Oregon Senate Democrats will split top budget job

By Hillary Borrud | The Oregonian/OregonLive

The Oregonian/OregonLive

A triumvirate of Democrats will lead Oregon’s budget-writing Ways and Means committee next year, under a unique arrangement that involves the Senate’s appointment of joint co-chairs: Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose and Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, who represents Beaverton and northwest Portland. Rep. Dan Rayfield of Corvallis is the co-chair from the House.

Both Johnson and Steiner Hayward were vying for the job, presenting Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, with a tough decision that he apparently resolved by choosing both.

“Senator Johnson and Senator Steiner Hayward are two of the most experienced budgeteers in the Legislature,” Courtney said in a news release. “They are accomplished individuals. One is a doctor. The other is pilot with a law degree.”

There are usually two Ways and Means committee co-chairs, one from the majority caucus in each chamber, and two vice chairs representing the minority caucuses.

There were two joint co-chairs from the House in 2011 but that was because the chamber was split evenly between Democrats and Republicans that session. Then-Rep. Dennis Richardson, a Republican who is now secretary of state, and then-Rep. Peter Buckley, a Democrat, shared the job. It’s unclear whether there is any precedent for legislative leaders voluntarily splitting the job between two people for other reasons.