By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
May 11, 2005
Every day since mid-January, Rep. Patti Smith and Sen. Rick Metsger have walked up the front steps of Oregon’s capital to go to work.
But, once inside the rotunda, he turns to the left and his third floor Senate office. She takes the stairs to the right and enters her House office on the second floor.
And then they both get down to business.
After years in their respective elected offices, Hood River County’s legislators have memorized the daily routine so the drill seems comfortable and easy.
But they have also learned that the fight to get legislation through the system can sometimes be daunting. And sometimes the most persuasive political arguments take place, not in the Senate or House chambers, but in the hallways between committee hearings and floor votes. With the regular 2005-06 biennium session expected to wind up in early June, the talk in the corridors these days is increasingly on Measure 37 and the discussions are becoming more heated.
The new law, which went into effect on Dec. 2, seeks to restore the value of property lost because of government regulations. Metsger and Smith expect the Legislature to pick up the issue sometime this month and both are prepared for the highly charged debate that is likely to ensue. Smith acknowledges that Measure 37 is definitely the “hot button” issue of this political season and she and Metsger are both tracking it closely — knowing that their time to stand up and be counted is fast approaching.
Metsger said during the decision-making process on those types of controversial issues, the beauty of the American political system is revealed.
He said contested bills cannot make their way through the policymaking process without numerous opportunities for comment and rewrites. In order for a newly written bill to become law, it must first go before House Speaker Karen Minnis or Senate President Peter Courtney to be assigned to an appropriate committee. That legislative arm then takes public testimony and either decides to move the bill forward, recommend that it be revised for clarification, or kill it altogether.
If a text is generally agreed upon by the Senate or House in which it originated, it is then sent to the floor for a full vote of all members.
Again, the bill can die due to lack of support, or it can be approved and forwarded to a committee in the other chamber for review. Once the proposal makes it over that hurdle — not an easy task since the Senate is in the control of Democrats and the House has a Republican majority — then it goes to a full vote of that secondary body.
If concurrence is gained from both sides then Gov. Ted Kulongoski has to sign off before the new law becomes official.
While the debate heats up over Measure 37, Smith and Metsger are busy finalizing other state business. Recently, the bipartisan team let reporter RaeLynn Ricarte observe them at work in Salem on behalf of their constituents. That visit produced a profile on each of the elected officials that is featured in today’s Kaleidoscope, page B1.