Governor’s call for special session raises variety of questions

As of the writing of this article, Governor Brown has indicated she is going to sign Senate Bill 1528, which will disconnect certain portions of the Oregon tax code from the federal tax code.

In her press release announcing her intent, she also said she is going to convene a special session of the legislature.  Since the announcement I have been asked many questions regarding the process to convene a special session.

Many of you have already read much about SB1528.  The state tax code is connected to the federal tax code. When the recent changes to the federal tax code passed, the Oregon legislature chose to disconnect from the portions of the federal code regarding certain business structures.

Those in support of SB1528 said staying connected would cost the state of Oregon millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. Those opposing SB1528, including myself, argued that the tax increase for small businesses would be a hard hit. Governor Brown announced she is going to call a special session.

What is a special session?  It’s anytime the legislature meets outside the constitutionally designated sessions that start near the beginning of every year.   According to Article Five, Section 12 the governor may by proclamation, convene a session.  The provision states, “(The governor) may on extraordinary occasions convene the Legislative Assembly by proclamation, and shall state to both houses when assembled, the purpose for which they shall have been convened.”

I, as a legislator, also have opportunity to request a special session.  The legislative branch can convene a special session, whether the governor consents or not. When 31 members of the House of Representatives and 16 members of the Senate officially request a special session, one is convened.

I have received notification from the office of the Speaker of the House that we will be called into a special session sometime the latter part of May or June.  The session will likely last one day.

Governor Brown, in the media, has stated that she wants to restore certain tax breaks to sole proprietorship businesses. I do not know the specifics of the bill that will come up for a vote; thus, I don’t know how I will vote. I am a bit frustrated that taxpayers are going to fund a very expensive day of lawmaking because a conversation that should have taken place during the short session, earlier this year,  didn’t occur. I find it interesting that there is polling data that says SB1528 is very unpopular and this is an election year.   

I have been concerned since 2008, when voters approved the referral for annual sessions, that a short session that occurs in an election year would be used for campaign purposes and not governing.

We should know in the next couple weeks if, indeed, a session will be convened and when.