Legislature poised for change ahead of Special Session

By Oregon Business and Industry,

Just days into what promises to be an eventful year in Oregon politics, two longtime legislative leaders have announced plans to leave their respective chambers and a prominent gubernatorial candidate has been told he’s ineligible to run. Updates involving Peter Courtney, Tina Kotek and Nicholas Kristof are a few of the personnel and policy items we’d like to share as the February legislative session approaches.

Courtney, D-Salem, told colleagues Jan. 5 that he will not seek re-election, making 2022 his last year in office. Courtney, 78, has served as Senate president for 20 years. According to The Oregonian/OregonLive, the lawmaker most likely to seek Courtney’s leadership position is Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, though other Democrats may seek the role.

One day after Courtney’s announcement, Speaker of the House Kotek, D-Portland, shared her intention to resign from the Legislature on Jan. 21. Kotek was elected for the first time in 2006 and has served as house speaker since 2013. She is running for governor, however, and according to Willamette Week her resignation helps her in two significant ways. First, she will avoid the intense scrutiny decisions she made during the February session would have brought.  Second, House rules prohibit members from accepting contributions while the Legislature is in session. Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she would seek Kotek’s leadership position. Others are likely to vie for the position as well.

One candidate Kotek may not have to fight during the May gubernatorial primary is Nicholas Kristof.  The former New York Times columnist does not meet the state’s residency requirements, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announced Jan. 6. Kristof said immediately that he would appeal the decision, according to Willamette Week.

Meanwhile, Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, formally announced her campaign for governor Jan. 4. Drazan, a former House minority leader, gave up her leadership position in November when she signaled her intention to seek the state’s highest office. Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson, R-Prineville, now serves as House minority leader.


Legislative Days Preview

Announcements involving key lawmakers precede the Jan. 11 start of Legislative Days, a three-day marathon of informational hearings on topics that may become legislation during this year’s session. The 35-day short session will begin Feb. 1. We will provide regular updates about important issues and the work of OBI’s policy team.

Among the meetings and issues the policy team will track this week are:

  • The House Interim Committee on Business and Labor will hold informational hearings on Jan. 11 about overtime for agricultural workers and essential worker pay.
  • The Senate Interim Committee on Labor and Business will discuss the governor’s Future Ready Oregon workforce plan at a Jan. 11 informational meeting. The committee also will discuss the Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance program.
  • The House Interim Committee on Revenue will hold informational meetings 11 on a handful of significant issues, including the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, the corporate activity tax (CAT) and cryptocurrency.
  • The Senate Interim Committee on Health Care will hold informational meetings 11 on COVID-19 and prescription drug prices.
  • The House Interim Committee on Housing will discuss policies involving affordable housing tax credits, rental application fees and a homeless services pilot program on Jan. 12.
  • The House Interim Committee on Health Care will discuss the nursing workforce crisis and receive updates on the Oregon Health Plan and health insurance marketplace enrollment on Jan. 13.
  • The Senate Interim Committee on Housing and Development will discuss bills related to renters’ rights and the impacts of housing costs on Jan. 13. It also will receive updates on rental and homeowners’ assistance programs.

Have you joined an OBI committee? The committees identify hot button issues to advocate on behalf of a strong and healthy business climate for Oregon. Our issue areas include education and workforce development, health care, tax and fiscal policy, employment, energy and environment, retail and transportation. Reach out to Morgan Beltz for more information or to join a committee today.

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