Since 2012, Sen. Alan Olsen (R-Canby) has been proposing a bill that would require bill amendments to carry the name of a legislator because–believe it or not–many don’t.
It’s a common sense reform he has repeatedly asked for over the years.
Following a string of government corruption episodes that came to a head last year with the resignation of former-Gov. John Kitzhaber, Oregon legislators are feeling pressure to pass transparency, ethics and good-government reforms.
Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) ordered a legislative rule this week in hopes of alleviating some of the citizen outrage. Her new rule steals from Olson’s former bill proposals and requires sponsor’s names on bill amendments.
Her new rule provides just enough wiggle room that legislators can avoid putting their name on controversial amendments if they choose.
Olsen responded in a press release, noting, “This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. This rule change still allows for mystery amendments and doesn’t hold legislators accountable for their work. The Oregon government has a transparency problem, and the Democrats continue to stand in the way of a permanent fix. Oregonians deserve better.”
In fact, the new rule actually goes too far. It still allows for a committee or an organization to be listed as the requester–and last time we checked, committees and organizations are not elected to make laws, only legislators are. So it stands to reason that a legislator’s name should appear as the one requesting an amendment.
Providing additional information would be fine, but a bill amendment should at least contain a legislator’s name as an absolute requirement.
Kotek wrote in her press release, “Each amendment will identify the requester – either a legislator, committee, individual, organization, local government or state agency.”
Olsen has reason to feel slighted. His bill is clean and simple. It reads, “Requires name of member or committee of Legislative Assembly requesting set of proposed amendments to legislative measure to be identified on proposed amendments.”
Olson has sponsored the same bill again this session (SB1560).
Kotek has been crowing about how transparent the Legislature is, and is trying to prove it with a new rule that appears to solve the problem. But in reality, the new rule will give legislators adequate anonymity when needed.