Writings and observations

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Shawn Keough said:

    On the contrary Randy, I would vote YES on the bill. Today’s actions this late in the session were designed to be grandstanding for political purposes. I also have what I consider to be an important bill that has rested in that committee since the beginning of the session that would look at our K-12 funding formula which has not been done since negotiated in the mid ’90s. It has received wide support from around the state and is thought to be a critical and necessary task to undertake. But I didn’t try today’s stunt. I think the questions to ask of today’s showmakers are: why today? why not try in late January? early or late February? No it was today to bolster oneselves for the contests that many of us now face with the passage of the filing deadline last Friday. I am certain there are many GOP YES votes on this issue but grandstanding is not the tool to use.

    March 25, 2008
  2. Alan said:

    Or, the bill’s supporters waited as long as they could to give the committee the maximum chance to hold a hearing, and only called it now because it was now or never.

    Since you would have voted yes for it, and you believe other Republicans would have voted yes, what action did you or other Republican take to get the bill heard?

    Stunt? If this is a stunt, isn’t it also a stunt to just keep the bill in the drawer and refuse to hold a hearing?

    March 26, 2008

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