By HEATHER ROBERTS
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
State lawmakers were back in Salem Wednesday, and for many, it was their first time back in the capital since the pandemic began.
“This is not an emergency session; this is not a special session. This is a catastrophic disaster session,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.
He expects the session to move quickly.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, agreed there’s a lot to get done.
“This is such an unusual special session,” she said. “The breadth of the issues – we have close to thirty issues that will show up in about a dozen bills.”
From social justice to schools, Courtney said the agenda is packed.
“We are being asked to stop the crisis in our state regarding discrimination; We’re being asked to get a hold of this virus in ways no one’s gotten a hold of now – I’m sorry, I’m gonna say it. And we’ve been asked to do something about these small businesses across the state that are being destroyed,” Courtney said. “We’ve also been asked [inaudible] to open the schools, find a way to open the schools do something in the fall.”
Plus, there are several police reform bills, which Kotek says are long overdue.
“The duty to report and intervene when you see a colleague in law enforcement doing something wrong,” she said. “You’re going to see movement on the use of chokeholds; the use of tear gas for folks who are lawfully assembling.”
Everything, Courtney says, is under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most lawmakers tried to maintain social distance, Wednesday and donned masks on the floors of the House and Senate.
Courtney addressed the issue in his chamber.
“They’re hot; if you have glasses, it fogs them up,” he said. “I know that. But, thank you.”
A second special session is expected later this summer, to address state budget shortfalls.
This session is tentatively scheduled to conclude Friday.
“We believe that no legislative session in the history of Oregon has ever been asked to do so much in so little time,” Courtney said asking his colleagues to buckle down and take their place in history. “I hope in the future all of you will say, ‘I got to be in the most difficult special session in Oregon’s history; I was there. I was there.'”