Security tighter as Oregon swears in new legislature

Civic Affairs

Lawmakers nervous about security amid threats, online chatter

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — As the members of the Oregon House and Senate were sworn in Monday to begin the 2021 session, security is visibly increasing following the insurrection at the US Capitol and earlier protests at the state Capitol.

The Oregon State Capitol is still closed to the public during the pandemic. But right-wing protesters, angry about the COVID shutdown, walked in through a door opened by Republican Rep. Mike Nearman.

A much stronger presence from the Oregon State Police was seen outside the Capitol on Monday, but there were no protests. Inside OSP checked the ID of everyone who entered with a swipe cardkey.

This week is a get-organized week for the session that officially begins next Tuesday and lasts until June.

A legislator in Salem at the swearing in for the Oregon 2021 session, January 10, 2021 (KOIN)

Newly elected senators and representatives were sworn in Monday and lawmakers begin reading into the record thousands of bills to be considered this session. GOP lawmakers objected to the rules passed that will keep the Capitol closed to the public primarily due to the pandemic. Public hearings will be virtual and floor sessions will be streamed live.

But security for the building is a real concern.

“We are on edge but we have such amazing support from the Oregon State Police in the Capitol,” said Sen. Ginny Burdick. “We feel confident we are taking steps to get trained in various scenarios.”

The FBI said they are tracking reports of armed protests in all 50 US state captials between now and the day Joe Biden is inaugurated as President of the United States.

Officials with OSP told KOIN 6 News they are monitoring any threats or protests and are planning accordingly.

Swearing in

Tina Kotek, the longtime representative from Portland, was sworn in for her 5th consecutive term as Speaker of the House.

Kotek, who is the longest serving Speaker since Vera Katz of Portland from 1985-1991, said 2021 will be about rebuilding from the havoc left by the past year.

“I’m deeply honored to continue serving Oregon and my colleagues as their Speaker,” Kotek said. “We have been dealing with crisis after crisis for the past year, and we have many challenges ahead. For the state’s recovery to reach all Oregonians equitably, our actions must be bold, decisive, and transformative. I’m ready to get to work.”

In the Senate, lawmakers voted Senator Peter Courtney (D-Salem) to his record 10th term as Senate President.

“We have a long road ahead. These are tough times,” Senate President Courtney said. “We are legislating in a new way. It will be difficult but we must keep going. Oregonians are hurting. We will be there for them in their time of need.”

Courtney’s 37th year in the Oregon State Legislature is the longest in state history. He has also served as Senate President since 2003.

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