Voters Will Decide Legislative Schedule

If voters approve Measure 72, the new carpet from the 2008 remodel will wear out more quickly.Measure 71, one of seven measures on the ballot this November, could change the way the Oregon legislature does business in significant and permanent ways. The measure calls for meetings every year and limits the length of sessions to 160 days in the odd-numbered years and 45 days in the even-numbered years.

Currently the Oregon constitution restricts meetings to every other year without a limit on length. The Oregon budget will continue on a biennial basis.

Legislators would meet for roughly the same number of days under the annual session schedule as they currently do in the six-month biennial session – five months in the odd-numbered years and a little more than a month in the even numbered years.

The new schedule likely will mean more legislation, more chances to tweak the budget and more work for everyone involved in the process.

The shorter of the two sessions will occur a mere six months after the adjournment of the longer session. The interim period will be busy with prep work for the short session, because 45 days is a very short time to shepherd a bill through two chambers to the Governor's desk.

The annual session schedule will provide a scheduled time for the legislature to meet to react to a changing economic outlook and make adjustments to the budget. That probably will eliminate the need for sporadic special sessions of one or two days to hastily tweak the budget.

After particularly drawn-out legislative battles over the budget in 2003 and 2005 (which lasted until September), legislative leaders made a concerted effort to cap the 2007 and 2009 sessions at six months.

The legislature also met in "special" sessions that lasted for the month of February in 2008 and 2010. Those were billed as test-runs for an annual session schedule, similar to the one proposed in Measure 71.

A Grove Insight poll conducted in August revealed 49 percent of voters were in favor of the measure, while 25 percent opposed it and 26 percent were undecided. The last time a proposal for annual sessions was on the ballot in 1990 voters rejected it.

Several newspapers have editorialized in favor of annual sessions. One former state legislator, Congressman Kurt Schrader, told the Willamette Week he thinks annual sessions are "an opportunity for too much mischief."