The Committee Process: Theories of Democratic Practice in Action within the Oregon Legislature

by Christian Britschgi

The purpose of the Oregon Legislature is to draft, amend, and enact legislation to service the interests of the general population, as well as that of elites, and specific interest groups.  By and large this function is performed by the various legislative committees within the two chambers that comprise the whole legislative body.  These legislative committees are smaller deliberative bodies made up of legislators, who are tasked with a specific area of public policy.  The public policy areas that committees are assigned to can be quite broad as in the case of the House and Senate Committees on Business and Labor, which deal with general matters of economic regulation and industrial relations. Legislative committees can also have a very narrow focus, such as the Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91, which is tasked solely with crafting regulations relevant to implementation of the recent marijuana legalization initiative.  Given the vast array of legislative functions that these small deliberative bodies perform, the complex, almost byzantine rules that govern their procedures, and the position they occupy within the structure of the legislature and the state government as a whole, legislative committees contribute a great deal to the final outcome of Oregon’s political process.  It is within these committees that the vast array of political elites, private interest groups, and citizen activists which make up Oregon’s body politic are able to have a direct impact on the bills that are eventually enacted into law.  Every statute and proposal that has ever been passed by the Oregon legislature and a good number more that have not been were scrutinized, amended and transformed by the various committees they were assigned too.  As such much can be learned about how Oregon’s democracy functions in practice by studying the operations of its legislative committees.  Read More »

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Of Committees

by Kevin Douglas Hay

Legislative committees are the foundation of state government in Oregon. From their humble beginnings in pre-statehood to their vast breadth and scope today, legislative committees exert tremendous influence in creating and shaping public policy. Though the chief executive and party leader, the governor, may have the power to veto legislation, it is the legislative committees that have the ability to determine the content and fate of legislation. Legislative committees create a forum for citizens, professionals, and experts to express support of, opposition to, or an opinion of, proposed legislation. But does this power hamper, hinder or enhance public policy and serve the wills and needs of Oregonians? Legislative committees are the gatekeepers of public policy, yet they are subject to the wills and whims of those who control them.Read More »

Institutional Analysis of Legislative Staff in Oregon: Structure and Function

by Kienan Wear

The heart and soul of state legislatures are the staff members that comprise it. Legislative staff from both the non-partisan institutions, as well as partisan employees, offer legislators a countless number of benefits that help overall productivity in the capital. This is particularly poignant in the case of state legislatures, as their operational budgets pale in comparison to their federal counterparts. It is within this arena, one which in contrast lacks professionalization (1), that staffers can have real effective power over legislative output. It would be an unfair comparison to analyze the differences between state legislative staff and congressional staff, but the fact remains nonetheless that they inherently serve similar functions in terms of day to day operations. This paper shall serve to effectively examine the structure, function, and overall nature of state legislative staff within the context of the Oregon legislature. The varying degree in which personal relationship and trust factor into the legislative process in regards to the people employed in those various institutions will be thoughtfully examined as well.Read More »

Legalizing Marijuana: How the Citizen’s Initiative Interacts With the Legislature

by Sierra Udland

One of the key features of the legislature “[is] its multiplicity of membership—its plurality of voices.”1 As Rosenthal writes throughout the chapter on the Lives of Legislators in Engines of Democracy: Politics and Policymaking in State Legislatures, legislators are a diverse group.2 Even if they share certain characteristics, each person has lived a different life with different experiences; that is their voice, their contribution.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 »