Representative Dennis Richardson: Closing days of Session

By State Representative Dennis Richardson,

Oregon’s 75th legislative session is coming to an end and I am happy to report to the citizens of Oregon, the system is working. The Speaker of the House, Dave Hunt, and the House Majority Leader, Mary Nolan, have honored the right of the minority party members to be heard in debate without using the majority party’s parliamentary power to silence the voice of opposition. In kind, the House Minority Leader, Bruce Hanna, has avoided the frequent and harsh political attacks and delaying tactics that were common in my previous three sessions.

Since this legislative session is drawing to a close, I will focus this newsletter on the process for creating Legislation and give my legislator’s perspective. My analysis of the quality and consequences of bills passed during this session will be delayed until after the final bill is passed and the final gavel falls.

The Legislative Process: The citizens of Oregon should expect proposed legislation to have open and thorough consideration before becoming law. Most proposed legislation (bills) can originate in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Every bill is assigned to a committee where the Committee Chair decides whether or not to give it a hearing. If one or more public hearings are granted, and if the committee Chair decides the bill is worthy, a work session is held where committee members can officially comment on the merits, concerns and consequences of the bill and determine whether or not the bill should go forward. If a majority of committee members vote to pass the bill out of committee, it is sent to the floor of the chamber for debate and a final vote. If this occurs and a bill receives a majority vote on the House or Senate floor, it then is sent to the other chamber (Senate or House), where the entire process is repeated.

If, after passing scrutiny and being voted out of both the House and Senate committees, a bill has received a majority vote on the floors of both the House and the Senate, it then goes to the Governor for his review. If the Governor signs the bill, it becomes Oregon law. On the other hand, if the Governor vetoes the bill, it goes back to the legislature for further consideration. Most bills, including tax increases, have implementation delayed for 90 days to give voters the opportunity to file a Petition of Referendum. If the required number of signatures is filed with the Secretary of State’s office, the power of Referendum gives citizen voters the final decision on whether or not to pass or defeat a bill.

The “bicameral” American legislative process””which requires passage by two legislative chambers and an executive’s signature–occurs both in Congress and in 49 state legislatures (Nebraska has the only “unicameral” or one-chamber, non-partisan legislature). The process is intentionally time-consuming and redundant. Our forefathers believed there was safety in giving three opportunities to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of every proposed law before implementing it.

In reality, the majority party generally uses its procedural power to select which bills are allowed to move through the process, and which bills get “pigeon-holed” and never see the light of day. In politics, power precedes policy.

Legislator’s Perspective. Members of the minority party are sometimes ignored. I cannot speak for other Republican legislators, but this session I have been treated with bi-partisan respect by the co-chairs of my sub-committees and the Full Ways and Means Committee. When I had constructive suggestions to make, I felt they were given due consideration. Some were even accepted.

There has been no question as to which party is in power. For better or for worse, the voters made that determination, and the Democrat leadership has implemented its agenda. Whether that agenda meets the needs for Oregon in the long-run, only time will tell. But, at least the session was conducted civilly and in a professional manner. For that, as a member of the minority, I thank Speaker Hunt, Majority Leader Nolan and Minority Leader Hanna.

Status of Key Remaining Bills.

Senate Bill 767C. This is the bill described in last week’s newsletter, “Education in Oregon””The House the OEA Built.” SB 767C was passed out of the House by a 31 to 28 vote, then went to the Senate where it failed to receive a Concurring vote for the House amendments. Presently, SB 767 has been assigned to a joint House and Senate conference committee. The conference committee met today and amended SB 767 in various ways. The amendments are not yet posted, so it is unclear whether the amended version of SB 767 (now SB 767A) is an improvement over the original version. Nevertheless, the staff report of the amended version of SB 767A can be read by clicking here.

House Joint Memorial 17. This is the state’s sovereignty””10th amendment bill. HJM 17 was the subject of a survey contained in the June 12, 2009 newsletter, “10th Amendment and Taxes. The survey asked two questions and you may be surprised by the responses:

Survey Question 1. Do you believe,
(1.) the U. S. Constitution is the fundamental charter for the rights and freedoms of the United States of America,
(2.) it remains the foundation for a freedom loving American people,
(3.) the Bill of Rights must be adhered to by the federal government, and
(4.) the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights remains the fundamental law of the land?
Yes [ ] or No [ ]
Of the 1,053 responses, 1,046 (99.3%) voted YES and 7 (0.7%) voted NO.

Survey Question 2. Do you encourage Oregon’s Representatives and Senators to immediately bring to the Floor of the House and Senate “House Joint Memorial 17″ for a VOTE before the final adjournment of the 75th Session of the Oregon Legislature? Yes [ ] or No [ ]

Of the 1,057 responses, 1,027 (97.2%) voted YES and 30 (2.8%) voted NO.

In the many surveys I have conducted, there has never been such unanimity of opinion. In fact, 581 readers took the time to enter notes of encouragement and frustration that HJM 17 has not been brought forward for a vote by Oregon’s legislators. Nevertheless, the House leadership continues to refuse to allow HJM 17 to come to the Floor for debate. I cannot understand how more than a 1,000 Oregonians and I can see this issue so clearly, yet the legislative leaders and the Governor seem afraid to confirm that Oregon and its citizens are loyal to, and the federal government is subject to the constraints of, the United States Constitution. To see the results yourself, click here.

House Bill 2588. This bill focuses on a movement to initiate the National Popular Vote, and would have joined Oregon with a minority of states seeking to circumvent the Electorial College and begin selecting our nation’s President by a National Popular Vote. It was discussed in the March 13, 2009 newsletter. After passing the House by a 39 to 19 vote, HB 2588 went on to the Senate, where it has languished in the Senate Rules Committee since March 24th. Although the issue makes for interesting debate, it essentially changes the system for electing our President, which has served us well for more than 200 years. My feeling is, if it is not broken, don’t fix it.

Next week I will provide a post-session review of Oregon’s 75th Legislative Session.


Dennis Richardson
State Representative