The Legislature is a cyclical activity. We go through a phase where everyone creates proposed new laws and files them. This is call “dropping” bills, because you drop the signed pieces of paper into a basket called the “hopper.” The bills are heard in committee, and the ones that are not patently ridiculous are passed out of committee.
They are then referred to the rules committee, which approves bills that are uncontroversial (and therefore tend not to do anything) or that are IMPORTANT, and usually controversial.
We are now passing the bills in the first category. These are important to someone, but in aggregate this seems like a silly way to do work. As an example, we are now working our way through the following bills:
- Minimum passing distances from bicycles. (I’ve been buzzed more often than I would like, so it’s important to some people.) The bills defines what “reasonable” means in the current code as 3 feet. There were 7 amendments, and the bill was argued for an hour. The amendments were what I would call “dilatory,” or designed to waste time. It worked.
- Impounding the cars (or bicycles) of people involved in prostitution. I was a little concerned about the civil liberties implications of this, but it’s pretty carefully worked out. If a person isn’t charged they get all their money (and their car) back. This took a bunch of time too.
- Creating a lottery fishing program at Spirit Lake. It seems that some people snuck a load of trout into Spirit Lake at Mt. St. Helens and have been sneaking in to fish for them. We passed a bill that creates a lottery program to give fishing license for the lake, and added a requirement that they sterilize their fishing equipment. This seems hard to enforce to me, but all the fishing people seem enthused about it.
I don’t want you to think that we spend all of our time working on small bills. It’s just that at 9:00 at night, on a Friday, it seems like we spend forever working on these bills. While this is going on though, I have been working with other members to work out details on larger issues, like our school funding bills and the proposal I have to work on city/county finance issues, digital goods taxation, and the other bills I’m responsible for in the tax arena. Of course, I recognize that other people may put the bills I care about in the “small bill” category.
Most of the substantive bills will be worked out next week.