Legislature should focus on budget

May 06, 2009 07:00 am

If all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, there isn’t a dull boy – or girl – in the bunch populating the Oregon Legislature this term. They have packed their agenda with silliness.

Take the bill that would create an Oregon state crustacean. Introduced on behalf of a group of school kids, the measure would make the Dungeness crab our official shellfish. It would join the beaver (state animal), the sunstone (state gemstone), the Oregon swallowtail (state butterfly), the Metasequoia (state fossil) and the Pacific golden chanterelle (state mushroom), for special recognition in the Oregon Blue Book. Beyond that, the designation is little more than an honorific for a creature that never sought one.

Then there are a pair of bills that would do nothing but make the Legislature’s congratulations to a handful of Oregon officials. University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer and the Heart of Valley Children’s Choir would get official pats on the back. No doubt both the president and the kids have done remarkable things, but wouldn’t a simple letter – forget the folderol and public hearings – be enough?

Lawmakers also are considering a 10 percent tax on bird seed – can’t have Tweety not paying his fair share – a bill that would allow polite animals in the Capitol building, and one that would require schools to come up with “green” cleaning policies or explain why not.

Senate President Peter Courtney defends the quirky bills as simply lawmakers doing their jobs, which includes representing their constituents. And constituents sometimes request quirky things.

Surely with the dramatic financial problems this year, though, constituents will understand that the budget needs to be lean and the Legislature’s time spent on the quirky and the symbolic also needs to be lean.

— Wescom News Service