On Monday, January 14; Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) and the other 59 electedState Representatives were sworn-in as members of Oregon's 77th Legislative Session. Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Thomas A. Balmer administered the oath of office to the members.
"I always enjoy the Legislative Session opening activities with the military honor guards, music and speeches by the President of the Senate, Speaker of House, and the Governor's 'State of the State' address," Rep. Whisnant commented.
Rep. Tina Kotek (D-North Portland) was elected Speaker of the House. Rep. Chris Garrett (D-Lake Oswego) was elected Speaker Pro Tem and Ramona Line was elected Chief Clerk.
Completing the opening agenda, the members passed the Rules of the House. The main changes involved eliminating the co-governance from the 2012-2013 Session with the 30-30 split. Also, the rules concerning "conflicts of interest" were changed to reflect a proposal which Rep. Whisnant submitted to the House Rules Committee in the February 2012 session.
The Conflict of Interest (3.21) change states: "The member shall file in writing a statement of the nature of the potential conflict with the Chief Clerk or the committee assistant by 5:00 p.m. the next business day following the vote on the measure. The statement shall be limited to the substance of the oral explanation given on the floor or in committees. The member's announcement of an actual or potential conflict of interest shall be recorded in the Journal or in the committee minutes."
In the 2012 session, Rep. Whisnant worked with Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) to improve the Rules of the House with the intent to improve the transparency. Rep. Greenlick preferred to have members not vote if there is an actual conflict of interest.
"As a citizen legislature, we expect members to have other employments which may result in potential and actual conflict of interest on votes," Rep. Whisnant reported. "This rule of House will increase transparency and ensure House members integrity and trust with the citizens."
Committee assignments were announced. Representative Whisnant has been appointed to the Education, Human Services and Housing, and Higher Education Committees for the 2013 Legislative Session.