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Posts published in “Day: March 25, 2008”

Developing DECD

There are candidates around Oregon this year, maybe most notably but not exclusively state Senator Vicki Walker of Eugene, who have showed some interest in doing a significant renovation of the state Department of Economic and Community Development. The department is oddly shaped, including both such things as tourism and boosterism and also management of infrastructure grants for local governments, such as water and sewer money. The combination, goes the argument, has led to problems.

Had sounded as if action on that might get underway next year. But apparently, things are moving more quickly. An Associated Press piece today says that efforts to break up the agency are rolling, and a review of its operations may be going ahead too. Nancy Hamilton, a staffer in the governor's office, was quoted, "These have been two cultures that should not live under one roof, a Legislature that tries to see them as one piece, and everything goes downhill from there." So it would seem.

So the legislature and officials in place in 2009 could be presented with a fait accompli, rather than a task to undertake.

The vote not to vote on it

If state Senator Kate Kelly is reporting accurately, she has been receiving a number of inquiries from Idahoans about Senate Bill 1302, inquiring, "Why isn't it being voted on this year?"

The answers solicited from the people who control the flow of legislation in the Idaho Senate - Republican leadership and committee chairs - give the sense that, well, it was just caught up in procedure. State Affairs Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, for one example, said on the Senate floor that “The bill has been called for on the 79th day. I don’t think it is appropriate to pull a bill out from committee at this late date. … We have a committee process. … The committee process is important to getting our business done.” Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, “We simply do not have enough time to hear every bill and to vote on every single bill.”

No, but there's not the level of interest and timely pertinence attached to every bill that there is in this case. SB 1302 is the "revolving door" bill, the one "to prohibit lobbying and
registration as lobbyists by former executive officials or legislators for a period of one year from termination of office." A concept in force (in similar fashion at least) in many other states. And a revolving door Idahoans have been seeing swing a lot faster in recent years.

There's nothing especially unusual procedurally about what has happened to it. Introduced on January 18 in the Senate State Affairs Committee, it never was scheduled by the chair (McKenzie) for hearing or an up or down vote. Senators from the floor have the option to "call" the bill from the committee, and a majority vote of the Senate can do that. Senate Democrats' attempt to do that, unsurprisingly, failed.

A number of the senators who voted in opposition argued for the sanctity of the committee system. But that's really not good enough. What the vote really was, was a vote on whether the Senate should go on record formally supporting or opposing the bill; and a majority of the Senate decided not to go on record. In effect, the vote was an up or down on the substance of the bill.

The vote may have been procedural, but the effect was just that substantive. As a practical matter, the majority of the Senate doesn't want legislation to stop or slow the revolving door; they know took many people who have taken that trip, or may before long. There's no surprise in any of this, but what's being described as just part of the process is certainly more than that, and ought to be treated as such.