2021 Session Opens Monday
I was writing my weekly newsletter Wednesday afternoon when disturbing news erupted. An angry mob had descended on our nation’s capital.
They disrespected our laws and our police. They disrespected our institutions. They disrespected the legitimate results of the Electoral College and our popular vote. They disgraced our sense of American values and dignity.
Last week I spoke about the challenge in these difficult times to know who to trust and what to believe. Seldom do we all always agree. I cherish our traditions of free speech and peaceful protest. But when protest devolves into threats, violence, and property destruction, whether in our urban centers, our state capitols, or in the halls of Congress, we are all lessened.
Late last night, I was harkened by the words of one of our Republican leaders. “The states have spoken. The Courts have spoken. The voters have spoken.” And I was reminded of the words of another Republican, Abraham Lincoln, who observed on his second inauguration, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit in 2020.
I was pleased last week to support SB 1801 and provide needed support for our restaurant industry. But I also understood that the measure would not benefit all parts of Oregon equally. The ability to sell cocktails-to-go to tourists helps little when there are few tourists. And capping delivery fees doesn’t matter when there are no local delivery firms. Late last week, I wrote legislative leadership to request direct financial support be provided to this targeted business community.
Coastal counties continue to suffer the highest unemployment in the state. Past per capita distributions have not addressed the fact that the hospitality industry in our communities is designed for a large visitor population rather than an annual residential population. And closures in the restaurant and tavern trade have broader consequences that range from reduced lottery revenue to lost sales of fresh crab and other seafood.
Coastal Caucus members who serve on the Emergency Board all signed the request to allocate $8 million for restaurants, bars, and taverns that have suffered economic harm in 2020 when those restaurants are located in the Coast Region.
The Emergency Board will be meeting late this week to provide support for COVID and Wildfire relief. The agenda includes $90 million to help businesses pay rent, just as we earlier approved funds to help residential renters and landlords. But we need more support to help our restaurants survive.
The 2021 regular or “long” legislative session will convene on January 11, beginning with swearing in for all newly elected or re-elected members. Late last week, House committee assignments were announced.
- I am pleased to be serving as House Vice-Chair for the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. This is the combined House and Senate committee that approves all state agency budgets for the two-year biennium.
- I will be Co-Chairing the budget subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development as I have for the past three sessions. This committee approves spending for ODOT, Business Oregon, the Employment Division, Housing, OLCC, Veterans Affairs, and Bureau of Labor and Industries.
- I will be returning to the budget subcommittee on General Government. This committee hears budget requests for the Department of Revenue, Administrative Services, and approves spending for the Executive, Legislative, and Treasurer’s branches.
- Finally, I have been appointed to a new committee on Wildfire Recovery which will focus on measures to rebuild after the September inferno.
This collection of assignments will allow me to serve our coastal and coast range families, workers, and small businesses well.
On Tuesday, the Coastal Caucus met with its new members who will be sworn in next week. As you know, the Caucus includes House and Senate members from coastal districts. This group is one of the most successful examples of bi-partisan and bi-cameral cooperation in the Capital.
I am honored to share with you that this team of five republicans and two democrats has asked me to serve as Chair for the next two years. Senator-Elect Dick Anderson has been named Vice-Chair.
I’m receiving a lot of mail with questions about vaccinations.
The first Oregonians – health care workers, and residents and staff of nursing homes – started receiving vaccines a few weeks ago. But Oregon is lagging behind most states in its COVID-19 vaccination rate.
The original plan was to vaccinate 100,000 people by the end of December, but less than a third actually got a dose. The numbers are improving. But still, according to state data, only about a quarter of the doses that have been shipped to Oregon have been administered.
The Oregon Health Authority held a press conference this week that focused on vaccinations in Oregon, their slow rollout, and plans for the future. This followed a briefing that legislators received the day before. The Governor has called on OHA to ramp up its vaccination efforts and administer 12,000 vaccines per day. The governor gave the agency two weeks to meet the goal.
The slow rollout threatens Oregon’s plans to reopen schools by Feb. 15. Teachers have been identified to be among the first essential workers to be vaccinated, once all healthcare workers who want the shot have received it. Vaccination efforts in Oregon and across the country have been far from smooth. Unreliable shipments, uneven distribution, holidays, and issues with cold-storage have slowed the state’s efforts to vaccinate 300,000 healthcare workers.
We need to do better!
On Monday, I’ll be traveling to Salem for the official opening of the 2021 session. Most work for the first two months will be conducted remotely. Hopefully by April, your Capitol will begin to re-open.
I’ll do my best to keep you posted on legislative news. Thanks for reading.
Stay well, stay safe!
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10