Senate President Peter Courtney is the most veteran member of the Oregon Legislature. He is now serving his historic fifth term as Senate President.
With a deep respect for the Legislature as the branch of government most accessible and responsive to the people, President Courtney continuously strives to improve its effectiveness. In 2005, he initiated the Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature, a 30-member blue ribbon panel assigned to analyze the Legislature’s structure and operations and recommend improvements by January 2007. Also in 2005, he asked Senate committees to hold hearings in communities across the state to make it easier for people to participate. More than 2,000 Oregonians participated in these hearings in 22 Oregon counties.
President Courtney oversaw the extremely successful 2007 session, during which he provided strong leadership on a variety of Legislative reforms including moving towards annual Legislative sessions, restoration of the State Capitol building, and passage of one of the strongest ethics reform packages for public officials in the country. During this session he was also instrumental in passing an updated and expanded Oregon Bottle Bill and a bill to protect the health of bar and restaurant owners by banning smoking in all public indoor spaces. He also helped pass legislation that will phase in requirements for Physical Education in public schools and provide grants to districts to hire and train physical education teachers.
In the 2005 Legislative session, Courtney successfully steered mental health parity and other landmark legislation through the Legislature. He helped direct public attention to the needs of the Oregon State Hospital and its residents and authored “Molly’s Law,” helping families of people with developmental disabilities reconnect with loved ones.
In his first term as Senate President in 2003, Courtney helped negotiate an historic power-sharing agreement between the 15 Democrats and 15 Republicans in the state Senate that year. In the 2001 session, he sponsored an historic package of bills related to earthquake emergency training and seismic retrofitting of public buildings, all of which were overwhelmingly approved by Oregon voters in November 2002. For this work, he received the 2001 Award in Excellence for Legislation from the Western States Seismic Policy Council.
Courtney is in his fourth term as a state senator, was the House Minority Leader for four terms and was a state representative for seven terms. He represents Senate District 11, which includes portions of Salem, Gervais and Woodburn.
Courtney began his career in public service in 1974 as a member of the Salem City Council, where he served until 1980. He also was a member of the Salem Area Mass Transit Board. An active member of his community, Courtney serves on the Salem YMCA advisory board, served on the Salem United Way board and coached basketball for the Salem Boys and Girls Club. At Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Courtney is a long-time instructor and administrator and also announces the school’s men’s and women’s basketball games. Courtney has run the Hood-to-Coast relay race 15 times, most recently in August 2008 with his team “Peter and the Wolves”.
As a champion for children, people with mental illnesses, people with developmental disabilities, and people who serve in the armed forces, Courtney has a long list of Legislative accomplishments, including, among other Oregon firsts – a comprehensive package of benefits for Oregon National Guard and other military veterans, a law allowing legal surrender of unwanted newborns to police and hospitals and a law requiring background checks for school staff and volunteers.
Born June 18, 1943, in Philadelphia, Courtney was raised in Virginia, West Virginia and Rhode Island. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a Master’s Degree in public administration from the University of Rhode Island and received a law degree from Boston University. He is a member of the Oregon State Bar. Courtney and his wife, Margie, have been married for 34 years. They live in Salem and have three sons—Peter, Sean and Adam.