Oregon’s Senate Republicans Force Vote on SJR 32

Legislative Oversight on Regulatory Burden. Senate Republicans forced a vote on Senate Joint Resolution 32 last Thursday morning. The bill would have given the legislature veto authority over job-killing agency rules; however the bill failed on a party-line vote. “Businesses routinely report that Oregon’s regulatory burden threatens them with death by a thousand cuts,” said Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend). “This bill would provide a valuable check on run-away agency rulemaking, and give the legislature the ability to veto rules that are currently suffocating Oregon businesses.”

State agencies currently write administrative rules to raise fees and clarify details relating to newly adopted legislation. Often these fees and rules extend beyond the original intent of the legislature and present a significant and excessive burden to Oregon employers. Senate Joint Resolution 32 would have required the Senate to approve new agency rules before they could become effective, much like the Senate approves executive appointments to state boards and agencies made by the Governor.

“For businesses to be successful, they need to focus on providing a quality product for a fair price,” said Senator Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River). “The constantly changing swamp of administrative rules forces businesses to focus instead on bureaucratic reports and new requirements. I voted yes on SJR 32 because it would give business the chance to focus on growing, succeeding and creating jobs, rather than constant government paperwork.”

There are 180 state agencies, boards and commissions in Oregon, all with rule-making authority. More than 11,000 pages of rules and regulations were printed in the Administrative Rules Compilation this year. In the last two years alone, agencies took action 9,588 times to add, amend, and delete administrative rules. That amounts to 11,000 pages of bureaucratic requirements for a business to heed and 9,588 different regulatory changes to track and check for compliance. This morass of regulation requires far too much of the time, attention and resources of Oregon’s businesses, especially the small businesses that are the backbone of the state’s economy.

Last Week of Legislation Session? The halls of the Capitol are still full of legislators, visitors, and lobbyists, but you’re already seeing a few Hawaiian shirts and flip flops around, and it is anticipated that the legislative session will “sine die” or end sometime this week.  According to longtime lobbyist and Capitol building insider, here are some of the signs that signal the end of a legislative session:

  • One Hour Notice Rule: Legislative hearings typically are scheduled with at least 48-hours notice. As the session nears adjournment, required notice drops to an hour. In the past, lobbyists constantly checked bulletin boards for hearing notices. Now they receive e-mail notices, which provide a more reliable means of tracking hearings scheduled with little notice.
  • Committees Shut Down: Another sure sign that the end is near is the closure of committees. Other than work on informational hearings on interim work plans, all policy committees have stopped meeting. The only committees still active are Revenue, Rules and Ways & Means. Fewer committees mean fewer bills heading to the floor, making the final push to adjournment easier.
  • Sine Die Resolution is Prepared: Senate Concurrent Resolution 18 appeared in the bill stack last week. It reads, “Adjourns sine die 2011 regular session of seventy-sixth legislative assembly.”
  • Tempers Get Short: If a legislator or a lobbyist wants to pass pet bills, time is growing short. Tempers often follow. There are still ways to engage in the practice of gutting one bill and stuffing it with your pet bill language. A gut and stuff usually requires agreement by legislative leaders, but they are hesitant to engage in that kind of maneuvering toward the end of the session.
  • Agency Bills Make Progress: Big agency budgets came cascading out of Ways & Means last week, including Human Services, Health, Transportation, Business Development and Juvenile Corrections. The only major budget left undecided is the Corrections budget.
  • The Food Van Cometh: Long-time lobbyist, Mark Nelson, often makes arrangements to park a van near the capitol and has staff organize barbecues every noon for anyone who wants to partake. The van appeared on the same day as the aforementioned sine die bill.

As the weather gets nicer and local communities hosts events, legislators are eager to get back to their districts. However, with Oregon’s new legislative cycle, we’ll see legislators back in Salem this Fall, and back in session this coming February for Oregon’s first regular even-year session.

Posted in Compliance.