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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Open 35-Day Session

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Chris Phan
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Flickr - tinyurl.com/juowxrh
File photo. The 2014 Regular Session kicked off in Salem on Monday.

Oregon lawmakers convened Monday for a whirlwind 35-day session. But the thorniest topics were largely absent from the opening day festivities.

The next five weeks could include high profile debates on gun control, marijuana legalization and the state's beleaguered health insurance exchange.

But most lawmakers were inclined to leave partisan differences aside on the opening day. Monday was more about patriotic choirs, a clerk forced to sound like an auctioneer while he reads off a long list of new legislation, and new lawmakers taking the oath of office.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward reminded colleagues that serving in the legislature is a privilege that few will hold.

"We are standing here today representing the men, women and children of Oregon -- those who were born here, and those who were fortunate enough to become Oregonians by choice," she said.

Still, there's an election just around the corner so the opening day niceties will soon fade away as Democrats and Republicans jockey to advance their agendas.

Both parties say they'll focus on job creation and economic development. But legislative leaders worry the short session will bog down in debates over gun control, marijuana legalization and whether to fund a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River.

Lawmakers also say they want more answers about what led to the troubled roll-out of the state's health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon.

Lawmakers will get an update on the state's financial outlook next week. That could lead to a round of budget adjustments in order to head off deeper cuts later on.

The legislature will wrap up its work by March 9. That's just over two months before the May primary.