Rep. Richardson on Corrupting Power

Power Has Corrupted the Legislative Process

Hopefully, my stint in the Legislative minority will be brief, but it has provided me new perspective. I have seen in action the pervasive principle of “Unrighteous Dominion.” In essence, this principle states that most people when they gain any amount of power, will soon begin to use their power for their own benefit and to the detriment of others. I am sad to report this principle is thriving in our legislature.

For instance, it makes good sense when creating laws to require safeguards that ensure open, public hearings and thorough consideration of facts and opinions. Through such a process public input can be received and due consideration can be given to all opinions.

In the Oregon Legislature such safeguards historically have been assured by the committee process. In the committee process, proposed legislation is assigned to a committee specializing in the relevant subject matter. Notice of public hearings is posted well in advance so that those interested can come, sign a list and testify to the committee on the pros and cons of the proposed legislation. In addition to public testimony, the committee often invites expert testimony to instruct committee members on the subject matter of the legislation. Many times opposing experts will testify, thus enabling the committee members to become well-informed before deciding whether or not to pass the proposed law. Many times information learned during the committee hearings results in amendments being made to clarify wording and improve the quality and consequences of the proposed law. Through the committee process, the committee legislators become knowledgeable about the content of proposed laws they consider. Ultimately, a decision is made on whether or not the proposed Bill should move out of committee. If the Committee’s Chair wants to pass the proposed Bill out of the committee, a Work Session is scheduled and a vote is taken. If the bill is supported by a majority of committee members, it is sent to the House floor for debate and a vote by the 60 elected State Representatives. If two or more committee members strongly oppose the Bill, they can file a “Minority Report,” which enables them to also send to the House floor the minority’s draft of how they believe the Bill should be worded. Then both versions are debated and the members of the House vote on which, if either, version to “pass” and send to the Senate for its consideration. The entire process is then repeated in a Senate committee.

The committee process requires time and effort, but it successfully weeds out most bad legislation. It also assists those legislators who serve on other House committees. They give the same level of time and consideration to bills in their own committees, and since there are 15 House committees, they must trust their colleagues on the other committees to assure proposed legislation has been thoroughly and carefully considered before allowing it to be sent to the House floor for a vote.

Unfortunately, such dedication to an open, honest and public process is being violated repeatedly by House leadership this session.

For example, consider House Bill 3535. This bill would dedicate 1% of Oregon’s General Fund revenues to the Oregon State Police Patrol Division. House Bill 3535 has 51 legislators co-sponsoring it, including 17 Democrats. It is truly a bi-partisan bill that would ensure dedicated funding for 24/7 coverage of Oregon’s highways by OSP Troopers. Since it would not become law until after this session ends, HB 3535 would have no effect on the 2007-09 budget. Notwithstanding the lack of any affect on the budget, House leadership has moved HB 3535 and several other non-budget Bills to the Ways and Means committee, where they can be quietly pigeon-holed. The House leaders have made it clear to the minority Republicans that to have 24/7 OSP Troopers will require a tax increase to pay for them. Twice the House Republicans have made parliamentary motions on the House floor to bring HB 3535 out of committee to a floor vote; both times those Motions were defeated by a party-line vote.

Another example of how open, public debate is being circumvented by moving a non-budget bill to a Ways and Means sub-committee is House Bill 3540-B. As you may recall, HB 3540-B is the flawed response to Measure 37 that was the subject of a previous newsletter.

Regardless of how you voted on Measure 37, it is the law and most of us would agree it is vitally important for this Legislative session to clarify the costs and confusion surrounding its implementation. With so many Oregonians affected in one way or another by the consequences of Measure 37, one would expect House Bill 3540-B to be widely debated and carefully and openly considered at every stage of its deliberations. Regretfully, the opposite has been the case.

There have been no public hearings on the many complex amendments to this important legislation. There has been no opposing testimony allowed on the catastrophic consequences HB 3540-B will have on average elderly citizens who have spent their life savings trying for the past two years to overcome city, county and state hurdles to their claims. To prevent HB 3540-B from receiving public attention or testimony, HB 3540-B has been neatly tucked away in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee. On May 30, 2007, the subcommittee received its marching orders and amended HB 3540-B with more than 300 lines of changes to the underlying bill. Although emailed to the committee members after hours the night before, this Ways and Means Subcommittee members were not handed a copy of this complex, eleven page amendment until thirty minutes before the work session meeting began.

According to plan, the HB 3540—B31 amendments were passed, not by a thoroughly prepared and knowledgeable Land Use Committee, but by a Ways and Means subcommittee–without knowledge of the subject, without public hearings, and without even having read the amendments. These important amendments were passed by the Democrats on a straight, party-line vote over the objections of the Senate and House Republicans. The charade was well-orchestrated, but subterfuge comes with a cost. At a time when Oregon citizens are highly suspicious of their government and its leaders, the exercise of blatant unrighteous dominion further fuels the flames of distrust.

The key to honest, open government is having legislators and leaders who avoid the very appearance of subterfuge, subversion and self-dealing. Using the committee process as it is intended helps keep the legislative process transparent and above suspicion. Since sending non-budget bills to Ways and Means may continue, today I proposed a change in the House Rules that would require public hearings and input on any non-budget-related amendments. My amendment to House Rule 8.22 is a small, yet important step to keeping politics out of the policy making process in the Oregon legislature. The proposed Rule amendment was read on the House floor today and has been assigned to the House Committee on Elections, Ethics and Rules, where it will, hopefully, receive open and objective consideration.

Dennis Richardson

  • DMF

    Thank you

  • Ted Kennedy’s Liver

    The difference between Republicans and Democrats in this state is that while individual Republicans may occasionally knowingly become corrupt or engage in illegal activity (who was that guy who claimed a Korean War record he didn’t have?), the party as a whole is not corrupt.

    The Oregon Democrat party is widely regarded as the third most corrupt political organization in the country (right behind Cook county Illinois and King County, Washington). Individual Democrats also routinely engage in corrupt activity, but rather than show contrition, they simply say nothing (Bill Bradbury and his corruption of both the election and initiative processes), deny the corruption (Betsy Johnson) or engage in an “end justifies the means” explanation.

    Each time a politician gets away with breaking the law it lowers the bar for the rest of them (as long as they’re Democrats, of course. Republican crimes will still get more and longer play than WWIII in the O).

    Betsy Johnson will undoubtedly skate, leading other less than honest politicians to muse about what kind of sweetheart deals they can put together.

    Secretary Bradbury’s brazen attacks on both the elective and referendum processes and the failure of two successive Democrat governors to prosecute organized harassment of signature gatherers and petition signers by union thugs is a disgrace, but not as much of a disgrace as the O’s turning a blind eye.

    Discredit where discredit is due, however, the lack of investigation and/or prosecution of the SOS by the United States Attorney’s office is an even bigger disgrace. If we, as Republicans, don’t call these people to account when they transgress, why should we expect them to do otherwise?

  • torridjoe

    Dennis is making a joke here, right? After years of corrupt Republican non-leadership in the Oregon House, he’s got the nerve to complain about how the same partisan tricks aren’t working now that they’re in the minority? Who made a deal on the kicker/minimum and then backed out in order to create a fake vote for the purpose of sending out hitmail pieces? Who supplied Freedomworks with taxpayer-paid photos to hit them? Who pulled the same stupid vote trick on OSP?

    I mean, really–to complain that there’s been no hearing on 3540 when there’s been nothing BUT hearings on 37 reform all session long? Ridiculous.

    But then, what do you expect from someone who wrote that a few civil rights for gays was like a mass murder?

    • Steve Plunk


      Do us a favor and stop repeating the lie about equating same sex marriage with mass murder. Even a school age child could understand the context of the statement and know that’s not what was said. In this case repeating it over and over again will not make it true.

      There is a traditional path for bills to take through the legislature and the Dems have violated our trust on the “reform” of 37. Rather than complain about Republicans why not address the issue at hand if you have anything of value to add?

  • Cpaer

    Some see the answer to corruption as more laws, but I see it as less laws, less power, less government.

  • baldeagle

    Hilarious! Republicans are falling like flies. Paul Wolfowitz, maybe even Alberto Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, Doug Feith, Richard Perle, John Bolton, and Scooter Libby star in the ‘Tragedy of King George.’ Write some more stuff Dennis, your reality is unbelievable!

    Meanwhile, behind the scenes corruption and incompetence and scandals are rife in no fewer than 8 Cabinent Departments.

    The battle for the moral core of the Republican Party is on display with 8 out of the 10 republican presidential candidates gleefully supporting torture at their last debate. Only two noticed that torture is a betrayal of U.S. values and breeds more enemies.

    The “Ted Kennedy’s Liver” posteris is deeply misinformed and quoting crap with no factual backup. Reminds me of the guy I listened to in the gym the other day. He announced that only the finest young men and women were being recruited into the military these days. Guess he doesn’t know gang members, drop outs, kids with mental health issues and other law breakers now make up a portion of the troops fighting in that stupid war in Iraq. Republicans still believe there were weapons of mass destruction but then again they also believe in the tooth fairy!!!!

    • Steve Plunk


      Richardson’s comments concern Oregon politics not national politics so it makes no sense for you to turn this into an example of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Rants like that deserve to be posted with the Kossacks.

      Like I said to TJ, address the issue at hand if you have something of value to add, please. I see nothing on topic in your words.

    • Ted Kennedy’s Liver

      What facts have I missed Paulie?

      Bradbury didn’t sucker 1000 Nader supporters out of a hall and then lock the doors on them during the 2004 election to prevent them from getting on the ballot? So he hasn’t enacted new rules to make it more dificult to get a measure on the ballot?

      Betsy Johnson didn’t do a sweetheart land deal she never would have been able to engineer had she not been in the legislature and profit by $120k?

      The Republican whose name I can’t remember didn’t lie about his war record in the voters pamphlet?

      re: the military: high school dropouts, criminals and the mentally ill are all prohibited from military service. Counts you out.

      re: WMD’s: The former head of Saddam’s air force has stated repeatedly that the WMD’s were trucked across the border to Syria in the days leading up to the war.

  • Sybella

    I sure hope all the liberals will be happy in the new eutopia created by them. I have a hard time understanding how, unless they never took history in school, they can’t see Socialism has failed every where. Bald Eagle, I think you better bone up on world history.