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Olsen again tries for amendment transparency bill

Senator discusses legislation he has introduced


State Sen. Alan Olsen is again pushing for a bill to require the name of the legislator or committee requesting a set of proposed amendments to be identified on the proposed amendments.

Olsen, who joined the State Senate in 2011, is a Republican representing District 20, which includes the communities of Estacada, Barlow, Canby, Oregon City, Gladstone, Johnson City, Boring and Damascus.

Olsen has attempted to pass legislation in previous sessions that he says would lead to greater transparency in government.

“You write the amendment, you put your name on it so Oregonians can look to see you were the one that wrote that, that changed that bill,” Olsen said.

Senate Bill 435, Olsen explained, is in part intended to combat anonymous “gut and stuff” amendments that remove the original content of the bill and replace it with such wildly different provisions that the bill’s chief sponsor could wind up with their name on a bill they don’t support.

“The bill can totally change 180 degrees, but yet your name remains on it because someone wrote an anonymous amendment and did a gut and stuff on your bill and they didn’t tell you,” Olsen said.

Olsen said that sometimes so many amendments are added to bills it is difficult to find what changed without ponderously re-examining the bill word for word.

“We had an amendment one time on a simple bill in the Senate Veterans Committee. I had to read through seven pages of the amendment to find what the change was,” Olsen said. “The change was one word. It changed from ‘may’ to ‘shall.’ But it was the (seventh amendment). No one put their name on it so I could go, ‘Hey, Bob, what did you do?’... No. I had to take the time to read the entire thing to find out it was ‘may’ to ‘shall.’”

In 2013, along with Olsen, Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, and Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, were listed as chief sponsors of the bill and 62 other lawmakers signed on as sponsors.

During the 2013 Oregon legislative session, the bill was voted down in the Senate along party lines with 16 Democrats voting against the bill and 14 Republicans voting in favor.

Olsen’s efforts to require the name of the authoring lawmaker to accompany proposed amendments drew a sympathetic editorial from The Oregonian in July 2013.

The bill failed to go to a vote last year.

The 2015 attempt, Senate Bill 435, lists Olsen as the chief and sole sponsor.

Senate Bill 435 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules.

Olsen is not optimistic about its odds for 2015, saying he hasn’t got any support from across the aisle on the bill.

“The committee chair has great leeway on what they want to hear, and if they don’t want to hear it they don’t move it,” Olsen said.

“A lot of times you know it’s dead (by) where it goes. If it goes to rules, it probably is dead already,” Olsen said of his bills.

Other bills

Olsen also emphasized the following when asked which of the bills he has introduced during the 2015 Oregon Legislative session would have the greatest impact on Estacada and Eagle Creek:

SB 432

Olsen said Senate Bill 432 is intended to “prevent sweeps of our 9-1-1 emergency account fund.”

“Every month we pay 75 cents on our phone bill into the emergency account fund to help maintain and buy new equipment for the 9-1-1 emergency system,” Olsen said. “If that money is swept away, it could be used for other purposes.”

According to a summary on the Oregon State Legislature website, the bill “requires moneys in Emergency Communications Account, including Enhanced 9-1-1 Subaccount, to be used for purposes of 9-1-1 emergency communications unless statutory exception is made during state of fiscal emergency.”

Olsen is listed as the chief and sole sponsor of the bill.

Senate Bill 432 was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness.

A hearing was scheduled for Feb. 17.

SB 434

According to a summary on the Oregon State Legislature website, Senate Bill 434 “grants higher property tax exemption on property of veterans with service-connected disabilities of 100 percent.”

“Typically, if you’re 100 percent disabled, it’s very difficult for you to hold a job or have a job and so you rely on the federal government for your subsistence,” Olsen said. “And the subsistence rate goes up about 1-to-2 or to 3 percent a year, your property tax rate goes up 6 percent a year, so you fall behind, and it’s difficult to stay in your house. I want to try to fix that.”

Olsen is listed as the chief and sole sponsor of the bill.

Senate Bill 434 was referred to the Senate Committee On Veterans and Emergency Preparedness and has a subsequent referral to the Senate Committee On Finance and Revenue.

A hearing was scheduled for Feb. 17.

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