Pay no attention

The Oregon legislature is back in session this week. At least, if the Republicans don't pout at home. Meeting every other year just wasn't enough of that Salem goodness. So now it's every year. And nobody's money or life is safe when the elected representatives show up down there to do their deeds.

This is when the bad stuff happens, and nobody notices. Oh, the media gives it the old college try – here's a decent preview of this year's goings-on from OPB – but they always wind up providing at best a superficial report of what laws get passed, and hardly ever do they explain the why and the how. Sometimes it isn't until a year or two later that the public realizes what happened, and by then it's far too late to stop it.

Take, for example, the bizarre state law that forbids cities from prohibiting public injection of heroin, or smoking of fentanyl. Can you imagine if there had been public hearings on that, or a media spotlight on that, before it passed? But of course, there weren't. The bobbleheads in the legislature just slapped it into law with nary a peep out of anybody. The results of the lack of accountability can now be seen in the tragedy on the streets of Portland every single day.

There needs to be a better way for the public to keep tabs on the lawmaking factory in Salem – a real-time way to check on the bills that are floating around, organized in such a way that the average Joe and Jane can keep an eye on particular subjects that they deem important. Ideally, the legislature itself would have such a website, and cameras and microphones rolling at all times when official business is being conducted, like an Oregon C-Span. But the politicians don't want that, I'm sure, and so it's left to the private media companies to do it. And to them, it's just not worth it.

Who are your state legislators? How are they voting on the issues you care about? How do you get hold of them to express your views before they pull the lever? Hardly anybody I know can answer all of these questions, and that includes me.

So don't be surprised when something the legislature does this week surfaces a year or two from now and you wonder, "How the heck did that happen?" It's the Oregon way. You voted for it.


  1. I agree the press could do a better job of covering the legislative process. That said, all bills that are introduced go through a public hearing, sometimes more than one. The legislative website has audio recordings of their proceedings as well as live streaming of their committee work, and agendas are generally posted at least 1 day in advance. Maybe it's not enough for your tastes but it's definitely more than you suggest in your post.

    1. If you have to go to Salem for anything, it's hidden from view, as a practical matter. But I would love to have access to the live streams. Where are they?

    2. Is this what you're looking for, Jack? It seems pretty thorough at first glance. The media could do a better job of covering it, I'm sure, but anyone could track bills.

    3. Ugh. Word-searching bills? You'll be there all day.

    4. Now only if some of the hungry journalists out there would use that resource to dig in and figure out what games are being played before they get played. Nah, doesn't generate enough clicks in comparison to pop culture nonsense and the crime blotter.

      If it bleeds, it leads!

    5. Nonprofit/activist groups commonly track bills by topic. Follow the groups and you can follow the bills. Also, you can probably set up some sophisticated search/notification systems if you have the knowhow. Of course, it would be nice if media outlets would make keeping an eye on the legislature easier.

  2. They want to raise pensions…
    Watch your wallets!

  3. I don’t have the skills or the patience to review the minutia in Salem’s legislature. I’ve got to trust someone to report on it. In the past that trust was in the media. Lately, it seems that the media has politically taken sides.


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