The House chamber in the state Capitol in Salem.

The House chamber in the state Capitol in Salem. 

A salute to former military members followed by a week with lots of talk a about possible plans for 2022 is on tap for the Oregon Legislature, which has Legislative Committee Days scheduled starting Monday.

Veterans Day ranks low on holiday list

Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, when the nation salutes the 18 million living men and women who have served in the armed forces.

Military veterans range from 100-year-old men who fought in World War II to teenage women serving in the ongoing "War on Terror" centered on the Persian Gulf.

Whether the salute includes a holiday or just a pause in the work day depends on who you work for. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 70% of public employees have a paid day off on Thursday.  In the private sector, it's just 11%.

In Oregon, Veterans Day is one of 10 paid days off for state workers n 2021. In November, most workers in private or public sectors have a paid day off on Thanksgiving.

It's not the last split decision on November days off. 

The overwhelming majority of all workers - public and private - get a paid day off.

The day after is different. The bureau reports that just over two-thirds of public employees get a paid day off on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Only about one-third of private sector workers get a paid day off.

Quick stop for Pitt

A Senate panel Monday is expected to quickly approve the nomination of Lewis Pitt, the director of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, to a seat on the Pacific Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Council.

Pitt is among several dozen nominations by Gov. Kate Brown up for confirmation by the Senate Interim Committee On Rules and Executive Appointments. Pitt is listed among nominees who do not have to appear to testify.

If confirmed, Pitt would finish the term of Chuck Sams, a former top administrator of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation, who was appointed earlier this year by Brown.

Sams resigned when President Joe Biden nominated him as National Parks Director. Sams is awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation.

Pitt would start the $142,848-per-year position on Nov. 19 and serve through Jan. 15, 2024.

Money in, money out

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis will present the last quarterly fiscal forecast of 2021 at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday during a joint hearing of the Senate and House finance committees.  

In its last report, issued in September, the office was gave an upbeat assessment of the state of the state's finances.

"The economic outlook remains bright. Strong household incomes, boosted considerably by federal aid during the pandemic, are the underlying driver," the report said.

The report on Wednesday is expected to include the impact of the delta variant on the state economy, as well as rising inflation and the end of many pandemic aid programs.

Talking 2022

The Senate confirmations, including Pitt, and the economic forecast are the two central pieces of business next week for committees convening during Legislative Committee Days at the state Capitol. 

Under the state constitution, the Legislature is barred from introducing legislation during the interim between sessions. By law, committee days are long on talk and short on action.

That doesn't stop lawmakers from floating a flurry of legislative concepts, or ideas they hope will become bills next year. 

Legislative leaders have scheduled 39 meetings and hearings over the four days beginning Monday. It's a preview of the likely overflowing in-basket of bills coming next year. Most concepts never become laws and the tight schedule of the even-year 35-day sessions make for a sprint to the finish line.

That is if there is any race at all.

Until the House and Senate are gaveled to order on Feb. 1, 2022, no real business can be conducted.

Scores of legislative concepts were floated prior to the 2020 session. But it ended ended abruptly in early March when Republicans walked out over a bill to cap carbon emissions. The only GOP members who did not depart were then-Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend and Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend.

Democrats were still short the two-thirds of members in each chamber required to do any business. The Legislature remained dark until the 35 days of the session ran out and all pending legislation died with it. 

Distanced yearnings

Committee days have traditionally been a chance for legislators, lobbyists and the public to gather in between the annual sessions. Groups advocate for their issues, while lawmakers share their wants and needs for the next session in an informal atmosphere.

That hasn't happened in almost two years.

Since February 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut the Capitol or limited its use. Marion County, which includes Salem, has had some of the highest infection rates in the state during the pandemic. The zip code that includes the Capitol has reported the most infections per week several times over the past two years.

The number of cases has been declining since the Labor Day peak, but the area continues to have an 8% positive test rate, above the 5% rate the Oregon Health Authority says is manageable to control future spikes.

After multiple infection outbreaks during the regular and special session, lawmakers are sticking with virtual hearings during next week's meetings. Legislative leaders say they will follow Oregon Health Authority advice on how to proceed in 2022, when the Legislature is set to meet in February and March.  

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