Amidst the ceremony, will there be drama?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

This morning, the 2011 Legislature gets underway. At roughly 10:45 a.m., inauguration ceremonies will begin - and John Kitzhaber will reportedly take the oath at noon.

But there's one big question that's still left unanswered: Will the House be ready to open for business?

After much drama and discussion in November and early December, we've haven't heard much of anything about the negotiations between House Democrats and House Republicans. From the O's Michelle Cole:

About the only thing that had been definitely decided by late Friday was that Hanna, who helped lead his party to win six seats, would reside in the speaker's office directly behind the House chamber.

Roblan moved into other second-floor offices, though he noted that he isn't officially "co-speaker" until there's a House floor vote. "I don't count my chickens before they hatch," he said.

Still to be decided: Who will chair committees, who will sit on those committees and crucially important rules governing the path from committee to the floor.

Cole reported that Roblan and Hanna "hope" to have things done by 10:45, which suggests that it's not a requirement. In any case, the Legislature is meeting for just three days to get organized - and then will adjourn until February, when the hard legislative work gets underway. (This is a new schedule prescribed by the annual-sessions measure passed by voters in the fall.)

Writing in the O last week, State Senator Rick Metsger (whose term ends today) had an excellent take on the 30-30 gridlock that we're about to witness (on the jump...)

Democrats showed their hand early after last year's election, choosing Rep. Arnie Roblan as their co-speaker nominee. It took more than a month after the election for the Republicans to announce Rep. Bruce Hanna as their signal caller. They refuse to share even the same bathroom. Both have demanded their own offices and staff. An entire hearing room is being converted to create another office to accommodate the parties. And you thought this was the session for reducing the size of government? This political marriage is off to a rocky start.

To be fair, some Republicans may feel they're between a Roblan and a hard place. The affable representative from Coos Bay is perceived by political insiders as offering a more moderate member of the Democratic Party to the newly emboldened Republicans. But some Republicans aren't happy. Roblan actually scored higher on the voting scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters in the 2009 session than even environmental stalwarts Reps. Tina Kotek and Brian Clem. He voted 100 percent on the American Federation of Teachers' scorecard, which serves as a proxy for public employee union support. That matched the voting record of the man Republicans vowed to depose, current Speaker Dave Hunt.

This deadlock drama may also result in all committee work conducted with co-chairs at the helm. That has gridlock written all over it. In 2003 the Senate gave chairmanships of half of the committees to Republicans and half to Democrats. That balance of power succeeded in providing political d├ętente while ensuring a decision-maker in each committee to keep the process moving.

Finally, legislators from both parties are concerned that they'll be asked to vote for Hanna and Roblan before the two men reveal to their own members what the committee structure -- and leadership -- will look like.

What do you expect will happen today? Use this space to discuss the day's events (or use #orgov on Twitter to join the conversation there.)

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    The House approved organzing rules by a 57-3 vote this mroning. Co-Speakers Roblan and Hanna were both elected unanimously. The deadlock described by former Senator Metsger never materialized and the House organzed without rancor and with cooperation this morning. While there were certainly some issues that took until the 11th and a half hour to finalize, the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans was conducted cordially. A lot of pundits were probably disappointed there wasn't a floor fight. But the session is now underway without acrimony, with a solid agreement on rules and with unanimously elected co-speakers, hardly the disaster Metsger envisioned.

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