Ensure public scrutiny of legislative deal-making
Seattle Times editorial | The Legislature should not be able to ram bills through with out giving lawmakers and citizens a chance to review them. The Washington Policy Center is proposing a constitutional amendment to curtail the practice.
THE Seattle-based Washington Policy Center has a common-sense proposal to prohibit several practices used by legislators to ram through bills in a hurry. These practices were much in evidence in the recent session.
Because the proposal would bind lawmakers, it would have to be a state constitutional amendment. It would require that no bill be passed without a public hearing, no hearing be held on a bill until it has been introduced for 72 hours and no title-only bill be introduced.
A title-only bill is a ridiculous thing. It is a title and a blank page.
One in the last session was Senate Bill 6853, the Legislative Review of Tax Preferences Act of 2010. The bill, which ultimately was not passed, was introduced by Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, Feb. 9. It had a public hearing the same day, and was passed by the Ways and Means Committee as a name only. Only when the bill was in the Rules Committee was the text posted online.
An example of rushed hearings is Senate Bill 6143 offered by Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton. This was the most important bill of the session. It was 112 pages long and contained more than $800 million in tax increases. After dithering on the issue for weeks, the Legislature disclosed this bill, held a hearing on it and passed it in one day — a Saturday.
This is not the way to do the people's business. Analysts need time to read the bills so that interested parties, the press and the public can find out what is in them. This is a simple matter. It is not too much to ask, even if it takes a constitutional amendment to do it.