Special session for pandemic response likely next week
Friday, March 27, 2020
The Legislature is set to convene a special session next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. The session’s purpose will be to make necessary changes to laws to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legislative leadership put together a Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response to discuss and prioritize legislative proposals aimed at mitigating economic and community issues due to COVID-19. Committee Co-chairs Sen. Arnie Roblan, D- Coos Bay, and Rep. Paul Holvey, D- Eugene, focused the committee on providing community support and economic stability during the outbreak, with emphasis on helping vulnerable people, businesses and government bodies.
The committee met four times from Wednesday, March 18, to Tuesday, March 24. The meetings were long, and many legislators attended virtually, in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
The committee members considered dozens of policy options. From legislators' deliberations, the co-chairs drafted a letter of recommendations to House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. The full list of recommendations is an expansive, statewide response.
Of note to school districts, business groups requested a delay in the implementation of the corporate activity tax (CAT) to fund the Student Success Act. The letter responds to this request by noting that:
“[T]he committee also considered delaying the first quarter payments of the 2019 CAT tax. While the committee could not reach a final decision to delay the tax, some consensus was found on considerations and information needed to better understand the impact of a delay. Some of those questions included: can you differentiate businesses by their margins, or by participation in the federal PFML program, and is there a balance to be struck between new and current local taxes, and more.”
The committee’s proposal includes only technical changes to the CAT that likely would have passed during the February 2020 session without much controversy as part of House Bill 4009.
Although OSBA is heartened that a CAT delay was not recommended, it is unknown how the Legislature will use these recommendations.
In addition to working to preserve the Student Success Act, OSBA has been coordinating with local government associations and stakeholders to ensure that necessary local government functions can occur in accordance with Gov. Kate Brown’s “stay home” order.
These changes will include adjustments to make sure districts can still generate budgets in a timely fashion. Rules adjustments could include, for example, changes to quorum or other public meetings requirements for meetings that must occur during a state-level declared emergency.
This special session will likely be the first of multiple special sessions. Legislative leadership has agreed it will be focused only on the response to the most urgent needs presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional special sessions could be organized to deal with other broader issues.