Don’t manipulate the process

Rep. Sal Esquivel

Rep. Sal Esquivel

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.

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