The 2014 session of the Oregon Legislative Session is just around the corner. Its scheduled to start Feb. 3 and will have to conclude no later than March 9.
Thats just 35 days and we have a lot of work to do. Its a tight schedule. Making it work means spending much of the interim preparing for the next session. That works began almost as soon as we adjourned the 2013 session July 8 and continued as lawmakers met for committee hearings in mid-September.
We had a three-day special session that ended Oct. 2 and then things got really busy.
Lawmakers had to make requests for legislation for 2014 from our staff of lawyers by Nov. 26. Legislative Counsel must have those bills written and returned to lawmakers by Jan. 13.
Committee assignments in the Senate were announced Dec. 20. Early in January, I will meet with the chairs of all of the Senate committees to discuss their work plans for the upcoming session.
Legislators will be back in the Capitol Jan. 15-17 for committee hearings that will focus on concepts that could be considered as bills during the session. All bills for the session must be filed by Jan. 21.
Thirteen days later the gavel will come down and the session will be off and running.
Annual sessions are still pretty new in Oregon. For the first 149 years of statehood, the Oregon Legislative Assembly met every other year. From 1860 to 1882, sessions were held in even numbered years. Beginning with a session in 1885, sessions were held in odd numbered years.
Through the decades, as the states issues became more complex and the world around us began to move faster and faster, our sessions got longer and longer. The first 100-day session was in 1949. Sessions first eclipsed 150 days in 1967 and routinely lasted 160, 170 or 180 days through the 1990s. The 2003 session lasted a record 227 days, beginning Jan. 13 and not adjourning until Aug. 27.
In addition, special sessions were becoming more and more common. When the 2005 session lasted until Aug. 5, it became clear that it was time for Oregon to join the majority of the states and hold legislative sessions annually.
The Legislature modeled even-year sessions with supplemental sessions in February 2008 and 2010. In addition, self-imposed deadlines resulted in sessions that lasted 172 in 2007 and 169 days in 2009.
In November 2010, Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved limited annual sessions. Beginning in 2011, our odd-year sessions are limited to no more than 160 days, while our even-year sessions cant last more than 35 days.
In the last six years, your Oregon Legislature has set a high bar by meeting deadlines and working together in a bipartisan fashion. It will be my goal for us to clear that bar again by continuing to make government work for Oregon and her people.
Sen. Peter Courtney is in his sixth term as president of the Senate and his 30th year overall in the Oregon Legislative Assembly.