Second Special Session of 2020 Update

Sheri Schouten

Second Special Session of 2020 Update



Last night at 11:17pm the Oregon House wrapped up a marathon one-day Special Session of the legislature aimed at balancing the state budget, streamlining the process for out-of-work Oregonians to access unemployment benefits, and strengthening our laws on police use of deadly force.

I was in the Capitol building at 8:00am and stayed in my office for over 15 hours with only brief excursions to vote on the House Floor. Ultimately, we passed 12 of the 13 bills proposed for consideration.

Rep. Schouten Shows Off Legislative PPE at Oregon Capitol


While the Federal Government can borrow money to spend more than it takes in in taxes, Oregon has a balanced budget requirement in our Constitution. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout from the public health response, Oregon was looking at a more than $1 billion gap between what we planned to spend and our actual tax revenue.

Cutting budgets is never fun, but I am grateful to all my colleagues for their hard work over the past several weeks. I believe we have accomplished a rebalanced budget that does the least amount of harm possible under the circumstances.

We preserved the historic investments in education made in 2019 by tapping into he Education Stability Fund established for just this purpose. We avoided the worst of the proposed human services cuts by leaving vacant positions unfilled and cancelling some new programs that were set to begin this year. I would prefer not to go through this process, but it was unavoidable and we did our best with the resources available.


Two of the policy bills I want to highlight deal with improving Oregonians’ experience with the unemployment system:

SB 1701 – Increasing UI Earnings Threshold

This bill increases the amount that an unemployed individual may earn from working part-time to $300 (or one-third of their weekly benefit, whichever is greater) before losing their unemployment benefits. The previous statute limited earnings to ten times the minimum wage ($132.50) or one-third of the individual’s weekly benefit. The goal is to allow folks who can only find part-time work to be able to take those jobs without losing their UI eligibility. Representatives of both Labor and Business supported the bill, whose provisions expire December 31st, 2021.

SB 1703 – Department of Revenue Data-Sharing Changes

Under current law, the Department of Revenue (DOR) cannot share data with another state
agency without a waiver of confidentiality from an individual taxpayer. This has complicated the processing of PUA claims. SB 1703 gives the Governor the ability to authorize the Department of Revenue to share information necessary to verify a person’s identity or income with another agency for the purposes of administration of federal or state laws during an emergency. The authorization would be limited to purposes related to the emergency or consequences of the emergency (like unemployment). This change allows OED access to DOR information on income levels for the administration of unemployment insurance.

On the other hand, I was appalled to watch as another great bill died in committee. SB 1702 would have removed a burdensome extra requirement that all non-instructional school employees (think janitors, cafeteria staff, recess aides, and bus drivers) go through the lengthy adjudication process before accessing benefits.

Adjudication is intended to determine whether these folks have a “reasonable assurance” of going back to work after a school break. In normal times this rule makes sense, because most employees expect to return to work when school resumes and aren’t really “unemployed” over the summer.

But with budget difficulties and the whole structure of schools changing, many of these folks are legitimately out of work and coming up against the brick wall of adjudication, which can take up to 14 weeks to complete.

Three Senators decided that removing this extra barrier created a “special benefit” for school workers and voted “No,” killing the bill.

Let me be clear; this bill was not about letting folks “cut the line” to get benefits. Instead it was about getting folks out of the queue they’ve been stuck in unnecessarily so others waiting for adjudication can get help faster. I would like to see this bill come back if and when the governor calls for a third Special Session.

For a longer roundup of yesterday’s event, check out this article  in The Oregonian


While yesterday was a long and frustrating day in Salem, it remains my deep honor to serve as your State Representative in the people’s House.

If you ever have questions, concerns, or opinions you would like to share, please don’t hesitate to send me an email. Hearing from constituents like you is a critical part of representing a large, diverse district like mine.

And finally, please remember to continue practicing good COVID-19 mitigation procedures: wash your hands; wear a face covering; and keep adequate physical distance from anyone who you don’t live with.

Please stay healthy and stay safe!

Warm regards,

Rep. Sheri Schouten


Capitol Phone: 503-986-1427
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, HS-280, Salem, Oregon 97301