The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House: What They Do and Why They Matter

by Isaac Butman

In terms of the power wielded in state legislative politics, no one is perceived to have more power than the leaders of the legislative bodies: the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. These two figures are usually held up as the figureheads of each chamber who at times can chart and represent the course that any particular legislative session will take. The media recognizes this by firmly planting blame or acclaim on their shoulders, much as they do to Governors, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate at the federal level, and the President of the United States. Citizens recognize this by routinely holding the Speaker and President accountable for the outcomes and outputs of the legislature. People expect that the Speaker and President will lead their respective chambers, and will communicate with the people about important happenings within the legislature. This notoriety is well deserved. In Oregon no one in the legislature has as much direct influence and power as these two individuals. As indicated by interviews conducted with former Speaker of the House Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone, District 40) much of what happens during a legislative session depends on the Speaker, and the choices the Speaker makes during the session.1Read More »

Activities of State Representatives

by Jennifer Anderson

The duties of State Representatives in Oregon are different depending on what they are doing. During the session they will have several things to do during their work week. They meet with constituents and lobbyists. They also respond to constituents needs through out-reach to other government office. The factors that play a role in how much attention a representative pays to a constituent is dependent on the kind legislature they are involved in and if they are in session full time. They attend committee meeting were they evaluate and pass bills to be voted on by the whole house of representatives. They also vote to pass bills into law. The state’s budget allocation has to one of the biggest duties that the legislature has during the session. They spend almost the whole session deciding where the money will go. Another function of the legislature that representatives address during the session is legislative oversight. Read More »

Oregon Legislative Professionalism: The Impact of Political Culture

by Brandon Sheldon

Reformers began advocating for the initiative and referendum in the 1880’s, for reasons that to them were as plain as day. In 1883 the Oregon Vidette and Antimonopolist, a newspaper for the “producing and industrial classes,” proposed legislation that would “defend a citizen’s rights against injustice by powerful corporations.”[i] The authors believed, with ample reason, that Oregon politics were controlled by implacable monied interests who bribed and otherwise influenced state legislators. This secret and corrupt form of governance made Oregon politics well nigh impervious to the popular will. Direct democracy, reformers believed, would change all that once “the lawmaking power” was in “the hands of the people,” asserted William U’Rhen, its most devoted advocate “we could get anything we wanted.”[ii] [iii] The initiative and referendum system is a clear example of how Oregon’s political culture has shaped the professionalization of the legislature. We as Oregonians don’t want “monied interests” controlling the way our politics should be handled and the initiative and referendum system ensures that all voters are involved in many legislative decisions. The ideas of political actors in other states also dictate how their legislature can respond to issues and how capably they can legislate.Read More »

Analysis of the Oregon State Budget

by Colin Peddicord

No item of policymaking has more interests to satisfy that the budget. The finite amount of money must fund a myriad of services, programs and structures needed to keep a state running. Every budget has countless interest and advocacy groups, unions, companies and public desires that it must try and satisfy. These competing policy actors play a role in the shaping and creation of a state’s budget. Because there is a limited amount of money, it is not possible to satisfy all of the demands that lawmakers face when creating the state budget.Read More »

Because You Know I’m all about the Base, No Trouble: Legislator Opinion Formation and Constituency Congruence at the State Level

by Nathan Parsons

Much research in the field of Political Science has been done on the interplay between legislators and public opinion. Little research has been performed on determining how individual legislators form and change their particular political stances with regard to constituent pressure. How do legislators form political opinions? Are they merely guided by ideology and the leanings of their legislative peers? Are they swayed by media reporting? Can constituents influence policy from a grass-roots level? The vast majority of the work done in this area has been performed at the national level. What might we learn from studying these forces at the level of state legislator? In this paper, we will undertake to answer some of these questions, specifically, how legislators tend to form legislative opinions and the degrees to which and manner in which they are susceptible to constituent influence.Read More »

Legislative Assistants: The Gatekeepers of Change

by Ivy Jones

The United States political system is something that most people do not understand fully and never will. As you break down the political system and just take it to a state level, it is still complicated and most people will not understand it; even in a simple state like Oregon. An essential part of the political system are people who fill the role of Legislative Assistant (L.A). These are people that work directly with representatives and help them with a variety of tasks.. There are many job titles and job descriptions that come with the position as an L.A.Read More »

The Oregon State Legislature: Virtual Engagement versus Physical Involvement

by Conrad Henkel

The general concepts and procedures of a legislative assembly are mostly common to the average American citizen. Elected representatives gather for a certain period of time every year and bring forth new laws and amendments that govern commerce, public education, private relations, and many other aspects of society. As provided by the US Constitution, each citizen has a voice in their national and state government. State legislatures in America function in similar manners, but until recently, some have been more transparent than others

Read More »

The Oregon Legislature: The Modern History from the 1950’s to Present

by James Gomez

Oregon acquired statehood on February 14th, 1859, and the state’s first legislative session was held just three months later. Although there is a rich history of Oregon’s legislature throughout the entirety of its existence, many exciting events occurred between 1950 and 2015. For example, during this time the Oregon Legislature focused on my landmark issues and solved many problems via bills and measure. Furthermore, the 1950’s and 1960’s were a time of legislative reform that greatly impacted the efficiency and effectiveness of the legislators. Read More »

The Oregon State Legislature: History, Territorial Composition, and Operation

by Curtis Coleman

Three of the most determinant factors of a political institutions identity include its historical origin, its physical composition, and the way it operates on an ongoing basis. Of all the states that comprise the United States of America, Oregon is an example of one of the finest traditions in American Government. From humble origins as part of a west coast trading colony the state has evolved from an informal provisional legislature, to an official territorial legislature, to the state we know today with a well-defined county system that includes complimentary legislative districts for both the Oregon Senate (30 members) and Oregon House of Representatives. (60 members.) On an operating basis the State of Oregon legislature is a well-coordinated body politic that deals with a broad spectrum of regional, state, national and international issues on the world stage.Read More »

Welcome to the Oregon Legislative Guide

Despite all the media and public attention that is devoted to policy debates in Washington, DC, not all the political action in America is in the nation’s capitol. Some of the most important issues that affect our lives on a day-to-day basis are routinely influenced by the political decisions made in state legislatures. Environmental protection, law enforcement, public schools, welfare, taxation, transportation, and business regulation are among the broad range of issues that state legislatures deal with whenever they meet. Even though state legislatures play a significant role in shaping public policy, few Oregonians have a good understanding of their legislature. This guide was created by students in the Engaging Democracy Capstone course at Portland State University to help provide the public with a better understanding of the Oregon Legislative Assembly.