It's opening day at the State Capitol. Today, the House and Senate will meet, swear in their members, formally elect Senator Peter Courtney as Senate President and Rep. Tina Kotek as Speaker of the House, and hear from the Governor on the State of the State. After today, they'll adjourn for a couple of weeks and re-open in earnest on February 4.
Democrats are once again fully in control, but leadership is going to try and hang on to the positive aspects of the tied House. From the AP:
"It's like a sport, every season is different," Courtney said. "I don't know how the season's going to go. You never know."
Of the 90 lawmakers, just 16 will be new to their jobs.
Still, the playing field this year will be significantly different than it was for the last two.
Kotek will lead a House with 34 Democrats and 26 Republicans — a solid Democratic majority after the party picked up four GOP-held seats in November and ended a 30-30 tie created in the 2010 election. As a result of that tie, lawmakers worked out a power-sharing agreement that required leaders from both parties to agree before any legislation could advance. Republicans didn't have enough power to pass their own priorities without Democratic support, but they effectively blocked initiatives they opposed.
Democrats will now have a much better chance of passing their priority legislation.
House and Senate leaders say they'll try to maintain some of the collegiality despite the Democrats' solid control. Kotek and Courtney both appointed Republican chairmen to lead a handful of committees.
As for Governor Kitzhaber, he's got an ambitious agenda. From the O:
He wants lawmakers to rein in runaway costs of public employee pensions, prisons and health care, to free up more money for schools.
Meanwhile, the Legislature has to refocus its job-creation efforts, he says, to help rural areas and minority communities still suffering from high unemployment, while also boosting overall wages closer to the national average.
"We don't need economic recovery; we need economic reinvention," Kitzhaber says.
He also discussed the suddenly hot issue of gun control, saying he won't lead the charge but expects the Legislature to hand him some reasonable changes. Among them: a possible ban on the kind of weapon used in the shootings at the Clackamas Town Center and the Connecticut elementary school.
The Governor will address a joint session at 11 a.m. Watch online here.
Discuss. What are you hoping to see happen in the upcoming legislative session?