The Oregon Legislature meets annually, convening each February. This year’s legislative session begins February 1, 2017. The Early Learning Division (ELD) participates in the legislative process as a means to inform legislators about the policy choices they make related to early childhood learning and development. The ELD provides objective information about the impacts of potential legislation and resource allocation through meetings with legislators and stakeholders, providing fiscal impact statements, and by delivering testimony before legislative committees.
The Oregon Constitution limits legislative sessions to 160 days during odd-numbered years and 35 days in even-numbered years. Between legislative sessions, legislators meet several times throughout the “interim” for three days of committee meetings called “legislative days.”
The legislative process can seem far removed from your day to day work. If not directly involved, the process can be a mystery, terms are unfamiliar and you may very well wonder what all the fuss is about. For a primer of Oregon’s legislative process, please read below. It introduces terms, processes, how to read a legislative measure, and links to additional information are also provided.
Types of Measures and how to read a measure
Legislative measures can take the form of a joint resolution, concurrent resolution, resolution, joint memorial, memorial, or most commonly, a bill. A measure can be introduced by a legislator, multiple legislators, a legislative committee, or by the Governor. The Governor introduces measures on behalf of state agencies prior to the start of each legislative session. Legislators and legislative committees can “pre-session file” or introduce legislative concepts during a legislative session.
- A Bill is a measure that creates new law, amends or repeals existing law, appropriates money, prescribes fees, transfers functions from one agency to another, provides penalties, or takes other action.
- The measure number (e.g., House Bill 3030) can be found at the top of each page of the measure. As amendments are adopted through the legislative process, measures become changed, known as “engrossed.” The letter designation indicates the version of the measure. The first revision of a measure is identified as A-Engrossed; the second time, it becomes B-Engrossed, and so on.
- Sponsors: A sponsor is the legislator(s) or committee who introduced the bill. Sponsors are listed below the measure number at the top of the first page.
- Measure Summary: The summary is found on the first page, immediately following the list of sponsors. It is intended to be a general description of what the measure does. Measure summaries are high level and in most cases will not cover everything included in the measure.
- Relating Clause: The “relating clause” follows the summary. This section tells if the measure will create new laws, amend or repeal existing laws. Any amendments proposed to a measure must fit within the subject of the relating clause.
- Body of a Measure: If a measure is proposing an entirely new law, all of the language will be printed in bold face type. Deleted language will be italicized and enclosed within brackets. Current law not proposed for change will be shown in regular text.
- Effective and Operative Dates: If the measure has an emergency clause, it will become effective immediately or on the date indicated. If the measure has a specific effective date without an emergency clause, it will be at least 91 days from the end of the legislative session. If the measure doesn’t indicate an effective date, it takes effect January 1 of the following year. Sometimes a measure will have both an effective date and an operative date. Operative dates are used to delay implementation of certain sections of a measure until a future date. Operative dates can be found throughout a measure.
- Legislative Concept (LC) Number: The number given to a measure before it was introduced can be found at the bottom left side of the first page of a measure. It can be helpful to know for tracking purposes.
- An Engrossed Bill is a measure that is printed with its amendments included.
- An Enrolled Bill is a final copy of a bill that has passed both houses of the Legislative Assembly and has been specially reprinted in preparation for the signatures of the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. After these signatures, the enrolled bill goes to the Governor.
Legislative committees are the workhorse of the legislative process. This is where ideas are developed into laws through public hearings and work sessions. Legislative committees hold public hearings to understand the potential impacts of a legislative measure by listening to public testimony. Work sessions are where the majority of discussions take place among the members of the committee and where all voting occurs. A committee may discuss a potential amendment in a public hearing, but a committee may only vote to amend a bill during a work session.
Most bills are amended. Amendments can be just as important as the original bill and be substantive or they can be minor tweaks in language. Legislative Counsel numbers the amendments for each bill starting with -1 (e.g., SB 222-1).
A Fiscal Impact Statement (FIS) is an objective financial analysis of a legislative measure. It is requested by the legislature to understand the impact of a measure on agencies and local government. Legislative committees must have a completed FIS before they can vote on a measure.
Watching or Listening to Legislative Hearings
To monitor a legislative committee, public hearing or work session online, go to the legislature’s website. For live sessions, choose the appropriate hearing room at the top of the website page. Archived audio recordings can be found on the website.