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Salem 2013: Passing bills takes time -- for a reason

By Joe Burns
Published On: Feb 11 2013 07:48:04 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 11 2013 08:26:37 PM CST

It's a long, complex process to get bills passed in the Oregon legislature. Our Central Oregon delegations says it’s a good thing for making sure only good ideas become law.

SALEM, Ore. -

The Oregon legislature is expecting about 4,000 bills to be introduced in the 2013 session. We know many of them won't pass or even get a hearing. So why does it take so many months to do their work?

We hear plenty of worry among the public about many bills introduced in the Legislature.

Did you know only a third or less of the legislation introduced actually survives to become law?

Our lawmakers know the odds are long, but they say the process is a good one.

"We always got issues that resurface every session," said Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles. "They come back."

The issues of guns, PERS (Public Employee Retirement System and education seem to flow through lawmakers' agendas every session.

Sunriver Rep. Gene Whisnant knows about the long process it takes to get even seemingly simple things passed:

He introduced a "Keeping Kids Safe" license plate bill way back in 2007.The bill makes license plates available for purchase to help fund child abuse prevention programs.

"We had a majority of the members sign on to sponsor our bill, so that helped assure that it was going to pass," Whisnant said.

After bringing it back several sessions, the bill finally passed last session.

And when they fail to make it through, "It doesn't mean that it's always going to be dead," said Huffman. "Sometimes you can bring an issue back and you get the support to bring it through."

At times, Bend Rep. Jason Conger has also expressed his frustration at the slowness of the process. However, he says he's still absolutely a fan of the process as it stands.

"Nobody has so much control over the process or votes that they can push things through the process without public input, without debate and without a lot of different perspectives from the 90 legislators who get to vote on everything," Conger said.

The steps for a bill's passage are many, starting with sponsorships, readings, then votes by committees, House and Senate members -- then if it passes, a signature by the governor.

"While it takes awhile, it's designed to slow it down so that we can evaluate the good and the bad," said Powell Butte Rep. Mike McLane.

"Sometimes they are just bad bills, seriously," said Klamath Falls Sen. Doug Whitsett.

Whitsett says many bills also are sunk simply due to lack of funding.

"Even though Oregon borrows a lot of money for this and that, we make every effort not to borrow money for operations and maintenance,"  Whitsett said.

"It takes a long time because it was designed that way," said Conger. "And I'm glad, because you wouldn't want somebody's bill to go through without a lot of thought, because of the potential harm in that."

Reaching consensus can be another obstacle standing in the way of a bill's passage.

All of our Central Oregon lawmakers are Republicans, and they say they will have to work well with Democrats to get anything passed this session.

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