Get ready for the 2022 legislative session

The Oregon State Legislature will start this year’s legislative session tomorrow (Tuesday, February 1).

The session will last 35 days: In even years (which happen to coincide with elections at most levels of federal, state, and local government in Oregon), the state legislature has a ‘short session.’ In odd years, Oregon’s legislative sessions last 160 days. Usually, the short session is seen as a way to handle relatively minor issues that arise in between longer sessions, but this year has a packed agenda.

Your state, your agenda

You’re practically guaranteed to find something on this year’s legislative agenda that you care about. Make the time to call into your state senator’s and state representative’s offices and make your opinion known. Paper letters, social media posts, and in-person visits (if both you and your legislator are comfortable with that option) are all effective as well. Emails to your elected officials are also useful if you can’t access other options, but are usually seen as one of the least effective options by everyone except state legislators, who like that emails can be easily archived.

If you aren’t sure who represents your geographic area in the Oregon State Legislature, you can look up that information on their website by typing in your address. Personally, I find that copying that contact information directly into my phone’s contacts makes calling officials a little easier — if I want to make a phone call part of my daily routine for, say, 35 weekdays in a row, I don’t want to look up phone numbers every day.

For issues you feel particularly strongly about, consider providing testimony during committee and legislative hearings. Once bills have been assigned to committees, sign up links will be available on the Oregon State Legislature’s website.

The State Capitol will be open to the public, including galleries where visitors can watch lawmakers, for those who feel comfortable watching proceedings in person. However, there are new safety restrictions in place, both for COVID-19 and for physical security. Committee meetings will remain virtual.

New leadership and new members

The Oregon State Legislature has seen major leadership changes in the past few months. Tina Kotek resigned as House Speaker in January, as did Christine Drazan, the House Minority Leader. Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson has already replaced Drazan and Rep. Dan Rayfield will be replacing Kotek, once some administrative details are handled Tuesday morning. Several major committees have also seen turnover; perhaps the most significant appointment is that of Rep. Tawna Sanchez as co-chair of the legislature’s joint budget committee. Sanchez is the first Native American to hold the highly influential position. Senate President Peter Courtney has announced his intention to retire and Governor Kate Brown is term-limited, both of which will likely change some of the behind-the-scenes politics for this legislative session.

In addition to new leadership, new members are joining the state legislature as vacancies continue to be filled. Here are some of the Portland-area changes:

Major agenda items to know about

This session’s agenda is likely to be contentious. Breese Iverson has already implied that House Republicans are willing to use walkouts in order to push their legislative agenda. Various organizations and media have argued that a Republican refusal to participate should be met with compromise — but that strategy is risky at best.

I made a first pass at the legislation up for consideration, although I haven’t been able to read through all bills that have been posted so far. These bills have potential for improving current issues. While the details available are still up for debate, you may want to let your state senator and state representative know if you support these bills.

These are a few bills to watch. While they may have some items worth consideration, they could quickly evolve into problematic legislation.

  • Online access to school districts’ curricula (HB 4022 and SB 1575) — While the State of Oregon already requires school districts to provide curriculum information publicly, this bill would require school districts to post curriculum information on their websites. More transparency around how school boards operate is good, but the first version of the bill is supported by a few officials concerned with the possibility that someone might be teaching advanced legal frameworks on institutionalized racism to K-12 students. The bills would also enable parents to prevent their children from participating in sex education. Sponsors included Representative Christine Drazan before she announced her resignation to focus on her gubernatorial run.
  • A constitutional amendment to let parents choose schools for their children (SJR 201) — This proposed amendment would enable parents to request money from the state to pay for their children’s education at private schools, offering a roundabout way to defund Oregon schools.
  • Control of illegal cannabis farms (SB 1587, SB 1541, HB 4016, HB 4061) — A number of bills are under consideration in order to control the growing number of illegal cannabis farms, especially in southern Oregon. However, there’s been little discussion so far of factors like the skewed enforcement of cannabis controls agains people of color, as well as concerns that further criminalizing cannabis farms will increase their reliance on human trafficking for workers.

I’ll be posting updates on the Oregon State Legislature’s short session as part of PDX.Vote’s regular digests as they come up.

By Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram founded PDX.Vote after making numerous zines, newsletters, and other media about politics in Portland, Oregon. Thursday has also written for publications ranging from to Entrepreneur Magazine. You can find more of Thursday's work at