While Oregon legislators are planning for their Christmas and New Year holiday celebrations, they also have February on their calendars.
That's when they will return to Salem for the first official "annual legislative session," which voters enabled when they changed the Oregon Constitution at the November 2010 general election.
Legislators experimented with annual sessions in 2008 and 2010 in an approach that some observers thought violated the Constitution.
Lawmakers arrive in Salem February 1 and probably will finish the session by March 5 or thereabouts — if, for other reason, than that the 2012 election filing day deadline is March 6, an event usually held in the House chamber.
At the moment, several major issues are on the February legislative agenda:
- The next steps in Governor Kitzhaber's plan for education reform, which revolves around creating an Education Investment Board to oversee all of education from kindergarten through graduate school. The governor also envisions hiring an "education czar." The proposals remain controversial, especially in light of the recent dust-up between the State Board of Higher Education (which would go away with creation of the Education Investment Board) and supporters of now-fired University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere. In addition, many observers wonder how the governor will pull off the huge organizational changes, which include diminishing the role of the elected superintendent of public instruction, at a time when state money is drying up.