Oregon Legislature To Convene Aug. 10 To Close Budget Hole
Oregon's second special session of the summer could also consider bills related to policing and COVID-19.
Gov. Kate Brown has called a special legislative session for Aug. 10, in order to close a $1.2 billion budget gap brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Capitol sources.
While details were still being worked out, the session Brown announced Friday also could take up an array of new bills aimed at curbing police abuses, along with the subject of whether businesses should be protected from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The session will mark the second time lawmakers have convened this summer in order to address pressing concerns brought about by COVID-19 and by nationwide protests over police violence and racial injustice. In late June, the Legislature passed 22 bills in a whirlwind three days that bore little resemblance to most special sessions, which tend to be carefully choreographed.
The August session should have clearer priorities. With tax revenues plummeting amid layoffs and business closures, lawmakers need to close a $1.2 billion hole in the current budget. Under a framework released earlier this month, that could involve closing two state prisons, though many savings state budget writers have identified are far less dramatic. Budget subcommittees met in hearings last week to hear testimony on those proposals.
Still uncertain is whether legislators will take up issues that could involve far more debate.
A special committee charged with looking into police reforms has been working up a slate of bills that could bolster limits on tear gas and chokeholds, and fundamentally change the system by which police discipline cases are settled. Hearings this week have suggested there’s little consensus on some of those proposals.
The Legislature also could take up proposals for how liable businesses are when customers or employees are sickened with COVID-19. After mounting pressure in June, a work group has been looking at whether to grant liability protections against lawsuits in such cases, a concept that has strong support in the Oregon House.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, has also voiced support for a proposal by labor unions to grant workers’ compensation payments to people who’ve come down with COVID-19 while being required to go to work, regardless of whether there is proof they contracted the disease in the workplace.