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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid