“So, at least for today, don't be an elephant. Don't be a donkey. Be an Oregonian.”
Senate President Peter Courtney urges bi-partisanship after handing out plastic donkey and elephant stress toys to his chamber.

The session countdown has begun. Legislators convened for Organizational Days January 12 to inaugurate the Governor and to swear in three new members of the Senate and fifteen new members of the House. Later in the day, over 1,400 pre-session filed bills were introduced for a first reading. The Legislature will commence with committee hearings on Monday, February 2. Legislators have until February 25 to file bills with their respective chambers.

Big Picture Issues for the 2015 Session

Cover Oregon will continue to make headlines. A legislative committee has been convened to close the exchange and transfer responsibilities to the Department of Consumer and Business Services. The State will also continue to tangle with Oracle over legal matters relating to the failed exchange. A joint committee will focus on recreational marijuana regulation. The House and Senate leadership will use their majorities to look at issues such as paid sick leave and income equality. Democrats and Republicans will look at transportation issues and education reform.

The Budget Picture

In an unprecedented move, Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Peter Buckley, the co-chairs of the Ways and Means budget-writing committee, have released their proposed budget in January. This is far earlier than their traditional release time in March. The economic recovery has added an additional $2 billion to the state’s coffers for the 2015-17 biennium, for a total of $18.8 billion dollars. The biggest slice of the budget pie goes to education with over $7 billion. 

The proposed budget for Health and Human Services is $4.8 billion, an increase from the current $4.3 billion budget. It assumes continuation of investments made to community mental health during 2013-15 for the full 2015-17 biennium. It also assumes a continuation of the hospital assessment now due to sunset September 2015.

Key Players in the Oregon Legislature

Governor John Kitzhaber, 4th term

Senate Leadership

  • Sen. Peter Courtney, 7th term as Senate President
  • Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, Majority Leader
  • Sen. Ted Ferrioli, Minority Leader

House Leadership

  • Tina Kotek, 2nd term as Speaker of the House
  • Val Hoyle, Majority Leader
  • Mike McLane, Minority Leader

 

Senate Health Care Committee

  • Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, Chair
  • Sen. Jeff Kruse, Vice Chair
  • Sen. Tim Knopp
  • Sen. Chip Shields
  • Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward

 

Senate Human Services and Early Childhood*

  • Sen. Sara Gelser, Chair
  • Sen. Herman Baertschiger, Vice Chair
  • Sen. Laurie Monnes-Anderson
  • Sen. Alan Olsen
  • Sen. Michael Dembrow

*New Committee

 

House Health Care

  • Rep. Mitch Greenlick, Chair
  • Rep. Rob Nosse, Vice Chair
  • Rep. Cedric Hayden, Vice Chair
  • Rep. Knute Buehler
  • Rep. Brian Clem
  • Rep. Bill Kennemer
  • Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer
  • Rep. John Lively
  • Rep. Jim Weidner

 

House Human Services and Housing

  • Rep. Keny-Guyer, Chair
  • Rep. Carla Piluso, Vice-Chair
  • Rep. Duane Stark, Vice Chair
  • Rep. Knute Buehler
  • Rep. Paul Evans
  • Rep. Joe Gallegos
  • Rep. Cedric Hayden
  • Rep. Julie Parrish
  • Rep. Kathleen Taylor

 

Ways and Means

  • Sen. Richard Devlin Co-Chair
  • Rep. Peter Buckley, Co-Chair

 

Human Services Subcommittee (Budget Committee)

  • Sen. Alan Bates, Co-Chair
  • Sen. Nancy Nathanson, Co-Chair
  • Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward
  • Sen. Jackie Winters
  • Rep. Deborah Boone
  • Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer
  • Rep. Andy Olsen
  • Rep. Duane Stark

 

Articles of interest

Oregon Legislature Gets Head Start on Budget Questions

http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/politics/state-workers/2015/01/18/oregon-legislature-gets-head-start-budget-questions/21969981/

Profile on Sen. Courtney

http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/columnists/dick-hughes/2015/01/17/peter-courtney-anybody-listening/21937191/

For more information about the legislative process, please contact Katy King.

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