With first deadline in sight, pressure mounts on ambitious topics
Monday, March 8, 2021
The first big culling of bills is fast approaching, and legislators are scrambling to assess which measures are healthy enough to go on.
The first significant procedural deadline is March 19. With exceptions for the financial, joint and rules committees, all House bills in House committees and Senate bills in Senate committees must be posted for a vote by March 19. If a bill isn’t posted by then, in Capitol parlance, it’s dead.
Committee chairs are scheduling hearings to see which bills have enough support to progress.
In the Senate Education Committee, this includes perennial challenges and new ideas:
fixing the ongoing challenges of course credit transfer (SB 76) and common course numbering (SB 233) in higher education.
The topics of equity, racial justice and representation in education continue to be a priority with bills that would address expulsion (SB 236), performance reporting (SB 328) and restorative justice (SB 736).
The House Education Committee has similarly devoted time to bills about equity and justice. HB 2697 would put into law the Oregon Department of Education’s “Every Student Belongs” prohibitions against certain symbols of hate: the noose, the Confederate battle flag and neo-Nazi symbols.
Other topics include:
protections during budget cuts for teachers who add to a school's diversity (HB 2001);
mandatory accreditation for certain General Education Degree test scores (HB 2589);
fee postings (HB 2542), fee collection (HB 3012) and books and materials costs (HB 2919) in higher education.
Other committees have taken big swings at hard topics that affect schools, including:
gun control for local municipalities and districts (SB 544);
reporting requirements for medical professionals in suspected suicides by people age 24 or younger (HB 3037);
funding for grant programs to assist unaccompanied homeless youths in finding stable housing and working toward diploma completion (HB 2544).
Legislators and advocates aren’t sure yet which of their boldest ideas have appeal. And they are all trying very hard to figure out what does.
These next two weeks are the toughest of every legislative session. The workload is the heaviest it will be, and advocates push hardest for (or against) bills they are targeting.
Everyone in the Legislature starts to really feel the heat, a legislative slow-cooker. With the added stress of remote hearings and difficult access clamping down all involved, it’s feeling more like a pressure-cooker that could explode at any moment.
Consensus agreements on contentious bills could let off a bit of steam. Quietly taking some bills out of the mix will bring down the pressure too.
But it’s only a temporary reprieve. Committees have until April 13 to vote these bills out of committee, or another legislative culling looms.