Oregon Capitol will be closed to the public during the session
Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) held a joint press availability today in which they released its Capitol Operations Plan
for the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session starting on Tuesday, January 19. According to them, the goal of the plan is to balance the following priorities:
- Safety – for the public, building employees, legislators and their staff
- Transparency – to ensure that the process is clear and encourages public input
- Strong public participation – to make sure proposed legislation receives public review
- The completion of the Legislature’s business – to meet the needs of the state
According to the statement, "The session will begin with committees meeting remotely and physical entry to the Capitol permitted for authorized personnel. Floor sessions will be limited to necessary business only, with daily floor sessions beginning in April. If public health conditions improve, public entry to the Capitol will be expanded in accordance with public health protocols."
Some observers noted that while the public continues to shop at Wal-Mart, Target and Fred Meyer, they are unable to gather at the Capitol, as guaranteed by Article 1, Section 26 of the Oregon Constitution, which reads:
No law shall be passed restraining any of the inhabitants of the State from assembling together in a peaceable manner to consult for their common good; nor from instructing their Representatives; nor from applying to the Legislature for redress of greviances [sic].
The Oregon Constitution is also very clear the Legislative proceedings need to be open to the public, as outlined in Article 4, Section 15:
The deliberations of each house, of committees of each house or joint committees and of committees of the whole, shall be open. Each house shall adopt rules to implement the requirement of this section and the houses jointly shall adopt rules to implement the requirements of this section in any joint activity that the two houses may undertake.
The statement issued by Legislative leadership continues, "Authorized personnel who work in the building, including legislators, are instructed to follow public health workplace rules set by Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), including mask usage and maintaining six feet of physical distance from others. Members will be permitted to have staff on-site but will be limited to the office occupancy limits. Remote work will be strongly encouraged for all other staff and legislative agencies.
"The Presiding Officers will work with Democratic and Republican caucus leaders to determine when in-person work in the Capitol can be expanded. Currently, Marion County is among the 23 of 36 Oregon counties in the Extreme Risk category. County conditions will be monitored weekly beginning in February to determine the potential for expanded entry."
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Speaker Kotek brought up the incident that happened at the December 21 special session, in which several persons made their way inside the closed Capitol. She said that State Representative Mike Nearman "did open a door to allow demonstrators into the building," a claim that has not been substantiated. A member of the speaker's staff was arrested last year
for interfering with a peace officer -- a class A misdemeanor.
We spoke with Representative Nearman and he declined to be quoted for this article, but noted for the record that the Legislative Sessions have been open to the public for many years, and despite persons openly carrying weapons, and virtually no security at the Capitol, there have been relatively few incidents.
|Post Date: 2021-01-07 13:27:38||Last Update: 2021-01-07 23:13:39|