I voted No on the bill presented to us on the House floor yesterday, and here is some of my thinking:
First, I should say that I struggled all week with this decision, even as I was away from Oregon at a conference on an entirely different subject. The Governor and others promoting the bill made some compelling arguments, in some ways the right arguments for me and for my district. I believe that full employment as well as access to business and professional opportunities, in short – economic activity, is the pressing, local, immediate need that we have to address.
I submitted two statements to the committee that heard the bill. The first asked for the bill to be as limited in scope and duration as possible, so that a more durable policy could be vetted in a regular session. The second expressed my support for specific amendments that had been drafted and submitted to the committee.
It is possible that, had all of those amendments been incorporated into the bill, I might have found a way to vote Aye. However, given the extraordinary process used, I felt I had to set a high bar. Although amendments improved the bill, too many questions remained unanswered and too many answers lacked evidence to back them up.
This is not the first time since I have been a member of the House that exceptions to legislative protocols and rules have been used to enact significant laws without what I believed was required in terms of policy scrutiny and evidence as to their wisdom. I believe that the normal process of introducing, examining and amending legislation is in place for a reason.
I am not saying that we should not act swiftly in the presence of a real emergency. We have seen the importance of nimble, effective government during natural disasters, for example. But governing under duress should be a rare exception.
I continue to believe that when considering legislation we should listen not just to ourselves, not just to representatives from other branches of government, not just to the public, not just to experts who know more than we do, not just to industry lobbyists, but to all of them. Even when we know exactly what we are deciding, we will have disagreements. Those disagreements and the way we work them out to reach a decision make us stronger. Bypassing those processes does not.