The Oregon Legislature should not be a whodunit. But when it comes to some bills and amendments, it’s not at all clear which legislator is behind them.
That should change so Oregonians know what their legislators are up to and can hold them accountable.
Frequently, bills in the Legislature are so-called “committee bills.” There’s no easy way to find out who is really behind the legislation. Calling the chair of the committee and asking can work. Sometimes, though, the chair doesn’t know.
For instance, nobody took credit or blame for a bill in 2011 that would have banned political parties with “independent” in the name.
The anonymity of amendments to bills is no less important. Amendments can transform a bill into something else or take all the teeth out of it. No names are required to be linked to an amendment. It creates an inappropriate layer of mystery in what is supposed to be an open, public process.
State Sen. Alan Olsen, R-Canby, plans to introduce legislation in 2014 to compel names to be attached to bills and amendments, The Oregonian reported.
Olsen will use one of his bill proposals in February next year to re-introduce legislation to require lawmakers to identify their amendments.
“If you’re proud enough to write it,” he told The Oregonian, “you should be proud enough to put your name on it.”
In the last legislative session, all 14 Republicans in the Senate voted to get Olsen’s bill out of the Senate Rules Committee and move it toward a vote. All 16 Democrats quashed that. State Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was one of the cosponsors of the legislation.
That vote on the bill was partisan. Transparency and accountability should not be a partisan issue.