January 23, 2023

Opening Week Orientation at the Oregon Capitol

The first week of the 82nd Legislative Session was the like the first week of school — hours of orientation for the incoming freshmen while the upperclassmen patiently waited for the big projects to begin.

It’s a large freshman class, and many of the committees acted as 101-level courses with informational hearings to provide background on the topics they will be working on in the coming months.

Housing and homeless have taken center stage, with both House and Senate Democrats listing it as their top goal for the session. Gov. Tina Kotek signed three executive orders on the topic, declaring a state of emergency, directing state agencies to prioritize reducing homelessness, and setting an annual statewide production goal of 36,000 homes.

Also new to the office (though certainly not to the building), Gov. Kotek is working on her recommended budget that is expected to be submitted before Feb. 1. This will act as a starting point for legislators as they create the biennial budget – the biggest task of a full session.

This process will be made more interesting by the lack of Democratic supermajority, meaning all budget bills will require at least some bipartisan support. It also removes the necessity of a walkout by Republicans.

Session Focusing on Water and Climate

Last week with the start of committee meetings we got a closer look at what to expect in the 2023 session. More than 1,800 bills dropped, and more are coming in daily. Within agriculture and natural resources you will see water rights along with carbon sequestration and climate bills. Gov. Tina Kotek has named housing and homelessness as her top priorities, which will put into question land use laws in relationship to low-cost housing.

Several bills seek to create or continue research and task force management.

  • HB 2610 directs Oregon State University to research reduced-risk pest management tools for Oregon’s specialty crops and report to interim committees no later than September 2027.
  • HB 2058 will seek to mitigate the costs of ag overtime compensation that passed in 2022 with a loan program developed and administered by Oregon Business Development Department.
  • During the House Committee on Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources, Chair Rep. Ken Helm (D- Beaverton) said LC 895, a placeholder bill to respond to drought, will probably be the biggest bill the committee tackles this session.

In a broader view we will be watching closely the tolling bills for the Portland metro area and changes to the Corporate Activities Tax.

On Friday morning over 200 natural resource stakeholders had a virtual meeting with Gov. Kotek’s transition team on the natural resource budget. We expect her recommended budget to be released in the coming month, which will give a clearer picture of what Governor Kotek’s Oregon will look like.

January 17, 2023

Legislative Session Launches with Committees in Action

Today marks the official start of the 82nd Legislative Assembly, and several committees are wasting no time in getting to work.

With 1,851 bills already filed, there’s a lot of work ahead for leadership. There will be 22 freshman representatives in the House once a replacement is selected for Rep. David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford), who was recently appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg). This will be the first in-person session for nearly two-thirds (39 out of 60) of the chamber’s members, who have assumed office since the COVID-restricted 2020 session.

Overseeing the steep learning curve will fall to House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) as he takes the gavel for his first full session and new Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego). During the last election, Democrats narrowly lost supermajority status by one seat in each chamber, and while this appears like only a slight adjustment to the balance of power in terms of numbers, it will be a significant factor impacting both revenue and budget decisions throughout the session.

First committee agendas released

A handful of committees have meetings scheduled for this first week of session, including the Senate Committee on Business and Labor which will be the first to officially discuss legislation. Other committees will hold informational hearings.

Committees will be taking in-person testimony at the Capitol for the first time since 2020, but online testimony will still be available by signing up through the OLIS platform. You can learn more here.

Deadlines in place to move legislation forward

The Legislature will have two months before its first major deadline on March 17. By that date, all bills must have been posted to a work session in order to move forward (with a caveat for Rules, Revenue and Joint committees).

The session must conclude within 160 days, marking June 25 as the latest possible Sine Die.