June 21, 2013





On a party-line vote today, Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives blocked a vote on three bills which would have helped Oregon's low and middle income families. House Republicans called for a vote on the bills, which would have reduced taxes for low and middle income families, increased money for classrooms, and provided flexibility when dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The specific bills were: 


HB 3210:

Provides tax relief for lower- and middle-income Oregonians. Third party analysis of similar concepts estimate a typical family of four making $35,000 per year would save $927.00. It would stimulate the economy by providing more family income for spending and would add over $2 billion in new tax revenue over five years. "This tax cut for struggling, low and middle-income families would have given them more money in every paycheck, helping them and providing more spending in our local communities," said Rep. Jason Conger (R - Bend), chief sponsor of the measure.


HB 3288:

Allows 25 percent of the union dues paid by a teacher to be given to the school where the teacher works for in-classroom instructional purposes. This will provide relief for teachers who spend their own money on instructional supplies and dedicate more money for classroom spending. "This bill would give teachers the choice of redirecting some of their own resources back into their classrooms to benefit their students," said Rep. Mark Johnson (R - Hood River), who made the motion to bring the bill for a vote.


HB 2411:

Instructs the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish extended weekday and Saturday operating schedules for field offices. Right now, the DMV is only open during regular business hours Monday through Friday, which forces people to take time off of work. These current hours of operation are hard on families who must lose pay or take vacation time in order to renew their licenses or do other DMV business. "Government needs to recognize the real cost paid by Oregon's families from the unreasonable hours DMV has set. A business that set their hours in such an unfriendly manner wouldn't last long," said. Rep. Kevin Cameron (R - Salem) 


Rep. Mike McLane (R - Powell Butte), the House Republican Leader, expressed disappointment that the measures were not supported by House Democrats. "Oregon's low and middle income families are working hard to provide for their families and the Oregon Legislature should take these simple, common-sense steps to help them out," said Rep. McLane. "These measures would have helped low and middle-income families on a day-to-day basis. They would have helped them keep more money in their family budgets and more money in their kids' classrooms."




System Gone Wrong?



The legislative process is designed to be very deliberate, and for good reason-it ensures that ideas intended to be laws are properly vetted before they are voted on.

But that process is being abused as this session winds down.

Typically, bills are heard in committee, where members of both parties and all affected stakeholders can provide critical input. Amendments are often added to clarify the bills to protect against unintended consequences.

A bill that I and my colleagues passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was sent to the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee  this week. There, the contents of the bill were manipulated almost beyond recognition. But instead of coming back to its original committee, the bill was sent straight to the House floor.

Because of that, a bill that was worked on carefully will not get the chance to be considered by a Senate policy committee, but will head straight to the Senate floor instead. Bypassing committees is not good policy.

The legislature has any number of committees specifically dedicated to policy matters. Ways and Means is not one of them. That committee is intended strictly for budgetary issues. But policy issues are being decided there, which undoes all the work that was done in the original committee.

Manipulation of the process does a huge disservice to all of those who have participated in it, and undermines citizens' confidence in the public institutions that we all rely on. Oregonians deserve better than this. 



Mail Tribune Blog 6/20/2013