Oregon's Legislative Assembly
The Senate president is elected by members of the Senate to select committee chairs and membership, preside over its daily sessions and coordinate its administrative operations. Subject to the rules of the Senate, the president refers measures to committees, directs Senate personnel and mediates questions on internal operations.
The Senate president’s staff assists in carrying out official duties, helps coordinate Senate operations and provides a variety of public information
services. In cooperation with the speaker of the House, the president coordinates and supervises the work product of the legislative branch of Oregon state government and represents that branch in contacts with the executive and judicial branches. The president’s office works closely with all political parties to ensure that session goals are met.
The secretary of the Senate is an elected officer of the state Senate. The secretary is responsible for and supervises Senate employees engaged in keeping measures, papers and records of proceedings and actions of the Senate. The secretary supervises preparation of the daily agenda, all measures, histories, journals and related publications and is in charge of publication of documents related to the Senate. In addition, the secretary has custody of all measures, official papers and records of the Senate, except when released to authorized persons by signed receipt. The secretary also serves as parliamentary consultant to the Senate, advises officers of the Senate on parliamentary procedure and manages the Honorary Page program.
During the interim, the secretary receives messages from the governor announcing executive appointments requiring Senate confirmation, prepares the agenda for the convening of the Senate and supervises publication of the official record of proceedings.
The speaker of the House is elected by House members to preside over the deliberations of the House, preserve order and decorum and decide questions of order. The speaker appoints chairs and members to each committee and refers measures to appropriate committees in accordance with provisions of the rules of the House.
The House speaker’s staff coordinates operations of the speaker’s office, assists the presiding officer in performing official duties, provides research and policy support in issue areas, provides information to the news media and assists legislators in solving constituent problems. In conjunction with the Senate president’s office, the speaker’s office coordinates and supervises operations of the legislative branch of government, joint statutory committees and joint interim committees and task forces.
The chief clerk, elected by members of the House of Representatives, supervises and keeps a correct journal, and is the official custodian of all other records of House proceedings. The chief clerk notifies the Senate of all acts of the House, certifies and transmits all bills, resolutions and papers requiring Senate concurrence immediately upon their passage or adoption, and secures proper authentication of bills that have passed both houses and transmits them to the governor.
The chief clerk prepares the agenda, coordinates details for the opening organization of the House and acts as parliamentarian as directed by House rules. In addition, the chief clerk supervises and authenticates the revision and printing of the Senate and House Journal at the end of the legislative session, and prepares all legislative records that are to be permanently filed with the state archivist.
Unlike some states that have full-time professional legislators, Oregon employs part-time citizen legislators. Here is a summary of compensation available to Oregon legislators.
Regular legislators (2013) earned $22,260 per year; the Senate president and House speaker earned $44,520 per year.
During session expense allowance
$123 per day during a legislative session (2013), including Saturdays and Sundays. This amount varies each year depending on a federal rate allowed by the Internal Revenue Service.
Between session per diem
Legislators qualify for expense allowances called per diem to cover lodging, food and transportation when they attend official committee meetings in Salem.
Between session allowances
Depending on the geographic size of their legislative district, legislators receive from $450 to $750 per month.
State health insurance and pension
Legislators qualify for these benefits but must contribute to them.
Staff, supplies and services
During the 2013 session, each legislator was allowed a maximum of $36,367. For the rest of the legislative cycle, which included the 2014 session, the maximum allowance was $68,538. Legislative leaders have larger allowances to cover the expenses of their larger staffs.
Ginny Burdick, Senate Majority Leader
Address: 900 Court St. NE, Rm. S-223, Salem 97301
Ted Ferrioli, Senate Republican Leader
Address: 900 Court St. NE, Rm. S-323, Salem 97301
Jennifer Williamson (D), House Majority Leader
Address: 900 Court St. NE, Rm. H-295, Salem 97301
Mike McLane (R), House Minority Leader
Address: 900 Court St. NE, Rm. H-395, Salem 97301
Caucus offices provide many services to their members during session and interim periods. Each office is directed by a leader chosen by the respective political party. The operations of the four offices are not identical, but typical services include conducting research, writing speeches and press releases, providing public information services, serving as liaison to state and federal agencies to help solve constituent problems, organizing caucus activities and circulating information about legislative business among caucus members during both session and interim periods.
Oregon’s Legislative Assembly is composed of two chambers, the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate consists of 30 members elected to four-year terms. Half of the Senate seats are up for election every two years. The House consists of 60 representatives elected to two-year terms. Except in cases of persons selected to fill vacancies, legislators are elected in even-numbered years from single-member districts. Election by single-member district means that each Oregonian is represented by one senator and one representative. To qualify for a seat in the Legislature, one must be at least 21 years of age, a U.S. citizen and reside in the legislative district for at least one year prior to election. Each chamber elects presiding officers to oversee daily sessions and operations and perform other duties set by rule, custom and law. These officers are known as the president of the Senate and speaker of the House.
The primary functions of the Legislature are to enact new laws and revise existing ones, make decisions that keep the state in good economic and environmental condition and provide a forum for discussion of public issues.
The Legislature reviews and revises the governor’s proposed budget and passes tax laws to provide needed revenue. The Oregon Constitution requires that the state must not spend money in excess of revenue.
The Legislature also influences executive and judicial branch decisions. Laws enacted by the Legislature, along with adoption of the budget, establish state policy that directs all state agency activity and impacts the courts. The Senate confirms gubernatorial appointments to certain offices. To ensure that legislative intent is followed, the Legislative Counsel Committee reviews administrative rules of state agencies.
During the 2015 Regular Session, 847 of 2,641 introduced bills became law. During the 2016 Regular Session, 124 of 253 introduced bills became law. Most of the discussion and revisions of bills and other measures are done in committees. The process begins when a measure is introduced and referred to a committee. The committee may hear testimony on the measure, frequently from members of the public, and may amend the measure and send it to the floor of its respective chamber for debate. The committee can also table the measure and end its consideration. Unlike many state legislatures, Oregon does not amend measures during floor debate.
After a measure has been considered by a committee and passed by the chamber in which it was introduced, it is sent to the other chamber where a similar procedure is followed.
If both chambers pass a bill in identical form, including any amendments approved by the other chamber, it is enrolled (printed in final form) for the signatures of the presiding officers and governor. The governor may sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without signature. The governor may also veto line items of appropriation bills, but may not veto an act referred for a vote of the people or an act initiated by the people.
The Oregon Constitution and state law require that deliberations of the Legislative Assembly and its committees be open to the public. The law also requires public notice of meetings and maintenance of public meeting records. These practices ensure that the legislative process is open to public scrutiny.
Effective Date of Laws
The regular effective date of a measure is January 1 of the year following passage of the measure. Some measures may contain a provision, such as an emergency clause, that specifies an earlier effective date.
The Oregon Constitution prohibits tax measures from having an emergency clause. This ensures that the people have the right to refer a tax measure for a vote by petition before it goes into effect.
In 2010, voters approved a ballot measure referred by the Legislature requiring the Legislature to meet annually. Beginning in 2011, the Legislature convenes in February at the State Capitol in Salem, but sessions may not exceed 160 days in odd-numbered years and 35 days in even-numbered years. Five-day extensions are allowed by a two-thirds vote in both houses. In addition, the Legislature may hold an organizational session to swear in newly elected officials, elect legislative leaders, adopt rules, organize and appoint committees and begin introducing bills.
Special sessions to deal with emergencies may be called by the governor or by a majority of each chamber. For example, the Legislative Assembly called itself into a special session in 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2010, Governor Ted Kulongoski called for a special session in 2006, and Governor John Kitzhaber called for a special session in 2012 and in 2013.
Contacting a Legislator and Obtaining Legislative Information
During session, the following numbers are available to obtain legislative information:
• Outside Salem: 1-800-332-2313
• Within Salem: 503-986-1388
During the interim, individual legislators may be reached by calling the telephone numbers listed on the pages for the Senate and House. Legislative information may be obtained by calling Legislative Administration at 503-986-1848.
After adjournment of regular or special sessions, the work of the Legislature continues. Legislators study issues likely to be important during future sessions, become acquainted with new issues, prepare drafts of legislation and exercise legislative oversight.
Convening of the Senate to Act on Executive Appointments
The Legislative Assembly may require that appointments to state public office made by the governor, be subject to Senate confirmation.
During the legislative session, the Senate president refers executive appointments to a standing or special committee to review the background and qualifications of appointees, ensuring that statutory requirements are met. Appointees may be asked to come before the committee for personal interviews. The committee submits its recommendations to the full Senate for confirmation votes.
During the interim, the secretary of the Senate receives the governor’s announcements of executive appointments requiring Senate confirmation. Generally, gubernatorial appointments made during a regular or special session of the Legislature are acted upon by the Senate prior to adjourning sine die or final adjournment.
Oregon’s Provisional Legislature met formally for the first time in Oregon City, December 2 to December 19, 1845. An earlier pre-provisional committee met in August of the same year after the formal ratification of Oregon’s Organic Articles and Laws of 1843 and the inauguration of George Abernethy as governor. The first Provisional Legislature, a unicameral body with autonomous powers, conducted its sessions in a rather casual manner and frequently suspended its rules to take care of unexpected situations. It met annually or more frequently until February 1849, five months before the first Territorial Legislature met during July 16 to July 24, 1849, also in Oregon City.
The Territorial Legislature was bicameral. It had an upper council of nine members and a lower house of 18 members elected from the eight existing counties that had regular annual meetings. Unlike the Provisional Legislature, its actions were subject to review in Washington, D.C. At the time of statehood and adoption of the constitution in 1859, the present bicameral system was adopted. The Legislature then met in the fall of even-numbered years until 1885 when the sessions were moved to the early winter months of odd-numbered years to accommodate members who farmed.