Legislature(2003 - 2004)

01/20/2004 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                                     

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