Redistricting special session adjourned Tuesday due to COVID case

SALEM, Ore. — House Speaker Tina Kotek backed out of a deal granting Republicans an equal say in the state’s redistricting process Monday.

Some people expected another Republican walkout today as a result.

Instead, the special session came to an abrupt halt this afternoon.

“We will be adjourning until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. The reason is that in the last hour we were notified that a person who was in the capitol yesterday has tested positive for COVID,” said Kotek.

Oregon House lawmakers are waiting to hear if they will hold a vote Wednesday on Democrats’ congressional and legislative redistricting plans.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, twice delayed a scheduled floor vote Tuesday.

First, to continue negotiations with House Republican Leader Christine Drazan – then because someone working at the Capitol tested positive for COVID-19.

Lake Oswego Democratic State Representative Andrea Salinas is the Chair of the House Redistricting Committee.

She believes the COVID situation is just politics at play.

“It’s unfortunate that House Republicans haven’t negotiated in good faith and now they’re going to try and use a COVID case as a crutch, really, for being sour grapes,” she told me.

House Republican Deputy Leader, Daniel Bonham, says Democrats alleging Republicans are trying to benefit from this is appalling.

“No matter what, I’ll tell you, COVID will not stop this process – only Democrat leadership choosing partisanship over collaboration and fairness will stop this process,” he said.

The special session is underway because Oregon is gaining a congressional district due to population growth.

A pair of maps passed the Senate Redistricting Committee along party lines Monday.

PlanScore, a nonpartisan online tool that analyzes redistricting proposals for partisan bias, suggests the congressional map Democrats are hoping to pass is heavily favored in their party’s interests.

It also found the new legislative maps are relatively balanced and could slightly favor Republicans in some aspects.

Representative Salinas has been involved in the process for months, “The Senate passed fair, representative maps after months of public process.”

Republicans say the Democrat’s plan will only continue to increase the urban-rural divide in the state.

A GOP walkout is still possible to deny Democrats the quorum they need to pass legislation.

“Realistically, all options have to be on the table right now and we need to know with certainty there will be no more shenanigans because quite frankly, there’s not a lot of trust right now,” said Rep. Bonham.

Whether or not a decision can be made, with a deadline looming, remains to be seen.

The House Speaker’s office is working with the Governor’s office and the OHA to make sure testing is available to people who were in close contact.

The legislature has to pass redistricting plans by next Monday. If not, Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan will be able to draw the legislative district lines and a 5 judge panel will draw the congressional lines.

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