The 2011 legislative session is going to look different than past sessions. We've got the elements, theme and calendar to watch.
Elements of the 2011 session
- A February 1 "start" date. The Oregon constitution requires legislators to be sworn in on the second Monday in January. Legislators will show up January 10 for the customary pomp and circumstance. Pre-session-filed bills will get their first readings (so committees can get down to business when legislators return). Then the legislature will go into recess until February 1.
- The hard-and-fast deadline to adjourn on June 30. After the 2003 and 2005 sessions, when budget negotiations dragged on through the summer months, House and Senate leaders agreed upon and stuck to a June 30 goal in 2007 and 2009. Legislative leaders say they want to end earlier than June 30, but with huge budget problems and a shortened session, the legislature likely will need every minute it has to pass bills. There is no budget for legislative action past June 30, though.
- A limit on the number of bills that members and committees can introduce once the session begins. Lots of bills will be pre-session filed, and there won't be a whole lot of time. Legislative leaders won't want the extra work.
- An unlimited number of pre-session filed bills. Legislative leaders are expecting a record number.
- An emphasis on saving money. The state doesn't have any, so don't spend any. Democrats actually are looking for ways to shrink the state budget. If a bill has a fiscal impact statement that says something besides $0, it's going to get a really hard look (and it will probably get sent to Ways and Means, so get ready to do work in that committee).
- An emphasis on saving time. The legislature has 20 fewer days than normal, and there are some really big issues, such as health care reform and the state budget, up for discussion. At most, bills will spend five weeks in each chamber. If your bill doesn't have bipartisan support and a really solid story, good luck getting a hearing on it.
- Compromise. The Democrats won't have a supermajority, which means Republicans can, and should, be assertive in making their voices heard. But the legislature won't have a lot of time for public bickering if it wants to pass bills.
- November 2 Election Day
- November 19 December Revenue Forecast presented by state economists to House and Senate Revenue Committees.
- December 14-16 Interim committees meet for final time before session. Rumors of a special session to address the public safety budget at this time. House Clerk staff have been told to keep their calendars open.
- January 10 Legislature convenes; legislators, Governor, Treasurer are sworn in.
- January 10-12 Legislators stay in session for First Reading of pre-sesison filed bills. Legislature recesses until February 1.
- Mid-January Potential three days of committee hearings for informational meetings for introduced bills, to cue up committee votes on some easy bills in the first week of session. Legislative leaders haven't made a final decision about this, and there are concerns about the per-diem cost of this kind of activity.
- February 1 Legislature reconvenes to begin work of the session.
- June 30 Deadline for adjournment. Legislative leaders hope to adjourn well before June 30.