Our statement on the 2020 Legislative Session

On Thursday, March 6, the House and Senate both ended the legislative session, adjourning without a quorum.

Since February 25, the majority of the Senate and House Republicans have not been in the Capitol, denying a quorum specifically in protest over SB 1530, the bill which would address climate change.  According to Oregon’s constitution, two-thirds of each chamber must be present to constitute a quorum.

Over the last week and a half of the five week legislative session, there were behind the scenes conversations, and negotiations. The House issued subpoenas to absent colleagues, and various other strategies have been employed.

On Thursday morning, March 6, House and Senate Republicans offered to return to the Capitol on the last possible day of session, Sunday, March 8, to complete a list of budget items identified in advance. The Speaker of the House, Speaker Kotek issued a statement in response, calling this offer an attempt to “cherry pick which bills live and die.”  She continued to state that she would only accept a deal in which Republicans returned to the Capitol and voted on all the bills which had earned support through the public process.

On Thursday March 6, in the afternoon, Speaker Kotek spoke on the floor, and adjourned the Chamber until Sunday, March 8 at 11:59 pm, which is the time of the constitutionally required adjournment. Senate President Courtney then spoke on the floor, and adjourned the Chamber until the call of the President. This effectively ended the 2020 Legislative session.

As a result of this, none of the proposals and bills we have worked on made it through the legislative process. All of the bills that we worked on needed a quorum to be present to receive their final floor votes.

Both Speaker Kotek and Senate President Courtney indicated they would work with the Governor to convene a special session in the next thirty days. We do not yet know what the scope of a special session will be, and we will remain hopeful that it will be an opportunity to secure funding for important priorities of Neighborhood Partnerships, the Oregon Housing Alliance, and the Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative, including shelters for people experiencing homelessness, resources to build and maintain more affordable homes, funding for a study of long term rent assistance, funding for the Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative, and so much more.

We do know that the Emergency Board, a budget committee of the Legislature that meets during interim periods to address budget issues, will likely meet on Monday, March 9, to allocate limited funding. The Speaker indicated that priorities would be the COVID-19 response and flood damaged communities in Umatilla County. The Emergency Board needed the Legislature to act to allocate additional resources, so at this time, they are only legally allowed to allocate $75 million total for the remainder of the biennium (June 30, 2021).

We are saddened by the actions taken by the majority of the House and Senate Republican caucuses to leave the Capitol and not return. Oregon is facing severe housing challenges across our state, and the proposals that were advanced through the 2020 session would have made a significant difference to our rural and urban communities alike. HB 4001 would have significantly expanded shelter capacity for people who are currently experiencing unsheltered homelessness. HB 5202 would have allocated $50 million to build additional safe and stable homes. HB 5204 would have provided $4.5 million in funding to help the Oregon IDA Initiative continue to serve as many people as possible. And the list goes on.

You have all worked so incredibly hard to help develop our Housing Alliance and IDA Initiative legislative agendas this year. You all have worked so incredibly hard to advance all of our shared priorities – showing up in Salem for Assets & Housing Opportunity Day or hearings and meetings with legislators. Thank you so much for all of your work this session on behalf of housing and assets opportunity. The work we did positively impacted legislators to be champions for housing opportunity and economic prosperity.

Our communities deserve a legislature that takes action on urgent and pressing needs. We will await a special session to address these urgent and pressing needs.