The Oregon Capitol building in Salem. Photo: Chas Hundley

The Oregon Legislature is in danger of being cut out of the process of drawing up new legislative and congressional voting districts because 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data likely won’t be available until after July 1 — it was supposed to arrive April 1. 

The Oregon Constitution requires redistricting to be finalized by July 1 every 10 years. This year, Oregon’s population was expected to have grown enough to allow for a sixth congressional district to be drawn. 

Former President Donald Trump enacted a policy that called for the Census Bureau not to count undocumented immigrants in the final tally — a move that would have favored Republicans’ national redistricting efforts — but after being sworn in on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order reversing the Trump Administration policy, adding further delays already caused by the difficulty of counting the population during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

A letter written by the chairs and vice-chairs of the House and Senate redistricting committees requests that the Oregon Supreme Court intervene. If a postponement is allowed by the court, lawmakers could adopt both the new legislative and congressional maps in a special session in the fall.

The Oregon Constitution says that the Secretary of State, currently Democrat Shemia Fagan, will draw legislative districts by August 15 if lawmakers are unable to complete redistricting by July 1. Responsibility for redrawing legislative districts falls to the state Supreme Court after Aug. 15.

Legislative districts are those at the state level. For example, Gales Creek, Timber, and Glenwood fall largely in House District 32 and Senate District 16.

State law, however, requires congressional redistricting to be decided by a panel of five citizen judges, one from each current congressional district, if lawmakers don’t complete the task by July 1. 

Oregon has not received a new congressional district since 1980, but rapid population growth, most notably in Washington County and Deschutes County, during the last 10 years lead to the state receiving an additional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Rep. Weber sponsors bills on education, and honors a seafood staple on the Oregon coast

Newly-sworn-in Rep. Suzanne Weber (R-Tillamook) is sponsoring three bills introduced in the Oregon House that are focused on education and celebrating one of the Oregon coast’s longest-running businesses.  

First, in lighter matters, House Concurrent Resolution 8 congratulates Mo’s Seafood and Chowder, the long-running restaurant chain with locations up and down the Oregon coast, for being in business for 75 years.

“We, the members of the 81st Legislative Assembly, congratulate Mo’s Seafood and Chowder for 75 years of successful business, and we recognize and honor Mo Niemi’s larger than life personality for being the spark that lit the fire of the tourism industry on the Oregon Coast,” the resolution states. 

Second, Rep. Weber is sponsoring education bills House Joint Resolution 4 and Senate Bill 712

HJR 4 proposes an amendment to the Oregon Constitution requiring the Legislature to appropriate money to fund public education before passing any other budget measure in each odd-numbered year session. 

If passed by lawmakers, the proposed amendment would be put to the ballot by resolution for citizens to approve or reject during the next general election in 2022. 

Senate Bill 712 would establish a higher education coordinating commission consisting of one undergraduate student, one graduate student, and one faculty member from a public university, one student and one faculty member from a community college, and one non-faculty staff member from either a public university or community college. 

Each of these positions will be filled by the governor with confirmation approved by the Oregon Senate.

Additionally, the commission would include one member from each of Oregon’s five congressional districts and four members of the general public. Each member will serve four-year-terms.