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Oregon House Debates Whether To Ban Anonymous Bills

Members of the Oregon House are considering a proposal to ban the long-accepted practice of allowing members to introduce bills anonymously.

Most bills have either a lawmaker or state agency's name attached. But legislative rules allow some measures to be introduced with no name on them at all.

House Republican leader Mike McLane has proposed changing that in the interest of transparency.

"We probably need to set aside the accusation that we're trying to move bills without being transparent whose bills they are," McLane testified while making his case to the House Rules Committee on Thursday.

The move comes after a pair of anonymous bills that proposed taxes on coffee and older vehicles drew heavy criticism this year. Both of those bills died before gaining traction.

Some members of the rules committee argued not knowing who's behind a bill allows them to make an unbiased decision.

"Sometimes just knowing who introduced it will predispose you one way or another, towards it or against it," said Democrat Barbara Smith Warner.

Democrats hold the majority in the Oregon House, and would have to agree with the proposal for it to move forward.

If representatives do decide to no longer allow anonymous bills, it would end a practice that's been in place for generations.

"The language you're considering amending comes from 1967," House Chief Clerk Tim Sekerak told the committee. If the House Rules Committee approves the proposal, it would go to the House floor for a vote by the whole chamber.

The change would not affect the Oregon Senate.

While the change would technically be in effect only for the current legislative session, most House rules are carried over to subsequent legislative assemblies.

Some Republican lawmakers want to make the change permanent, and apply to both chambers.

They've introduced a proposed change to the Oregon Constitution that would require every legislative member to be introduced by at least one senator or representative. Such a change would have to be approved by Oregon voters.

<p>Representative Mike McLane (R-Prineville)</p>

John Rosman

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Representative Mike McLane (R-Prineville)

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.