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 »