Work at the Capitol was disrupted this week due to the severe winter storm that blanketed the Pacific Northwest with ice and snow, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power, internet and disrupting travel across the region.
Back on track
House District 31 saw heavy snowfall, freezing rain, and black ice creating treacherous conditions. Salem was hard hit as well, with power outages and storm damage resulting in the closure of the state Capitol on Monday and Tuesday. Things are slowly getting back on track with power restoration, but even when there is electricity there is not always internet service, so remote committee work is even more challenging.
Oregon voters adopted annual sessions in 2010 and mandated that the legislature would meet for a maximum of 160 days in odd numbered years and 35 days in even numbered years. This year’s session began January 19, and by law must end no later than June 28 at 11:59pm. In order for a bill to become law it must work through the committee process in both the House and Senate chambers.
For instance, if a bill is introduced in the House, it is then assigned to a House committee where a public hearing and work session may be held. The bill and amendments are considered, and then if the bill is voted out of committee it moves to the chamber floor where it is read three times before a floor vote. If approved, the bill then moves to the Senate and repeats the process.
If the bill is amended in the second chamber it must come back to the first chamber for concurrence. After that it moves to the Governor’s office for consideration. Every step takes time, and often there is not enough time for a bill to make it through the process. Some bills are then introduced in multiple legislative sessions before they become law.
This year there are more than 3,000 bills that are being introduced for consideration, and even before the storm-caused shut down, we knew we did not have enough time to get to all of them during the 2021 Legislative session. We are working hard to prioritize and hear the bills that have the greatest impact and benefit for the people of Oregon.
Addressing massive problems
This has been a challenging year with school closures and economic slowdowns caused by the pandemic, an unprecedented September wildfire conflagration, and record unemployment. Legislators need to address these massive problems, and it means that some pieces of legislation will have to wait for another session. There are difficult decisions ahead and I’m hoping to hear from you on issues under consideration.
Due to the COVID-19 health protection restrictions, the Capitol building remains closed to the public. Committee work is being done remotely, and the public is still able to weigh in on bills and other issues. This can be done in writing, by phone or by computer link-up. It has never been more important to be a part of the process.
If you have concerns or comment about a state issue, agency or proposed legislation, please contact my office. It is my privilege to represent you in the House of Representatives as we undertake this important work together.
Rep. Brad Witt serves House District 31. He may be reached at: