Legislative process takes the low road in keeping secrets about bill sponsors
Klamath Falls Herald and News
April 20, 2011
There's a lot of talk about transparency in Salem these days. People in state government are claiming to do their best to make it easier for voters to find out what their legislators, other officials and employees are up to.
There are efforts to open up records and to make it easier for the public to find out how the money is spent. Some of the efforts actually seem be doing something.
It sounds pretty good, until something like House Bill 2442 comes along. Read more ...
When legislators introduce a measure, they ought to have their names on it. Sponsors ought to be identified. If a bill is so bad that the sponsor or sponsors don't want to be identified, it shouldn't even make it into print, much less actually have a hearing.
Nobody wanted to claim parenthood to HB 2442.
The bill's only merit is that it was short. It took only a half-page of print (and it was even double-spaced) to say "The word ‘independent' may not be included or used as any part of the name of a major or minor political party."
It was seen as direct attack on the Independent Party of Oregon, but no one was willing to stand up for it.
Were the Republicans behind it? Were the Democrats behind it? Who knows? The bill didn't say, as bills routinely do.
The bill didn't go anywhere. It had a hearing and nobody spoke for it. Its "supporters" did the same thing cockroaches do when the lights go on - scurry for cover.
Our best guess is that it was a move by politicians - not necessarily all of them - to get rid of the competition by making it hard to challenge Democrats and Republicans.
Maybe it's true that having a political party with the name "independent" might lead to a modest amount of confusion, but that could be cleared up with maybe six or eight seconds of thought.
People can still sign up as "independent" voters without joining the Independent Party of Oregon. The measure claimed the reason for the bill was that the use of the term "independent" causes "widespread voter confusion." Doubtful at best, but if it is an issue, it could be handled by having the voters sign up as "unaffiliated" or something similar. Political parties should be allowed broad discretion over what to call themselves.
[Note from IPO: For as long as we know (at least several decades), Oregon voters who do not join a party have been known in law as "non-affiliated." They have not been known as "independent."]
Why fuss over a bill that's going nowhere?
Because there is something badly flawed in the legislative process that allows a legislator to launch a sneak attack. A column by Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian newspaper traced the bill's route back through Dave Hunt, Democratic co-chair of the House Rules Committee, and it was done at the behest of an unidentified legislator.
Legislators should legislate in public.
Any measure that doesn't bear the name of the legislator who wants it passed, doesn't deserve a hearing, or even to be printed at public expense. Surely the Legislature can do that much for "open" government.