Despite delays from Tuesday's unexpected snow storm, the Oregon legislature really is getting down to business. Now that the high profile election of officers and adopting rules is over, the real work of the Legislature moves to its committees.
Oregon is known as a committee-oriented Legislature. Committees are expected to get the background, do the research and investigation, hammer out policy and send their bills to the floor for approval. Lawmakers rely on the committees to do a thorough job. If a majority of lawmakers do not approve a bill, it is usually sent back to committee. Very few bills are amended on the floor in the Oregon legislature.
If there is a serious difference of opinion over a bill, the committee may send a majority and minority report to the floor and members decide between them.
While almost all legislators read bills before they vote on them, members usually pick someone on a committee who thinks like they do and trusts that committee member to explain the finer points of a measure - especially if it is controversial - before they decide how to vote. That's how influential committee members can be.
Most bills that come before the legislature are not decided on party line votes. They are usually decided by whether they are good or bad policy. Other bills are decided by region - east of the Cascades, southern Oregon and the Coast vs. the Willamette Valley is a frequent divide, for example.
In the last decade and a half, the Republican leadership deliberately made votes into a Republican vs. Democrat issue to try and sharply define the differences between parties. This practice sparked the partisan rancor that soured the Legislature and prolonged the process to the point where the voters decided some new leadership was needed.
Now that the Democrats are in control again, it appears they are returning to the Legislature's more traditional ways with much of the serious work again done in committees and not in the speaker and Senate president's office.
If that attitude prevails, lawmakers should have their work done, budgets passed and be ready to go home by the middle of June - the traditional time of adjournment.
We will withhold our praise until June and see if lawmakers can pull this off.