This week, the Oregon State Legislature will meet for the 200th calendar day this session. At a direct cost of $28,500 per day, these meetings have already cost Oregon taxpayers millions of dollars this year. Indirectly, the future cost to Oregonians will be even larger. Longer sessions give legislators more time to pass unnecessary laws and earmark unnecessary pet projects, while simultaneously making their activities less transparent.
Other states have figured this out, and have responded by legally restricting the number of days their legislatures can meet. For example, Texas – a state with six times as many citizens as Oregon—limits its biennial legislative sessions to 140 calendar days. In Washington State, the legislature meets for 60 calendar days on even-numbered years, and 105 calendar days on odd-numbered years. The Utah legislature meets for just 45 calendar days a year. Currently, Oregon is one of only twelve states that does not limit the length of its legislative sessions.
It’s puzzling why the Oregon legislature has not yet finished its business. So far this session, more than 1,700 bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate. Surely, some of these bills are important. However, do we really need another law to regulate the shape of our butter substitutes? As the legislature approaches its eighth month in operation, perhaps it should pass a law to send itself on vacation.
© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.