A House Divided: Oregon Elects Two Speakers

An even 30-30 split in the Oregon House of Representatives means that Democrats and Republicans will have to get used to sharing power. On Monday (January 10), they got off to a successful start, electing co-House speakers who will alternate in power on succeeding days in the six-month legislative session that begins February 1.

Republican Bruce Hanna and Democrat Arnie Roblan will jointly lead the House after members unanimously agreed to the unusual arrangement - necessitated by the GOP's strong pickups in the November election - in a pre-session vote. Members also agreed to new rules that, according to The Oregonian , should make sharing power somewhat easier.

"Democrats, who control the governor's office and the state Senate, can have a bill stuck in committee discharged to the floor if they can get 31 members (to) sign a petition," the paper reports. "Republicans get some additional ability to block legislation. Policy committees will have a co-chair from each party, but a single co-chair can block a hearing or work session on a bill, unless a majority containing at least two members from each party agrees to move it forward."

Roblan, an avid "Star Wars" fan who keeps a life-sized statue of Anakin Skywalker in his office, referred to the popular movie trilogy during his remarks after being elected co-speaker. The Force, he said, provides a valuable lesson for the Legislature because it "allows us to achieve things we never thought possible."

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