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College football championship will overshadow one-day meeting to launch 2015 session.



Photo Credit: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Oregon lawmakers kick off the 2015 legislative session Monday morning in Salem, with many issues looming, including the 2014 NCAA football championship that night in Texas.New lawmakers will be sworn in, Gov. John Kitzhaber will take office for a record fourth term, and hundreds of bills will begin their journey as the Oregon Legislature opens its 2015 session on Monday.

The organizational session under Oregon’s annual-sessions law will be quick — just a single day — but it’s not because Oregon plays Ohio State for college football’s national championship that night.

The House will convene at 8:30 a.m., the Senate at 9:30 a.m., and a joint session at 10:45 a.m., all at the Capitol in Salem. The joint session will be in the House chamber.

The public is invited, but seating is limited, and there will be a security check, which is usual for opening day.

Legislative leaders will speak, and Democrat Kitzhaber will take his oath from former Chief Justice Paul De Muniz around noon. Kitzhaber also will give his inaugural address, which will double as the state of the state speech for the year.

A reception will follow in the Capitol galleria.

Although Kitzhaber hasn’t said what he will talk about, he did say his speech will cover more than what he wants to accomplish in the next four years.

“I want to look back over my political career — this term will close that arc — and reflect on the lessons I’ve learned that could be useful to veteran and novice lawmakers, and maybe a few thoughts about why I did it,” he said in an interview last week.

Kitzhaber, who turns 68 in March, is a former emergency-room physician who was governor from 1995 to 2003. After sitting out eight years, he won a record third term in 2010. Oregon law sets a two-term limit for the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer, but the limit applies during a 12-year cycle.

Republican Tom McCall attempted a comeback after serving from 1967 to 1975, but lost the 1978 GOP primary to Vic Atiyeh, who went on to unseat Democrat Bob Straub.

Thomas B. Kay was elected state treasurer four times, and died during his fourth term.

Football intervenes

As was the case four years ago, when Kitzhaber took his oath for a record third term, the event will be overshadowed by Oregon’s participation in college football’s national championship. In 2011, Oregon lost to Auburn, 22-19.

Kitzhaber says he does not mind, so long as there is a different outcome this year.

“If there is one event that I would embrace being blown off the front page for, it would be this one,” he says.

“Last time (in 2011), it did not quite get me off the front page; I got a little story on the lower right-hand side. So I am hoping that the front covers of all our papers the next day say that Oregon wins the national championship.”

Routine opening

In contrast to the game, there is not much suspense in Monday’s proceedings, which will be limited to a single day.

Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem and the Legislature’s senior member at 30 years, is in line for his seventh two-year term as Oregon Senate president. Courtney has far exceeded the record of eight years set by three others, including Kitzhaber from 1985 to 1993.

Sixteen senators will take their oaths — one is serving a two-year term — but only three are new to the chamber, and they all came from the House.

Senate Democrats boosted their number by two in the Nov. 4 election to 18 seats.

Tina Kotek, a Democrat from Portland, is the Democratic majority’s choice for a second two-year term as Oregon House speaker. She will be the first Democratic speaker to succeed herself since Portlander Vera Katz’s three-term tenure in the 1980s.

All 60 representatives will take the oath. Forty-four are returning — 28 Democrats, including two appointees who were in the short 2014 session, and 16 Republicans. There are seven new Democrats and nine new Republicans, although Carl Wilson of Grants Pass was a GOP lawmaker from 1998 to 2003.

House Democrats boosted their number by one in the Nov. 4 election to 35 seats.

Courtney and Kotek announced committee assignments, including leaders, a month ago.

After Monday morning’s hoopla, the chambers will reconvene in the afternoon for the introduction of bills already filed.

Break until Feb. 2

Lawmakers will then break until Feb. 2, the day after the Super Bowl, when the 160-day time limit starts on sessions in odd-numbered years. The opening organizational session is excluded from the limit.

The Oregon State Capitol Foundation plans its welcome party for lawmakers on Feb. 3.

Oregon voters amended the Constitution in 2010 to convert from every-other-year sessions with no limits to annual sessions of 160 days in odd-numbered years and 35 days in even-numbered years. Only Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas have retained biennial sessions.

New Oregon lawmakers are:

SENATE (3): Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis; Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro; Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS (7): Paul Evans, Monmouth; Ken Helm, Beaverton; Susan McLain, Forest Grove; Rob Nosse, Portland; Carla Piluso, Gresham; Dan Rayfield, Corvallis; Kathleen Taylor, Milwaukie.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS (9): Greg Barreto, Cove; Knute Buehler, Bend; Jodi Hack, Salem; Cedric Ross Hayden, Fall Creek; Dallas Heard, Roseburg; Mike Nearman, Dallas; Bill Post, Keizer; Duane Stark, Grants Pass; Carl Wilson, Grants Pass.

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