State legislators make their way up to Salem for special session

SALEM, Ore. – This might have been one of the most unusual sessions state legislators have experienced.

While politicians are reorganizing how to safely meet in the Capitol due to Coronavirus concerns the topics they’re discussing are just as uncertain.

“This is 100% driven by emotion to satisfy the people that are burning down Portland,” said State Sen. Herman Baertschiger.

He went into the special session ready to discuss Oregon’s budget shortfall, but was instead greeted by talks of policy change: addressing police reform and unemployment.

“Police reform? In an afternoon? Really? I don’t think so,” said Sen. Baertschiger.

Many legislators are hoping to wrap up the special session by Monday night, Baertschiger says that likely won’t happen

“When this bill comes out of this committee today there is no time to examine it or comment on it,” said Sen. Baertschiger.

But State Rep. Pam Marsh says local law enforcement agencies are already on board with the proposed police reform policy. Which restricts police officers from use of force techniques unless in a life threatening situation.

“Choke holds are not a strategy used by or endorsed by our local law enforcement so basically taking it off the table,” said Rep. Marsh.

Rep. Marsh is hopeful it will receive bipartisan support by Monday night, but some state Republicans tell us. They’re disappointed these discussions are happening behind closed doors and without public comment

“If we have to make special accommodations for the public that takes a week to go through these hearings for the public to weigh in, so be it,” said Sen. Baertschiger.

The public isn’t allowed to comment during this special session due to coronavirus concerns. It’s still uncertain what will get passed and how long the special session will last or when budget items will be finalized. One thing is for sure, this is one unusual political time.

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