In a few short weeks, Oregon's Legislature will convene for about a month, in what is known as a "short session."
Since statehood, Oregon's legislative assembly met in multi-month sessions every odd-numbered year. Those sessions were the period of time in which our elected state representatives and state senators met to consider, debate, pass, and enact legislation deemed to be in the broader and long-term interest of the people.
After the session ended ("sine die" -- or without a definite date for resumption), our "citizen legislators" returned to their communities, families, and jobs. The period between adjournment sine die and the date the next legislature convened was called "the interim." During the interim, hearings were held, work groups met, budgets and fiscal conditions were reviewed, and the budget was re-balanced. Everyone -- legislators, the Governor, special interests, and regular citizens -- had time to pause, reflect, work together, improve proposals, or prepare new ones, and then the process started all over again in January of the next odd-numbered year.
If conditions warranted (economic crisis, natural disaster, etc.), the Governor could call the Legislature back into a "special session," or the Legislature could call itself into special session, and this could happen at any time.
All this changed on November 2, 2010 by a 68%-32% vote of the people when they adopted Measure 71, also known as the Oregon Legislature Annual Sessions Amendment (an amendment to the Oregon Constitution). This measure, which was referred to the voters in 2009 by the Legislature, changed the political and legislative landscape of the state.
With the passage of Measure 71, Oregon joined many other states by adopting what is effectively an annual (v. biannual) legislative cycle. Odd-numbered years were intended to be "full" sessions, and were set to last for 160 days. Even-numbered years were intended to be "short" sessions, and were limited to 35 days.
While the Measure 71 obviously enjoyed strong public support, many (myself included) were supportive only if short sessions were limited to budget review and rebalancing, and truly emergency measures.
That is not what has happened.
If a long session is more like a marathon, today legislators and special interests treat short sessions as (in the words of the inimitable Monty Python) a "100 yard dash for people with no sense of direction." There are almost no limits on proposals that are considered, While in a long legislative session up to 3,000 or so pieces of legislation are introduced, usually in a short session each legislator is limited to one or two bills. This limit often does not apply to the legislative leadership or some key legislators.
Despite the numerical limit on bills, there are virtually no limits on the movement of bills. In a calmer climate, that would be tolerable, because legislators would work together to advance bills that enjoyed a consensus, and would limit bills that were controversial, or did not enjoy a clear majority of support from both parties.
Today, the standard for passing a bill in a short session is whether a majority of the ruling party has the votes to pass it. And there are no limits on subject matter. Anything -- whether it is bad policy or not -- can advance if the ruling party wants to pass it.
In tonight's third "warm up" podcast for Talking Leaders gives my perspective on this question and discusses why we need to make "short" sessions truly short. I hope you'll take a few minutes to listen to Talking Leaders, Intro 3
As always, if you have comments, criticisms, feedback, or have questions, please click on # Comments in the upper right section of this blog.
Earlier this evening, I talked with my oldest son Mattie about the podcast. He wasn't a fan of my original name for the program ("Oregon Conversations"). Mattie thinks with the mind of a 30-year old, and he gets marketing -- which I don't.
After we talked a bit, he listened to the first episode and gave me some very useful feedback. As a result, the name is now changed to "Talking Leaders." I like that because it's both a verb and an adjective, and it summarizes in two words the overall point of the podcast.
I'm running with it for now. Mattie also thinks I should consider intro and outro music, but I need to make sure I can do basic recording first -- I'll try the fancier stuff later.
So after our talk, I recorded Episode 2 of "Talking Leaders." In this short episode, I give some background about the name change, and offer some additional thoughts about where I want to take the podcast. Feel free to click comment and let me know your thoughts.
Thanks Bud -- feedback is a gift and you gave me some good ones tonight.
Plus -- I'm already up to three listeners. As the late, great Mel Allen used to say, "How 'bout that?"
Happy New Year, everyone!
A little behind schedule (okay, about eight months behind...), I've stepped into the world of podcasting.
I started podcasting back in March with some fun discussions with my grandson Hayden Boyd. We mostly talk about sports. Turns out Hayden is quite the social media and multi-media guy, with an Instagram account and a YouTube channel at the ripe old age of 13.
But I always had something else in mind, and it's time to get going on it. Now I've started a more serious effort -- Talking Leaders.
Talking Leaders is intended to be just that: a series of discussions with leaders, emerging leaders, and everyday citizens from Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, and around the country. One of my most-listened to podcasts is The Axe Files with David Axlerod. I want to pattern my work on his work.
I like David's interview approach: thoughtful, done his homework, interesting, informative, and, yes...conversational. Although he is a strong partisan, his interviews aren't. David invites guests from across the political and philosophical spectrum. I always learn something new from his interviews, and always gain new insights about the people he's talking to. In the end, these podcasts have helped to reopen my mind, and I hope I can help others do that too.
So I want to try a similar thing and see where it goes.
I'm still very busy professionally (am writing this on a lunch break today), so I can't commit to a regular schedule for these podcasts for now. My goal is to produce one about every 7-10 days, but that could slip. Initially, the podcasts will likely be individual commentaries. We'll move to conversations when I'm better at working with my new technology and get some wrinkles ironed out (i.e., how to set up to record calls and Skype interviews).
I'm going to start by keeping it simple, so you won't hear theme music, see fancy graphics, or anything like that -- at least at first. That said, this is an experiment, so I may try some new things. It won't be highly polished or professionally produced, but I'm going to give it a go and see what folks say.
Finally, don't be fooled by the short introductory podcast for Episode 1. My intention is to make these interviews meaningful -- which means I'll be looking to make them 30-60 minutes in length. If they aren't interesting, maybe they will become good sleep aids!
In the meantime, I hope you'll take a few minutes to listen and tell me what you think. Just click on the comments link (there will be a number next to it -- probably zero for awhile...) and comment away. Tell me what you like, what could be done better, and let me know if you have suggestions of people to interview.
The only request I have of you is to keep it civil.
In the meantime, thanks for listening to Talking Leaders.
Mike Salsgiver, 63, is a space enthusiast, a tech geek, and is active in federal, state, and local government and political circles. Mike lives in Portland, OR and enjoys RV traveling.