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Redistricting: Impact on Oregon Business

Written on Dec. 28th, 2021
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In late September, the Oregon Legislature conducted business in a politically high stakes special session against a court-mandated deadline to redraw both Congressional, and state legislative maps. This highly contentious special session would provide the blueprint for what Oregon could look like over the next 10 years. Redrawing district lines has been a pillar in American democracy for over 200 years. The use of imaginary lines to form an elcotorit body which favors one party over another is a tactic used by both parties in every state. Securing party power is fundamental in pushing forth any agenda. In Oregon, the legislature is tasked with drawing district lines and it has historically come with a theatrical political fight. Earlier in the year, House Speaker Tina Kotek made an agreement with GOP leadership to give equal say in the redistricting process in a bargain to end delay tactics House Republicans’ utilized through house floor rulemaking. As the special session neared at the end of September, Kotek reneged on her earlier agreement and changed the makeup of the two committees to give Democrats majority power on which maps would move to the house floor for consideration. This forced GOP lawmakers to consider denying a quorum on the house floor for the Special Session, a similar tactic Democrats used in the 2001 redistricting process. Ultimately, House Republicans came to the table to debate the validity of the maps and argued against the process for which the maps were drawn. SB 881 (congressional aps) and SB 882 (legislative maps) passed along party lines. The maps which were ultimately passed could reshape the current makeup of the legislature for local elected officials here in Salem. For example, House District 19, which is currently held by Representative Raquel Moore-Green has been held by a Republican since 2012. House District 19 is primarily made up of Aumsville, Turner, and South Salem, blending rural an urban parts of the Willamette Valley. The current map has a +4 republican voter registration advantage, but republican candidates have historically outperformed that slight advantage. Under the new map, House District 19 is an urban dominated seat with a democrat voter registration advantage of +12. Additionally, the new HD19 lines incorporated a long time Democrat legislature, Brian Clem, who has fought for bringing the two parties closer together. On the house floor during the debates in September, Representative Clem announced that he would not be seeking re-election and pushed back on House Speaker Kotek on her pulling back from her earlier deal with Republicans on providing an equal share of power on the redistricting committee. With Representative Clem’s announcement that he would not be seeking re-election in the newly formed HD19, this gives Representative Raquel Moore-Green an incumbent advantage if she were to seek reelection in 2022. Currently, the Oregon House of Representatives is made up of 37 Democrats and 23 Republicans, giving Democrats a super majority. From a business community perspective, balance is the name of the game as it pertains to our state legislative makeup. Every year, business becomes more difficult to operate due to increased regulations and government oversight, and each long session comes with fear of some form of new business tax or employee/employer related legislation. With a super majority of one party, it is hard to strike compromise on key pieces of legislation. A vast majority of democratic lawmakers lack the experience of owning and operating a business and lack the foresight of the impacts that legislation can have on the ability for a business owner to sign the front of a paycheck. Once the Oregon Secretary of State’s office provides the most updated data on the new maps, we will have a more profound perspective on how each district changed in terms of voter registration advantage. This will provide a clear view of what districts may be more competitive and will help provide a blueprint for the future of Oregon.

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