The most veteran member of the Oregon Legislature, Senator Peter Courtney is serving a record 10th term as Senate President.
Courtney was first elected Senate President in 2003, when the Senate was evenly divided with 15 Democrats and 15 Republicans. He was re-elected as the chamber's presiding officer in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021.
Courtney is the longest-serving legislator in Oregon's history. He is currently serving his 38th year in the Oregon State Legislature. Courtney was first elected to the Oregon Senate in 1999, representing portions of Salem, Gervais, and Woodburn. He previously served seven terms in the Oregon House of Representatives, including four terms as House Democratic Leader.
The sponsor of 12 seismic safety measures that have become law, Courtney has been an outspoken leader in the state's efforts to prepare for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. Most notably, he led the creation of the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program which provides funds to make schools and emergency services facilities safer in the event of an earthquake.
In 2015 he was successful in winning approval of a record $175 million investment in seismic grant funds for schools and $25 million for emergency facilities.
Courtney, long known as a champion for mental health services, led the charge to increase funding for community mental health treatment. He was successful during a special session in October 2013 in winning passage of an increase in the cigarette tax which is dedicated to funding for mental health treatment.
The Senate President's efforts to improve mental health care in Oregon began in 2004 when he was among a group that discovered the unclaimed cremated remains of more than 3,500 Oregonians who had died while patients at the Oregon State Hospital. The story of the "Room of Forgotten Souls" sparked the effort to replace the state mental hospital facility built in 1883. The first patients were moved into portions of the new 620-bed Oregon State Hospital in January 2011 and the facility was completed and fully occupied later that year.
During his tenure as the Senate's presiding officer, President Courtney was the driving force behind the push for annual legislative sessions in Oregon. The effort culminated in November 2010 when voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 71 mandating the Legislature meet for a limited time every year.
Courtney began his career in public service in 1974 as a member of the Salem City Council, where he served until 1980. An active member of his community, Courtney has served on the boards of Salem Area Mass Transit, Salem YMCA, Salem United Way, and has coached basketball for the Salem Boys & Girls Club.
Born June 18, 1943, in Philadelphia, Courtney was raised in Virginia, West Virginia, and Rhode Island. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Rhode Island. He received a law degree from Boston University and is a member of the Oregon State Bar. Courtney and his wife, Margie, have been married since 1976. They live in Salem and have three adult sons, Peter, Sean, and Adam, three daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren.