I always look to find out the sponsor of bills – Who wants this particular bill passed? It is getting harder and harder to access any information from our state legislature. I found out today that our legislature is not open to the public and they are taking public commentary with “ZOOM” If they don’t like what you are saying they press the “MUTE” button. In my mind this is no representation at all and I do believe there is a law that says that the legislature can not pass bills unless it is open to the public. This is not Democracy people, but I suspect that people don’t care very much today about Democracy.
Here is a mystery: Help us find out who are the legislators behind certain bills.
Most bills this session or any session have a chief sponsor, maybe even a bunch of regular sponsors. They make it clear which legislators wanted their fellow legislators to consider a bill. Their names are right there on the bills.
But there is a subset of bills without any such clarity. The residents of Oregon can’t know by looking at a bill who is behind it.
We went through the bills that were scheduled for some mention during the legislative session on Tuesday, Feb. 1, and found three, Senate Bills 1521 and 1522 and House Bill 4031.
SB 1521 would prohibit a school district from firing their superintendent for acting in compliance with state or federal law. This bill was introduced, at least in part, to prevent superintendents from being fired for complying with pandemic restrictions, such as masking and distance learning. It was apparently introduced at the request of the Senate Interim Committee on Education. All the members of the committee? One of them?
SB 1522 has so many disparate pieces it’s hard to sum up. It’s 20 pages long. It also has to do with education. It covers access to contact information for graduate students, requiring school districts to allow students to apply certain credits toward graduation, requirements for homeschooled students to participate in athletics and more. It was also at the request of the Senate Interim Committee on Education.
House Bill 4031 establishes a state goal that the percentage of diverse employees employed by the Department of Education reflects the percentage of diverse students in public schools. This one comes from the House Interim Committee in Education at the request of the Department of Education.
Now why would legislators allow bills to be introduced without putting a legislator’s name on it? It’s not because legislators are dissolute, lazy and work-shy or too busy.
It’s, in part, because they can. The rules of the House and Senate allow it. It’s Rule 12 in the House Rules. But legislators make those rules for introducing bills. So they must want it.
We aren’t particularly worried about any of these three bills. The concern is the mystery that enables legislators to conceal what they are doing from their constituents. The power to act in hiding and set in motion new laws in secrecy is great power. And that has no place in a government that is supposed to be transparent. It has no place in the Oregon Legislature.
This article is from The Oregon Catalyst