Next month, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Karen Minnis are forming a public commission to suggest legislative changes. Discuss.
In Sunday's Oregonian, the question of lawmaker pay is raised on the front page.
Oregon legislators are paid $1,283 a month -- about the same as working 40-hour weeks at minimum wage. During legislative sessions every other year, they also get $91 a day to defray costs. ... "Oregon prides itself on having a citizen Legislature . . . ," said Sen. Alan Bates, a Democratic legislator from Ashland and a family doctor, "but the average Joe can't afford to run for the Legislature."
Over on the commentary page, former Democratic leader Deborah Kafoury reflects on her time in the capitol and offers four suggestions:
Open up the caucuses
State law prohibits such secrecy for most government bodies, especially when a majority of the members are present. Those rules apply to the Legislature, too, but lawmakers passed a special exemption for themselves allowing closed-door caucuses. Why do three of four Republican and Democratic caucuses consider themselves above the rules that apply to everyone else?
Give committees more power
Nine times out of 10, committee hearings are just for show. Usually bills get only minor tinkering. Each chamber's presiding officer makes the real decisions, well out of earshot of reporters and the public.
Priority: campaign-finance reform
First, the Legislature should refer to voters a constitutional amendment prohibiting fund raising during the session. Second, send voters a constitutional amendment limiting contributions to political campaigns, as well as campaign expenditures.
Be brave: make tough decisions
I promise your chances of being remembered after you leave Salem are far greater if you take a stand for what's right, rather than what your party wants you to do. That will take courage; some big campaign donors might disagree with you. But in the long run, the people will thank you for your integrity, and you'll sleep like a baby at night.