Legislature(2003 - 2004)
01/20/2004 03:35 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 167-INTRODUCTION OF BILLS SCR 8-AMENDING UNIFORM RULES 37 AND 44 CHAIR GARY STEVENS announced SB 167 and SCR 8 to be up for consideration. He stated that he did not intend to move the bills from committee that day, but he wanted to begin the discussion and take testimony. He asked Senator Guess to present the bill. SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS, sponsor, advised that she would talk about the bills simultaneously. She said it is interesting to learn how transparent or not transparent the system in the capitol is to the outside public. In combination, SB 167 and SCR 8 move toward a more transparent system for the Legislature. These bills do two things. They do away with committee bills and they add authority for the governor to introduce bills directly. Although legislators and others working in the capitol know what a committee bill means, the public doesn't necessarily have that same understanding. It's confusing to look at a bill and know who sponsors and believes in the bill. If a legislator sits on the Rules Committee, every governor's bill has their name on it whether they agree with the bill or not. She said that sixty legislators and one governor are elected officials and all should have the authority to introduce legislation. She said she decided to introduce this legislation after it came to her attention that it is unclear to the public who supports certain bills. The confusion wasn't intended, but she thought it is time to revisit the process and become more transparent to the public. She asked for questions. SENATOR GARY STEVENS asked about Rule 44 that says a legislator may not introduce bills after the 35th day of the session. Because many bills do come after that time, he wondered what the impact might be if committee bills were no longer allowed. SENATOR GUESS pointed out that on page 2, line 3 of SCR 8 Rule 44, which is specifically about committees and committee bills, is repealed. With this legislation, there wouldn't be committee bills, but any member of the Legislature could put in bills until the end of the session. CHAIR GARY STEVENS recapped and said that in removing Rule 44, any legislator could introduce legislation right up until the end. SENATOR GUESS agreed and said that it would be the prerogative of the chair to hear the bills or not. SENATOR JOHN COWDERY noted that by the end of this session there would be close to 1,000 bills that were introduced, but less than 80 would become law and that isn't necessarily bad. He referred to the sponsor statement that said that committee bills may have had a purpose at one time, but it is time to reevaluate the process. He asked what she believes the purpose to have been originally. SENATOR GUESS said she would look to him as the more experienced member, but she understands that it is from when a committee, in it's entirety, worked on an issue and presented it in front of the Legislature. She acknowledged that is a positive and important part of the process and although she hasn't experienced that, her bill wouldn't prohibit it either. The difference is that the chair would put the bill in rather than the committee as a whole. She opined that a committee could work on and support a bill without it being a committee bill. SENATOR COWDERY said that in her tenure she has probably seen many bills that were referred to a subcommittee because they had problems. It's not uncommon for the subcommittee to be composed of both minority and majority members and still they return an unacceptable product to the full committee and the bill doesn't go forward. He asked Senator Guess what she believes has changed in the process. SENATOR GUESS first stated that this bill would not affect committee substitutes. Committee substitutes that come from the subcommittee negotiation is a very good part of the process. She continued to say that government is becoming more transparent, particularly with respect to the Internet. People review bills more frequently and they have an increased desire to know and understand what legislators are doing. Gavel-to-Gavel is a very positive step and having all bills available on the Internet is another. There was less confusion years ago because the process was less transparent. SENATOR COWDERY related his experience in giving people copies of a bill saying they don't understand what bracketed language means or what the bolded language means. "If you read it as a whole, without the bracket, it's confusing, but that's our system and those that do understand probably are fewer than those that don't..." He asked when the process changed and why this is necessary. SENATOR GUESS thanked Senator Cowdery for his questions and said that as Rules Chair, perhaps the web site should be changed to help people learn to read a bill. It's complicated and the more the public understands, the better. She admitted that she didn't know when the change occurred. If a public member hadn't approached her, she might not have given it much thought. She was asked why she supported a certain Rules Committee bill and when she said she didn't, she began to understand how difficult this might be to understand. She said, "This isn't the sexiest issue out there," but the public should be able to understand who supports a bill. SENATOR COWDERY pointed out that she probably didn't know most of the people that elected her and he doesn't personally know many his constituents either, but they decided that she would vote the way they wanted her to vote most of the time and that is why she was elected. Understanding that, he doubts that there will ever be a point when most people understand the system. He then asked about issues that a constituent might bring to a committee chair dealing with the specific task of the committee. SENATOR GUESS said that all legislators have the responsibility of evaluating the ideas that constituents bring in and deciding whether or not they should be put in as a bill. 4:30 pm TAPE 04-1, SIDE B SENATOR GUESS referred to the point he made regarding the number of bills introduced as compared to the number that become law. She pointed out that people are able to look at the voting records for the bills that become law. SENATOR COWDERY interrupted to say that they look at how a legislator voted, they don't necessarily look at the committee bills where members have the option to vote do pass, do not pass, no recommendation, or amend. The true record is how you vote on it when it gets to the floor, if it gets to the floor. SENATOR GUESS agreed that that's the point. Names are attached to committee bills yet the commitment might not be there. SB 167 would allow citizens to know which legislators support which bills. This would clarify the public record. SENATOR COWDERY asked who should take the responsibility to ensure that the public's ideas are represented through the committee process. He continued to say that the committee process weeds out weak bills. He took issue with her charge that when a committee bill is introduced that all committee members are co-sponsors. He pointed out that there is a space on the bill for co-sponsors and there is a committee voting record on the bill. If the bill gets to the floor there is also a voting record. He referred to the sponsor statement that said this is a good first step and asked what her second step might be. SENATOR GUESS thanked him for clarifying that. She said she is always open to suggestions and there isn't a second step. SENATOR COWDERY then asked how the court system would introduce a bill if this were passed. SENATOR GUESS said they would go to the Judiciary Committee or to the governor. Under SB 167 they could introduce a bill through the governor or any of the 60 legislators. SENATOR COWDERY outlined the steps a bill goes through to become law. SENATOR GUESS said that under this bill, the governor could send a bill directly to the clerk. SENATOR COWDERY disagreed with that idea wholeheartedly. SENATOR GUESS asked why because she thought that, as the Rules Chair, he would support that change. SENATOR COWDERY said he supports maintaining the separation of powers. SENATOR GUESS replied that she believes the people elect the governor and he or she should be able to submit bills directly. SENATOR COWDERY said our constitution is a model and there is no need for change. SENATOR GUESS pointed out that this bill wouldn't change the constitution; it's an interpretation. CHAIR GARY STEVENS noted that members had a copy of a fax from Mike McBride in their packets. He then asked Mr. Arnold to testify. WILLIAM T. ARNOLD from Sterling testified via teleconference in support of both bills. He would like the sponsor to receive credit for their bill. He said this would help citizens know what's going on in their government and it's called full disclosure and transparency. CHAIR GARY STEVENS thanked Mr. Arnold and repeated that he would not move the bill that day. MR. ARNOLD then asked whether the committee would vote on the bill some other time. CHAIR GARY STEVENS assured Mr. Arnold that the committee would look at the bill carefully and decide whether any changes were needed. SENATOR COWDERY stated his intention to amend the bill. MR. ARNOLD repeated his position with regard to tying a name to a bill. SENATOR COWDERY said bills are tied to a name when they move from committee because the member's recommendations are a matter of public record. CHAIR GARY STEVENS thanked Mr. Arnold for his testimony and asked Senator Guess if she had additional comments. SENATOR GUESS said Senator Cowdery provided good debate on the subject. She restated her position that she always welcomes amendments to improve the bill as long as her intent is not changed. She voiced the opinion that although this subject isn't on par with fiscal plans or education, it is important. It's always worthwhile to look at ways to make the system work better for the people. SENATOR BERT STEDMAN asked for an explanation of the retroactive date. SENATOR GUESS explained that the date on SCR 8 is tied to SB 167 because statutes and rules wouldn't mesh if one were to pass without the other. In reviewing the bill she determined that it isn't necessary to have an effective date on SB 167. SENATOR STEDMAN admitted he hasn't experienced the end of a session but he understands that it is fast moving. With that in mind, he asked what affect this bill might have on the end of a session. SENATOR GUESS replied this bill isn't intended to change anything that happens once the budget goes into effect. This would remove the deadline for personal bills and would allow legislators the opportunity to put bills in at any time. She acknowledged that this might have the unintended consequence of cluttering first readings, but what Senator Cowdery, as Rules Committee chair, must balance is what needs to get to the floor. Because issues do arise after February, there must be a process to address those issues. However, the work entailed in introducing a bill acts as a natural inhibition. She thanked Senator Stedman for the clarifying question. CHAIR GARY STEVENS thanked Senator Guess and noted that this makes everyone stop and think about the process. SCR 8 and SB 167 were held in committee.