State Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, continued to express frustration Thursday about a legislative special session this week that’s being tightly controlled by the House speaker and the Senate president, both Democrats.
The session began Wednesday and was initially projected to wrap up Friday.
Heard said Thursday afternoon a planned Senate floor session for that day had been postponed until Friday. Meanwhile, legislators on the Joint Committee on the First Special Session of 2020 considered an array of bills in the first and second day of the session.
The hearings, and proposed legislation, have strayed already into topics not related to either of the two stated purposes for the session — COVID-19 relief and police accountability — with legislators considering bills over cell phone taxation and whether driver’s licenses should be confiscated over traffic infractions.
Bills under consideration that do address the core topics include an extension of a provision that bars evictions for nonpayment of rent and a host of police accountability measures. The police reforms being considered would ban police officers from using chokeholds on suspects and teargas on protestors; make records of police disciplinary actions public; and require police officers to intervene if a fellow officer is violating the law.
Heard said Republicans are being effectively shut out of a lot of the process.
Only House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney are being allowed to propose bills, and determine what amendments are considered. All the bills are being considered by the special session committee before moving to the full House or Senate. Eight committee members are Democrats. Six are Republicans.
Heard put the delayed Senate floor session down to a large number of bills being funneled through a small number of people.
“This is what happens when you load up this many bills and have this few people actually hearing and working it,” Heard said.
Heard said he does not favor the extension of eviction protections, calling them unfair to landlords who have invested in those properties and may have bank loans and maintenance expenses to pay.
But when it comes to publishing police disciplinary records, he wants to know why Democrats haven’t listened to Republicans who’ve been bringing these issues up for years.
The police unions, he said, have created a system over the decades that prevents reporters and private citizens from gaining access to reports showing that particular officers have had complaints against them.
“That’s always been under a cloak of darkness,” he said.
The same problem exists in the public schools, he said, where public employee unions have prevented access to information about complaints against teachers who have been caught doing things they shouldn’t.
“What was stopping these supermajority Democrats who had the entire state of Oregon over the barrel for the last 20 solid years, what’s been stopping them before from taking care of this stuff? Because they would have never had any opposition from us on breaking the complete monopoly stranglehold on the community of Oregon that these public labor unions have had,” Heard said.