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 »

The Formal and Informal Legislative Processes

by Veronica Smith

The 2015 Oregon Legislative session has been an exciting session to witness.  Watching Kate Brown sworn in was a historical event, and the legislature was busy on a number of important issues, such as lowering carbon emissions, background checks for gun purchases, increasing the education funding, and increasing the minimum wage.  A Washington D.C. based research group published a report about state transparency, and gave Oregon an A-; making Oregon a leader in legislative transparency. [i]  The Oregon Legislature is a complex organ that requires a lot of different parts working together in order to perform efficiently.  This paper focuses on the different processes that are necessary for a properly function legislative process, as well as the informal procedures that aid in pushing legislation along.Read More »

Effective Methods of Constituency Service in Oregon State

by Titi (Thanh) Ngo

One would think that casework is the most effective method to reach constituents, however, that was not the case with this research. How do legislators serve their people? What is their purpose? What methods do they use to connect with their constituents? We know that the Oregon Legislative Assembly has existed for more than 50 years, with annual sessions following even numbered years since January 2012.  Oregon is divided into 60 different districts with a population of approximately 3.97 million. This means that each district contains an average population of about 57,000. At present, there are 90 total legislative members, 30 of which reside in the Senate and the remaining 60 sits in the House of Representatives. The question is then, how do legislators make sure that they are representing their district as accurately as possible? Simply, legislators must provide constituency service.Read More »

Oregon Lobbyists as Advocates for Citizen Engagement

by Rayleen McMillan

Mention of lobbyists often provokes images of fast-talking dealmakers wearing expensive suits and singlehandedly bending legislation to the will of their clients. While components of this image might hold up in circumstances elsewhere, the general perception is wholly inaccurate within discussion of Oregon politics. Money most definitely plays a role in Oregon’s political landscape, as does strategic framing of issues. However, the accessibility of our legislature is uniquely high, and its inhabitants outwardly pride themselves on being citizens first and legislators second. In Oregon’s “Citizen Legislature”, there are many access points at which the public can work to influence policy– and while this measure is certainly taken up by individual Oregonians on a wide variety of issues, the most effective legislative advocacy is engaged by combining the efforts of professional lobbyists and the grassroots organization of the clients that employ them. Read More »

Women in The Oregon Legislature

by Hugo Gonzalez Venegas

If a representative elected body is the foundation of our democracy, then understanding why more women do not hold elected office is an important question with implications on the legitimacy of our democracy. Women account for a little over fifty-percent of the total population of the United States, but account for only a small portion of the federal Congress. On the State level the numbers are better, but not by much. Since the passing of women’s suffrage in Oregon in 1912, women have been serving in elected office. I pose to show how the women who have served in the Oregon legislature shape the type of legislation that passes each session. From the historic 1973 legislature that passed more feminist-leaning laws than ever before, and the disparity of representation today, where women only make up a little over twenty-five percent of the state senate and only one-third of the state house chamber.Read More »

Oregon’s Budget System and the Effects on Policy

by Maria-Veronica Gelever

“The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations” -Jacob Lew1. The budget is a foundational part of any type of government system, ranging from city government agencies, state governments, to the federal government. The budget dictates the direction that the government will govern, and because of this, it plays one of the most critical roles in the government system. From the budget, stems actions, and without funds, this action cannot be taken. It also brings unlikely groups together, like interest groups and political parties. The budget is the most important piece of legislation that is passed, and dictates the rest of the bills that are passed that session. Read More »