News / USA

Split Vote Forces Power Sharing in Oregon

Equal number of Democrats and Republicans tests bipartisan spirit

Republican Bruce Hanna (left) and Democrat Arnie Roblan (right) are Co-Speakers of the Oregon House.
Republican Bruce Hanna (left) and Democrat Arnie Roblan (right) are Co-Speakers of the Oregon House.

Multimedia

Audio
Chris Lehman

Every election has its share of winners and losers, with one political party taking the reins of power. But that's not the case in Oregon where the most recent elections left the state House of Representatives evenly split. That means 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans must now learn to share power.

And what happens when the lawmakers convene on Feb. 1 could serve as a model for the entire country.

Co-speakers

To begin with, the two sides agreed to elect Co-Speakers of the House. That leaves the top Democrat and the top Republican with plenty of logistical details to work out, starting with what to call themselves.

"Republican speaker, Democratic speaker, we've talked co-speaker. It is difficult. There's no script written for it," says Republican Bruce Hanna.

He and his Democratic counterpart, Arnie Roblan, are officially "Co-speakers" but have agreed to simply call themselves "Speaker." The two also divided up premium office space and worked out a plan for who gets to hold the gavel. They'll trade off every other day. And while gavel pounding is mostly symbolic, it's part of the Co-speakers' goal of bi-partisanship.

"We will make it so that at the end of the day, people who look at this session will say 'Wow, they pretty much did that right down the middle,'" says Roblan.

Answers to thornier questions - such as how bills get assigned to committee or make it to the floor for a vote - were negotiated during a month of closed-door meetings. One compromise is that each legislative committee will get co-chairs - one from each party.

Tied chambers

Tied legislative chambers aren't as rare as you might think. In fact they're so common that the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures has someone who keeps track of them.

Brenda Erickson says there's been at least one tied state chamber following every general election since 1984. "We always tell the legislators that they should view it as a challenge and not as a dilemma."

According to Erickson, lawmakers have developed several models to deal with a tie. Some, like the Oregon House, try to divide control as evenly as possible. Others give one party the reins for the first half of the session, and then switch at the midpoint. Then there are those who take a more casual approach.

"In Wyoming, way back in 1974, they actually did a coin toss to break the tie," says Erickson.

Collaborative rule

"We have a great opportunity here to do one of two things," says Oregon Republican Sal Esquivel, who sits on four committees and has leadership roles in three of them. "We can either get nothing done, or we can get a lot done. Every vote that comes out of this House will be bipartisan. It can't come out without it."

That bipartisan spirit will be tested as lawmakers deal with a $3.5 billion budget shortfall.

The Oregon House isn't the only tied legislative chamber this year. The Alaska Senate is knotted up 10-to-10. And if Oregon Republicans are disappointed they didn't take one more seat to turn the tables on Democrats, they can console themselves by looking at the Hawaii Senate, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 24 to 1.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid