A tax on old cars? A tax on coffee? House GOP says no more anonymous legislation
SALEM — Republicans are calling for a change to House rules that would require lawmakers to put their name on any legislation they propose.
"The House took a positive first step in 2016 when we voted to ban anonymous committee amendments," said House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, referring to a rule change adopted last February. "It is now clear that we need to finish the job by putting an end to the introduction of anonymous bills."
The request came after outcry over two anonymously proposed bills from the House Committee on Revenue earlier this month. One bill proposed an excise tax on coffee, the consumption of which is regarded by some as a state pastime. Another placed a $1,000 surcharge on used vehicles. Both bills have been denied a hearing and aren't moving forward, said Lindsey O'Brien, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland.
Republicans introduced a formal amendment to the rules in the House Monday, Feb. 13, to prohibit anonymous bills for the rest of this 160-day legislative session.
After media coverage of the coffee bill, lobbyists for the beverage industry bombarded reporters with questions about who had sponsored the legislation.
Under existing rules, any committee may introduce legislation with only the name of the committee listed as a sponsor. The practice "makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the public to find out which member of the legislative assembly actually requested the bill," said Preston Mann, a spokesman for the House Republicans.
The proposed amendment was read by the House Reading clerk Tuesday and was referred to the House Rules Committee. House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, chairwoman of House Rules, has agreed to hold a hearing on the proposal. The hearing had not yet been scheduled as of Wednesday afternoon, said Scott Moore, a spokesman in the House Democrats Office.
"It's been longstanding practice for committees to introduce bills as a committee so they can be discussed or discarded based on their merits without partisanship," Williamson said in a Tuesday statement. "Members of both parties ask for committee bills, and the committee process is designed to give full airing to these ideas."
She noted that this week was the first time she had heard a complaint this session about those specific rules. "That said, I'm happy to have a bipartisan conversation about this process in the rules committee," she said. "I'm looking forward to having an open, public discussion about the legislative process and ways to improve it."