March 20, 2001 11:00 pm

Legislators waste time,

money on goofy bills

They come from small country towns and large urban population centers.

Every two years, they arrive in Salem, with their hopes high. Many are wily veterans of previous campaigns, while others are neophytes to the political quagmire. The optimists think they are going to make things better for their fellow citizens, while others are trying to please groups that helped them build financial war chests in order to beat back opponents.

They are the men and women of Oregons citizen Legislature.

As soon as they arrive, the army of lawyers begins the process of writing bill after bill each one costing $1,000 or more before it lands on the desk of the speaker of the House and/or the Senate president. From there the bill is shuffled off to some committee that will decide if it should see the light of day.

Out of the bowels of the rotunda this year have come bills that would create a special day for Elvis. Another would provide $150 million in funds toward building a new major league baseball park in Portland. Another would lower the requirement a business must meet in order to purchase fuel at a card-lock, self-service station. Another would require school buses and activity vehicles to be equipped with safety belts. The list goes on. In fact, between 5,000 and 10,000 bills are introduced each session. Some take up a page or two; others require dozens of pages.

A number of bills surface that make little sense but take up the time and energies of bill writers, legislative staff and dozens of committees. Add to this thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars. And why? So that campaign promises can be satisfied.

How immature is it to waste time and money on a bill that would create a day to honor Elvis? And why should taxpayers spend millions to build a stadium in Portland for some hoped-for major league baseball team? The states treasury already has poured hundreds of millions into improving the Portland areas light rail system.

Even though $150 million doesnt go too far today, why not spend that money on a bypass of the Newberg/Dundee area toward the coast or use it for matching economic development grants for rural communities to create new jobs.

Too often our legislators go to Salem and waste time and money on ideas that do little to improve the lives of every Oregonian. Our state money should go to improve the gigantic financial disparity between Eastern Oregon and Western Oregon. We must reduce the amount of unimportant bills that are introduced.

Going to Salem is a noble venture. Like those who made a path to our states Capitol in the past, our legislators and governor need to improve their focus and make Oregon the best it can be for all of its citizens whether they are residents of the east or west side of the mountains.