GOP claims House Speaker Breaking Rules

Press Release from House Republican Office 5-9-07:

Democrat Fee Increases Get Free Pass, While Republican Policy Bills Get Buried

SALEM””House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D-Portland) is bypassing the Joint Ways and Means process to advance bills with a significant impact on the 2007-09 state budget. The issue arose as the House debated SB 105, which raises certain Department of Environmental Quality fees by as much as 138 percent while adding over $244,000 to the agency’s budget.

House Republicans are questioning whether Democratic leadership is manipulating the process to pass its agenda, while burying bills sponsored by members of the minority party. House Rules give the Speaker discretion in referring bills to committee, and for those bills impacting the state budget, the Speaker traditionally attaches a “subsequent referral” to revenue or appropriations committees. Conventional practice has been to send any bills with a fiscal impact of $50,000 or more to the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

“[SB 105] is a fee bill that has a spending limitation attached to it that is well over $50,000– but Ways and Means has never seen this or looked to see if this fee increase is substantiated and has never seen the spending limitation that goes with it,” said Rep. Jerry Krummel (R-Wilsonville) said during debate. “I have a bill that has a zero fiscal impact on General Fund or any other any funds, yet it has a subsequent referral to Ways and Means coming out of the Speaker’s Office. It may have had the subsequent referral so it could be sent there to die. I think there’s an inconsistency here.”

Rep. Karen Minnis (R-Wood Village) asked the Speaker to clarify his policy on bills affecting the state budget, but he refused. “Whatever the Speaker’s policy is on bill referrals, he needs to be consistent,” she said.

House Republican Leader Wayne Scott (R-Canby), a former Ways and Means Co-Chair, said it’s important for revenue and appropriations committees to review legislation that impacts the state budget. Passing bills without considering how they fit into the budgetary framework promotes fiscal mismanagement.

“The Speaker is opening the door to millions of dollars in wasteful spending,” said Rep. Scott. “The passage of SB 105 shows he is willing to pass fee increases and spending bills without public participation and scrutiny of the Ways and Means Committee Members. What is the Speaker trying to hide from the public and members of the House?”