Almost any Oregon legislator can launch into a passionate speech about how much they believe in accountability and transparency. But they don’t always deliver.
Nowhere is that more glaring than in bills in the Legislature. Legislators conceal who introduced bills and who is behind them.
Not every bill is like that. But no bill should be like that. And yet year after year, there are bills in the Legislature that don’t clearly say on them which legislator or legislators brought them forward.
Go through the list of legislative concepts that lawmakers are talking about this week and it’s hard to find any that say who is behind them. They are often what are called committee bills, meaning they are going to be introduced on behalf of a committee. That means no legislator takes direct responsibility. It means voters can’t hold legislators accountable. Why should that be allowed? We have never heard a satisfactory answer.
Legislators do sometimes introduce bills on behalf of constituents. They may not agree completely with what a constituent wants in the bill. They should still have to put their name on the bill.
Legislators also sometimes introduce bills on behalf of the governor or a state agency. They should still have to put their name on the bill.
Legislators do work together on legislation, as well. Then put all their names on it.
If you have the spare time to follow a bill as it moves through the Legislature, it usually becomes apparent who is supporting it and who is not. And in our experience, particularly with the Central Oregon delegation, individual legislators will be forthcoming about their legislative agenda. They don’t hide it.
But there should be no mystery in any bills or draft bills in the Legislature. Voters should not have to play detective. When a bill or draft bill is discussed it shouldn’t be a whodunit.