The 2021 Oregon Legislative Session was unlike any other session our state has ever witnessed. From convening in January to adjournment sine die on June 26, the Legislature navigated a global public health emergency, fast-changing economic forecasts, and wide-ranging equity issues while fulfilling their broad policy responsibilities.
To accomplish this, legislators ramped up a fully virtual session that found one of the most accessible Capitol buildings in the country closed to the public. While this action was a key contention of the entire session, business carried on with the use of video and audio conferencing for public hearings and strict health protocols for legislators.
While the overall session proceeded quite smoothly, it was not without complications and controversy. The Oregon House of Representatives lost several days throughout the session when positive COVID-19 tests were identified among members and staff. Procedural tools to require the audible reading of all bills slowed the pace of floor sessions.
This session saw two members of the House forced to vacate their seats. The first, Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-Portland), resigned under growing pressure to do so based on multiple allegations of harassment in the workplace. The second, Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Polk County), became the first legislator in Oregon’s history to be expelled from the Legislature after evidence surfaced of his involvement with armed protesters at our Capitol on December 21.
Nevertheless, legislators worked together to pass hundreds of policy bills and a robust budget for the 2021-23 biennium. The budget was buoyed by a very optimistic state revenue forecast and the infusion of major federal American Rescue Plan funds.
Now legislators return to their districts, everyone takes a brief pause, and planning begins for future legislative sessions!
Here’s what legislative Democratic and Republican leaders had to say about the 2021 Session: