State Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, is calling out Democrats for what he said is a lack of transparency about next week’s legislative special session on police reform and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a news release, Gov. Kate Brown said several pandemic policies she’s created through executive orders, like a moratorium on evictions and protecting CARES Act payments from garnishment should be codified into statutes. That and police accountability are on the agenda.
But Heard said Republicans don’t know much more than that. With less than a week to go, they’ve been given no proposed legislation to review and aren’t being invited to submit their own proposals.
“I literally have not seen a bill,” Heard said. “We the legislative members of the legislative assembly have not been provided bills to look at. We don’t even know what we’re looking at. And we probably won’t see any legislation to absorb until at least Tuesday or literally the day of, Wednesday.”
Heard said it feels like an ambush, with legislators rushed to approve bills they haven’t fully had a chance to evaluate.
Heard also objected to what he said was the secrecy around the session itself, with members of the public not allowed to enter the building to view the proceedings directly, and the mandate that legislators wear masks in the Capitol Building.
“If I was governor or if I was speaker or if I was president of the Senate, first and foremost, I would request that people wear masks, I would not order it because I am not a king, I am a servant,” Heard said.
“Second of all, I would allow anyone who sought to participate in the public process of the laws that will govern their lives to be fully allowed to enter their capitol building to participate,” he said. “Otherwise, we need to delay this or we need to go outside, the legislature, the governor and everybody and set up an outdoor public hearing process where we can socially distance if people feel that is necessary and wear masks and the whole thing if they so choose and participate in the public process that way.”
Heard said he does plan to wear a mask, though, because it’s the least he can do when entering a building with people who are terrified of COVID-19.
While he doesn’t object to the topics on the agenda for next week, Heard said the list is too narrow. He thinks it should also include dealing with the failures of the Oregon Employment Department to get unemployment checks to the people who need them.
On the topic of police accountability, Heard said he will look at law enforcement through the same prism he does all government agencies.
“We should do everything we can to ensure the rights and freedom of all citizens are protected. There is no cost too great to ensure that result. We should never be quick to use violent force against each other in this society,” he said.
At the same time, he said, law enforcement must be able to protect the rights and freedom of law abiding citizens.
“If there is a conflict between law enforcement and a citizen who is being accused of doing something violent or whatever, we should promote policies that give our law enforcement the ability to protect themselves while equally attempting to keep the situation from becoming deadly as they deal with the citizen who is finding themselves in the crosshairs of this disagreement,” he said.