Special legislative session focuses on police accountability, COVID-19 relief

SALEM, Ore. — A special legislative session called by Governor Kate Brown starts Wednesday. Dozens of bills will be discussed from police accountability to COVID-19 relief, but no budget issues are on the table.

“The special session is really focused on two major topics. One is covid related legislations. Things that must be addressed because the crisis has really generated issues for people. And the second is really police accountability,” Rep. Pam Marsh said.

The governor’s office sent out a list of 27 measures she would like considered. Six of those measures address police accountability.

“The one that I know has a lot of bipartisan support is the changes to arbitration,” Rep. Kim Wallan said.

Bills include a ban against chokeholds, statewide police discipline and a measure to make it easier for police officers to be fired if found guilty of misconduct.

Another hot topic will be foreclosures and evictions, with the governor’s moratorium on evictions ending this month.

“We understand that there will be an effort to memorialize the governor’s suspension of evictions, potentially to extend it because the emergency is still very much in place,” Rep. Marsh said.

“Those are kind of important, but that’s not the pressing issue of the day, in my opinion,” Rep. Leif said.

But many Republican lawmakers say they’re frustrated that budget issues didn’t make the list.

“There’s nothing about our budgets. There’s nothing about this is a constitutional crisis. There’s nothing about any of that stuff. Honestly, I don’t know that we should be putting 90 legislators, plus maybe some of their staff in harm’s way,” Rep. Leif said.

While lawmakers are focused on bills, they will also have to properly distance.

“There’s no clear answer, there’s no clear answer,” Rep. Wallan said.

Desks on the floor will be rearranged for six feet of distance in all directions.

“We will not be on the house floor all at one time because there’s 60 of us, plus staff and that’s too many people,” Rep. Marsh said.

When lawmakers don’t have to be on the floor, they will likely watch from their office on the TV.

“I’ll just step out of my office on the third floor, put a thumbs up or a thumbs down,” Rep. Leif said.

The special session has no time limit, but lawmakers estimate it will be between one to five days. Governor Brown said she plans to call legislators back later this summer to address financial issues.

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