Oregon lawmakers have introduced more than 2,700 bills for consideration during the 2019 legislative session that began Jan. 22. Of that number, fewer than 450 have been signed into law so far, and while more will be signed, most are likely to end up in the trash bin.
That’s led to talk of limiting the number of bills that can be introduced. While artificial limits sound like a good idea, they’re not. There’s no way to determine what is the right number.
By law, the even-year sessions must conclude business within 35 days. By general agreement, the short sessions were added to the calendar as a way to deal with problems that had cropped up in the months since the longer odd-year session had adjourned.
The odd-year sessions are another matter. Budgeting is done during the 160-day long sessions, and that alone dramatically increases the amount of work lawmakers can and want to do. Money for everything from schools to courts to fees to fight noxious weeds is fought over, and just about every lawmaker wants some bit of the financial pie for something near and dear to the folks at home.
The odd-year sessions are also the time for big policy changes — this year, for example, lawmakers have tackled everything from immunization to limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Some good ideas have died, though they may come back in the future.
Lawmakers also have introduced a number of fairly insubstantial measures, to make shelter animals or border collies the state animal, to urge Congress to do a whole host of things, to honor other politicians and so on.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, believes fewer bills would mean more fully aired, thoughtful legislation. Perhaps. And lawmakers could construct the rules on limits with flexibility. The better way to do limits is to put the burden on lawmakers themselves to decide what deserves a bill and have their constituents hold them accountable, just as it works now.