblood.org and search by zip code.
Last week I was honored to speak at the dedication of the Ed Johann Plaza in Lincoln City. I’ve been privileged to know Ed for more than 30 years. Johann has a lifetime of service to his country, Lincoln City, North Lincoln County, Portland and the State of Oregon.
At the age of 17, Ed Johann served our country in the U.S. Navy. December 7, 1941, he was stationed in Pearl Harbor where he braved the oil and flames to rescue survivors of the U.S.S. Arizona, West Virginia and Oklahoma who were struggling in the water during and after the surprise attack. He spent 27 years working for the fire department in Portland and took part in mountain rescues, saving people at great risk to his own life. After moving the Coast, he was elected a Lincoln City councilor and for 15 years, he never missed a meeting. He was also founder and president of the North Lincoln County Historical Museum, and president of Wildwoods and Trails.
Seventeen years old, I said at the dedication. From Pearl Harbor to Portland to Lincoln City – he was a hero there and a hero here – he was a hero then and a hero now.
For the next five weeks, I’ll be driving to Salem or focused in virtual meetings. I hope this report has given you a sense of what to expect, a means to watch, and a path to weigh in if you choose to. Please take the opportunity to let me know how you feel about bills as they advance.
Thanks for all you do to keep our special part of Oregon safer, stronger, kinder and a wonderful place to live.
address: 900 Court St NE, H-480, Salem, OR, 97301