Despite the limitations of the remote legislative session, Oregon lawmakers are not letting the closure of the capitol and virtual hearings slow down the session’s pace. The legislature is on track to introduce more measures than any recent session and, according to The Oregonian, House Speaker Tina Kotek suggested the total number of bills could exceed 4,000. The logistical obstacles of the virtual session are also not slowing down the pace or volume of measures heard in committee. To date, the committees have held hearings on 427 bills. In comparison, during the 2019 session, the committees held hearings on only 320 measures at the same point in the session. Lawmakers do not intend to return to the building for regular proceedings until April, at the earliest. It is unclear how they will manage the bottleneck of bills and all the sponsors and advocates seeking to move them.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is expected to consider and vote on a resolution expelling Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-Portland) after a legislative committee found evidence of at least 18 instances of actions that were regarded as sexual harassment or created a hostile workplace. Rep. Hernandez fired back against the legislature today with a lawsuit aimed at the Oregon State Legislature, House Speaker, co-chairs of the conduct committee, and the legislature’s equity officer for $1 million in damages for emotional distress and the potential loss of his job. In addition to the monetary award, the suit seeks an injunction to prevent the legislature from expelling him from the chamber.
The proceedings for expelling a member from their own ranks is uncharted waters for the legislature and dominating most of the legislature’s attention. The House is expected to consider and vote on the resolution during its weekly floor session on Tuesday, February 16. The chamber is rumored to suspend its rules limiting the time members can speak on the issue, which may result in a lengthy floor debate before the highest-profile vote of the session.