SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday announced that she will convene a special session of the state legislature to address both COVID-19 and police accountability measures.
The short 2020 legislative session ended abruptly at the beginning of March after Democrats and Republicans reached an impasse over a cap-and-trade bill, leaving a number of other bills unaddressed. Some funding measures were later taken up by the Legislative Emergency Board as the state went on lockdown in response to coronavirus.
Governor Brown said that the special session is set to begin at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, June 24. The focus of the session will be to improve police accountability and further address the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.
“We are at a unique moment in America,” Brown said. “I am calling a special session to take up two urgent issues facing our state: the COVID-19 pandemic and police accountability. Several pandemic-related policies that I have implemented via executive order, including the temporary eviction moratorium and protecting CARES Act payments from garnishment, should be codified in statute. And the public’s call for significant police reform is too urgent to wait until the next regular legislative session. It’s imperative that the Legislature take action on these issues right away.”
On Monday, the House Republican caucus released a statement on the potential for a special session, saying that they wanted to minimize the economic impact of COVID-19 by "reducing the weight of government waste, protecting the safety net, preserving essential public services, reversing job-killing regulations and lightening the burden of aggressive new taxes."
House Republicans took aim, in particular, at the "economic devastation" caused by Governor Brown's executive orders during the coronavirus response.
Following Brown's announcement on Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, R-Stayton, released a statement questioning the purpose behind calling a special session that did not immediately address the state's budget.
“I fail to understand why the Governor is calling the legislature in for a special session, an expensive undertaking for taxpayers, in the middle of a pandemic, when it is not intended to address the state budget deficit," Sen. Girod said. "The intent of this special session should be to balance the state budget, which is the fundamental job of the legislature, and provide relief to Oregonians suffering from the ongoing COVID-19 economic disaster. Instead, the Governor is prioritizing policy bills."
Brown said that she wants to call a second special session later in the summer in order to balance the state's budget in light of the major impacts of coronavirus.
"Unless the federal government takes action, states like Oregon could be forced to make significant cuts to schools, health care, and senior services," Brown said. “In the meantime, I am finalizing a list of $150 million General Fund savings for this biennium, to be released by the end of this week as part of my efforts to put Oregon’s budget on better footing.”