Get Ready, Get Set... GO!
Oregon's 2021 Legislative Session Starts This Week
Tuesday, January 19th marked the start of the 81st Legislative session. Committee work was postponed this year in an unusual move, due to threats of violence and unrest. Regardless, the 2021 session is underway, and our advocacy begins now.
This is a “long” session, which happens every other year in Oregon. According to Oregon’s Constitution, long sessions can last up to 160 days. The constitutional end of 2021 session is June 27th.
This year’s legislative session starts against a backdrop unlike any other. We continue to work through a global pandemic, political and civil unrest, and on-going police reform and racial justice issues. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 legislative session will be virtual for the foreseeable future. This means that the Capitol building will remain closed to the public, and lawmakers will work remotely as much as possible. One activity that requires legislators to be in the building is voting, which occurs during Floor Sessions. Floor Sessions are expected to be called as needed through the beginning of April.
It is possible that we will return to in-person legislative practices at some point this session, but that is entirely dependent on how effective our combined efforts are to reduce COVID-19 spread. Resuming in-person work at the Capitol is tied to Marion County’s COVID risk-level. For now, we are moving forward as if the entire session will be virtual, and hoping that conditions might improve in the future and change that outlook.
With 37 Democrats and 23 Republicans in the House of Representatives, as well as 18 Democrats and 12 Republicans in Oregon's State Senate seats, Democrats have maintained their super majorities in both chambers. There are a lot of new legislators coming on board as well as new committee assignments for some existing members.
Committee assignments have been steadily rolling out from legislative leadership during the month of January. With the complex issues facing lawmakers this session, their work requires additional committees. Committees have been assembled to consider and address COVID response and recovery, wildfire, and police reform. The majority of committee work will be scheduled during the day; some specialty committees are planning to meet in the evening. A lot of committee work can be done remotely; work sessions are required to occur in person. The House Human Services Committee (which was spun off last session from the former focus of Human Services and Housing) will continue to focus solely on human services. Rep. Anna Williams (D-Hood River) is the newly appointed Chair of this important committee.
Legislative committees will meet via Microsoft Teams. If you want to testify during a hearing, you must sign up in advance. To request ADA accommodations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503-986-1373. Requests for accommodation should be made at least 72 hours in advance. For more information, visit the Oregon State Legislature Universal Access Page.
2020 Special Session committee testimony was conducted via phone. This will likely also be the bulk of remote testimony during the 2021 session, though video testimony may be an option in some cases. Legislative advocacy will also be done remotely, through video calls, phone calls, and emails. Each legislator is determining how they want to schedule meetings and who sends the phone numbers and video call links. Advocates have reached out to the Democratic and Republican caucuses to ask for a more streamlined and accessible procedure for requesting and scheduling legislative meetings.
Our GO! Project DD Advocacy Days are scheduled throughout the session. This year’s advocacy days will not be in-person. We are inviting you to GO! Online to learn about the DD Coalition’s advocacy priorities, practice your messaging before you visit with legislators, and get the support you need to have a successful advocacy experience. We will also continue to release issues of the GO! Bulletin so you can stay informed as to what’s happening in Salem and lend your voice and story to our collective efforts.