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.
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.”
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.
On Tuesday, those counties were moved back to high risk, effective Friday, because the statewide seven-day average increase for hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients dropped below 15 percent.
“Beginning Friday, all counties in Extreme Risk will return to High Risk. With Oregonians continuing to get vaccinated each week, my expectation is that we will not return to Extreme Risk again for the duration of this pandemic,” Brown said.
This means indoor dining and other activities will be allowed.
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.