In recent sessions, bipartisan friction has worked its way into the process from the beginning. However, this year, new leadership in both chambers and the governor’s office helped align priorities early on and get a substantial housing bill through the Legislature. It was clear skies and friendly forecasts.
But disagreements between the aisles threaten to re-route the flight of some legislation as we pass the first major deadline of that 2023 Oregon Legislative session.
One reason for bipartisan discord is the upward movement of firearm legislation. Gun control bills have long been a sticking point between Republicans and Democrats, and the tragic school shooting last week in Nashville, Tenn., amplified the emotions around the topic. Committees passed an omnibus “firearm safety” package and a bill aimed to support Measure 114.
After the omnibus housing package sailed through both chambers and to the governor’s desk, the next big housing bill faces a stronger headwind. Democrats argue the need to expand protection for renters, while Republicans worry about disincentivizing development by creating more onerous rules.
These and other prickly subjects played out last week against a backdrop of packed committee agendas. Bills that have yet to receive a first work session by the end of business on Tuesday will die, so committee chairs overstuffed their agendas to get to as much as possible, hearing dozens of bills a day and bumping many more. For instance, the House Behavioral Health & Health Care Committee is slated to hear 28 bills on Monday, including seven carried over from last week.
All told, 682 bills were scheduled for a hearing between Monday and April 4. Inevitably, a large number of bills that survived the posting deadline won’t survive this week, adding to the bipartisan angst felt in the building.
Once the deadline passes, legislators will have the opportunity to assess the bills that have passed their first chamber, look for options to amend portions of their dead bills and decide how to proceed for the second phase of the 2023 Oregon Legislative session.