Oregon legislators are fond of calling their upcoming February special session a "test drive" of annual meetings.

Oregon legislators are fond of calling their upcoming February special session a "test drive" of annual meetings.

We wonder whether they realize just how closely Oregonians will be watching as they back this vehicle out of the driveway.

Will they stick to the big issues? Will they even be able to agree on what the big issues are? Will they be able to get anything done in a month? Will lawmakers facing elections in 2008 give in to the urge to, um, assure a few votes?

They're fair questions all as Oregonians use this test to weigh whether they want to consider a request to alter the state Constitution to allow annual sessions.

Oregon is one of just a handful of states across the country whose legislatures do not now meet annually, and we have said we think it's time Oregon threw off its once-every-two-years schedule for the yearly meetings.

But the assembly must not waste time with partisanship and delays, as it sometimes has under the existing system. Here is an opportunity for the Legislature not just to meet more often, but to kick up the professionalism a notch as well.

Leaders talk like they understand that concept. But in reality they've already amassed a large pile of topics for the one-month meeting, more than they generally get done in a period several times that long.

This session ought to be focused on major Oregon issues, not projects legislators hope to get through for areas they represent (note to Senate President Peter Courtney, who says he'll introduce a bill about dog fighting: Really?).

What's major? A partial list would include deciding whether to revive the "Big Look" commission to examine state land-use laws, addressing driver's licensing for illegal immigrants and deciding whether Oregon can increase funding for the State Police.

One of the worst outcomes would be for the Legislature to emerge from the meeting, big issues unresolved, and tell Oregonians it does need annual sessions, just much longer annual sessions than expected.

Remember: Legislators have a green light for a test drive. That's a short trip to see how things work out, not carte blanche to drive off into the sunset.