Legislative session’s delayed start opens with remote hearings
Monday, January 25, 2021
Capitol windows were boarded up last week as law enforcement prepared for possible protests during President Biden’s inauguration. (Photo by Erin Good, OSBA)
The 2021 legislative session began with a delay.
Originally scheduled to start Tuesday, Jan. 19, hearings and sessions were delayed until Thursday, Jan. 21. Law enforcement recommended waiting because of potential violence related to President Biden’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.
These delays drove home a theme for the upcoming session: It will be unlike any other.
The Legislature faces challenging issues on top of the usual budget questions. Some are predictable, notably redistricting. Redistricting sets geographic boundaries for electoral districts for federal and state congressional and legislative seats. This occurs every 10 years in conjunction with the publication of the national census, and this year there are Senate and House committees charged with that task. It can be highly partisan because where the lines are drawn often determines which party gets elected.
Other challenges are unique to this year, notably operational hurdles posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislature will convene mostly remotely this session, with committee hearings accessible online. Floor sessions will occur less frequently than usual, potentially once or twice a week.
All of this signals a slower process, but the number of bills awaiting a look defies a hobbled pace. More than 1,800 bills have been filed in the House and Senate, a typical total for a long session but a daunting mountain for this session’s processes. Legislative leadership and committee chairs will need to balance the competing pressures of a slower, more deliberate process and a great number of proposed legislative measures.
In education, scheduled hearings for this week set the stage for discussions going forward. Both House and Senate education committees will receive presentations from education stakeholders and agencies, including Hillsboro School Board and OSBA Board member Erika Lopez. The committees have not yet revealed work priorities for the months ahead.