Bid to have House vote on governor’s emergency powers fails

Oregon Governor Ordering Teachers To Return To Classroom
Abigail Dollins

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2021, file photo, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visits the Marion County and Salem Health COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Salem, Ore. Brown said Friday, March 5, 2021, that she is issuing an executive order mandating that all public schools provide universal access to in-person learning by the month's end for students up to fifth grade and by mid-April for older students.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Members of the Oregon House narrowly defeated a move on Tuesday to consider a bill that would give the Legislature oversight of the governor’s emergency powers, enacted most recently to address the coronavirus pandemic.

The motion by Rep. Rick Lewis, R-Silverton, who along with a Democrat is one of the two chief sponsors of the bill, to pull the bill from the rules committee and fast-track a House floor vote was defeated with 28 votes against and 27 in favor.

Several Democrats were among those in favor, as were all Republicans who were present. The other chief co-sponsor of the bill is Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene.

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The House Republican caucus said in a statement after the vote that it wants “to make the governor accountable to the Legislature.”

The bill requires that declarations and extensions of states of emergency under certain statutes be accompanied by written explanations. It also provides that, after termination of a state of emergency, the governor may not declare another state of emergency for the same purpose unless the Legislature authorizes it.

In its statement, the Republican caucus complained that Gov. Kate Brown, in unilaterally extending her own emergency powers, has “the ability to issue shutdowns without involving another governing body.”

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Last week, the Democratic governor announced that she was moving 15 counties into the extreme risk category for the coronavirus, which imposes restrictions that include banning indoor restaurant dining. Some of the state’s biggest cities, including Portland, Salem, Bend and Eugene, are in the counties that on Friday became classified in the most dire category.

The bill remains alive in the rules committee, where the committee chair can schedule it for a public hearing at any time before the end of the session.

Republican lawmakers in the Legislature controlled by Democrats have sponsored several other measures aimed at curtailing the governor’s emergency powers.

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