Oregon Legislature: Can Dems, GOP get along? | Washington

By SARA CLINE – Associated Press/Report for America

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As Oregon lawmakers prepare to return to the state Capitol next week for the 35-day legislative session, Republicans and Democrats have differing views on the use of this time.

While Republicans say the short legislative session has traditionally been used to iron out budgetary and technical issues from the previous year’s long session, Democrats say some bigger things can’t wait.

“The short session is designed for fiscal and legislative fixes,” House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson said Tuesday during the Associated Press’ annual legislative preview. “Big problems. Again, they weren’t meant to be presented in a month-long session. But we already see some of them on committee agendas.

Specifically, Rep. Breese-Iverson noted a previously introduced bill that seeks to require employers to pay farm owners overtime wages for working more than 40 hours a week.

While both sides are cautiously optimistic that they can come to an agreement, especially since there have been changes in direction from the previous session, Breese-Iverson reiterated that “tools” are on the table, that includes walkouts – an increasingly common tactic the minority party has used in order to delay and block bills.

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“If we see highly partisan and complex bills rushed through the Legislature in February, Republicans stand ready to use the tools necessary to protect Oregonians from even more negative consequences of short-term policies. view of the majority and the failure of leadership,” Breese-Iverson said.

Although this is a short session — compared to odd-numbered years, when sessions can last up to 160 days as the legislature approves a two-year state budget for the next biennium — the Democrats said it was the first short session since the pandemic began.

During this period, there were also harmful wildfires and deadly heat waves.

“There are things that can’t wait two years between long sessions,” said House Majority Leader Julie Fahey. “The situation we find ourselves in at the moment is exactly why we went with short sessions.”

The Oregon Legislature is scheduled to convene on February 1.

Priorities outlined by Governor Kate Brown and legislative leaders include affordable housing, education, public safety, advancing the Private Forest Accord, allocating $100 million in investment for services child care, a $200 million package to bolster the state’s workforce, and $38 million to help small businesses — through a stimulus fund, expanding the technical assistance and increased funding for regional economic development agencies.

Cline is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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