Oregon House comes to standstill due to COVID-19 and legislative slowdown

The Oregon Legislature learned Monday that someone who was present at the Capitol was diagnosed with COVID-19. Exposure occurred on the House floor on March 15 and March 16. 

House Speaker Tina Kotek outlined in a press release Monday that the House will not return to the floor until March 29. Committee work, which is being done remotely, will continue as planned. 

 

 

This revelation happens in the midst of a legislative slowdown enacted by Republican leaders. Bills are being requested to be read in full on the House floor, which has led to long hours in the chamber, an inability to get bills through in a timely manner and potentially exposing each other to COVID-19, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan sent a letter to Kotek on Monday outlining her ideas for next steps in the House of Representatives. According to Drazan, many committees are quickly moving controversial legislation bills without bipartisan support or compromise, leaving out the minority Republicans in decision making. 

“This is not authentic engagement. This is closed door, offline, predetermined outcomes, not to be confused with meaningful bipartisanship in a public process.”

Drazan said Republicans are willing to limit bill reading when the House does not exceed regular session times, pass legislation with bipartisan consensus support and balance time between opponents and proponents of bills. 

Representative Maxine Dexter, Chair of the House Committee On Health Care House Subcommittee On COVID-19, expressed frustration in a Tweet on Monday. Dexter said:

“Oregonians need us to get important policy passed. We now will be out of the Capitol until at least 3/26 and likely longer, moving at a snail’s pace. Is this the leadership Oregonians want to see? We need to get to work safely and efficiently. People are suffering.”