Courtney takes medical leave from Oregon Senate

SALEM — Senate President Peter Courtney is taking a 10-day medical leave at the recommendation of his doctors.

His spokeswoman, Carol McAlice Currie, said Courtney skipped Monday’s floor session and wasn’t in the Capitol Tuesday.

Currie said Courtney’s doctors have been after him to take some time and rest for a couple weeks now. She said his issues include a “flare up” of his Graves Disease — an autoimmune disorder that impacts the thyroid gland.

Currie didn’t go into further detail, but said there should be no major concern, and the issue isn’t expected to result in more absences. He was not hospitalized, his staff said.

A flu-like illness has spread through the Capitol recently, sickening some legislators and staffers. However, Courtney’s condition is not related, according to Currie.

“We knew Peter was under the weather, but we didn’t know what was the cause,” Currie said.

Courtney, 75, battled an eye disease during the 2014 session that caused inflammation and redness.

The Senate President’s office suggested his current illness may be related, as Courtney has experienced similar symptoms.

Courtney is expected back March 18, according to Currie. He remains Senate president in his absence, with Senate President Pro Tempore Laurie Monnes Anderson filling in as presiding officer while he is away.

Monnes Anderson, a Democrat from Gresham, is a retired public health nurse who was elected to the Senate in 2004 after two terms in the House of Representatives.

Currie said Courtney will still sign off on bills moving through the Senate, and his staff will keep him apprised of the necessary goings on, however the goal is to allow him to rest as much as possible. Currie said his absence wouldn’t slow legislative progress.

Currie said Courtney wouldn’t attend the state funeral for Secretary of State Dennis Richardson on Wednesday.

Courtney has missed time due to health before.

His staff pointed to 2003, when his appendix burst. He rallied, and shortly after was elected as Senate President for the first time.

Courtney, a Democrat, was elected to the Legislature in 1980, representing Salem in the House after serving on the Salem City Council.

Courtney is known for his rhetorical flair and a professed desire to conduct business in a bipartisan fashion. When the Salem lawmaker rose to Senate President in 2003, the 30-member chamber was split equally between Democrats and Republicans.

Public scrutiny of the longtime Senate president has dialed up in recent months in the wake of the state Bureau of Labor and Industry investigation into how he and other elected leaders and legislative staff handled allegations of sexual harassment at the Capitol.

The Senate president’s office denied that Courtney’s leave is related, emphasizing that he is following the advice of his doctors by staying away from work for the time being.

Reporters Aubrey Wieber, Claire Withycombe and Mark Miller work as the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

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