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New Speaker Makes History As Oregon Legislature Opens

Oregon Legislature

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon House convened Monday morning and quickly made history. Members elected Portland Democrat Tina Kotek to be their speaker.

Kotek becomes the first openly gay woman in the nation to lead a state legislative chamber. Kotek took the oath of office next to her partner, Aimee Wilson.

But the four-term state representative didn't mention her history-making status in her opening address to lawmakers. She did encourage House members to tackle tough issues head-on.

"Don't be afraid to engage in robust, constructive debates," Kotek said. "It's perfectly okay that we are a group of individuals with competing points of view. It's not okay to shy away from difficult conversations or refuse to be solution-oriented."

In the Senate, Democrat Peter Courtney was elected as Senate President for a sixth consecutive session, an Oregon record.

Lawmakers will hold three days of organizational meetings this week, then return in February to craft legislation. Hot topics this year include public pensions, job creation, and corrections spending.