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Short Legislative Session Begins Tuesday!

Rep. David Gomberg
D-Lincoln County

From Oregon Representative David Gomberg

February 1st we will gavel in 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” sessions.

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 via 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 residents have among those who live in House District 10.  Please reach out to my office via email (rep.davidgomberg@oregonlegislature.gov) 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 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, 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. 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 that is 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 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 and 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 especially unusual is the need to make decisions on the spending of significant funds sent to Oregon from Washington DC. Getting that done in just five weeks is daunting. But the alternative is to leave the job to the Emergency Board after the session. 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 to spend in unexpected tax collections and federal pandemic money. The Governor has proposed the legislature should reserve $500 million of those funds 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.

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