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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs