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Vehicular homicide bill introduction more strategy than substance

Posted by on June 28th, 2007 at 9:37 am

I was surprised last week when Senator Floyd Prozanski introduced a vehicular homicide bill (SB 1058) with just a week left in the session. Knowing how long it takes to push a bill through the system, it was obvious the bill had no chance of passing.

So what was the point? I wondered the same thing. Luckily, this site is read by some very smart people. One of them is regular commenter (and lawyer) Cecil. She had this to say about Prozanski’s strategy:

“My guess is that they are setting it up for the next session – kind of a “running it up the flagpole and see if it flies” sort of thing. By putting it out there now, while emotions on both sides are running high, they will be able to see what kind of reactions there will be and, in the next session, they will be able to tailor their approach, presentation and arguments to defeat any opposition. So it’s not really pointless to bring it up now – instead, it gives them a year and a half to make it bullet-proof.”

So it’s safe to say that we haven’t heard the end of this, we’ll just have to wait until the next session in 2009. Now, can someone tell me why our legislature only meets every other year?

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  • Meghan June 28, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Well, I guess I had better make certain nobody runs me over and kills me in the next two years. That is, if I want them to actually suffer real consequences for their actions.

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  • Doug June 28, 2007 at 9:58 am


    Our legislators aren\’t really paid well enough to be full-time legislators, are they? Most of them have other jobs, I imagine having them meet every other year rather than every year makes holding another job more feasible.

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  • a.O June 28, 2007 at 10:00 am

    \”Now, can someone tell me why our legislature only meets every other year?\”

    Perhaps this is obvious, but it\’s a relic of the days of yore when the gentleman farmer needed to spend most of his time tending to his crops and less time was needed for the Peoples\’ business given the small, mostly agrarian population. It\’s definitely time for this to change. I wonder the extent to which the faux \”anti-big government\” sentiment in rural Oregon prevents this from happening.

    Regardless, it\’s unfortunate that this very important piece of legislation has to wait any longer.

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  • Matt G June 28, 2007 at 10:01 am

    What ever happened to actually submitting legislation, approving it, and signing it. If there\’s that much intrigue in bill-approvals in the Legislature, then Legislatures need to find other careers. They *do not* serve at their pleasure; they serve at ours.

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  • BillD June 28, 2007 at 10:02 am

    \” Now, can someone tell me why our legislature only meets every other year?\”

    Not so long ago and far away, our legislature was made up of citizen-legislators who relied on their regular jobs for their livelihood. They were able to do the states\’ business in one session every two years. The pace of life here was such that it was not necessary to do everything _RIGHT NOW_.

    Things have changed… some would say that what once was is now gone, forever.

    There can be little doubt that it is time to have a full-time legislature made up of professional politicians whose view of what is good for Oregon extends no further than the next election cycle in order to keep up with the ongoing population increase.

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  • Cecil June 28, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Our legislature meets every other year because that\’s how it was originally designated in the Oregon Constitution. Article IV, section 10, provided for a biennial meeting. At that time (1857), it was not uncommon to have a part-time, biennial legislature, especially in rural states in which the legislators had farm duties and would have had to travel long distances for a legislative session. Have times changed enough that we should reconsider this? Probably.

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  • Cecil June 28, 2007 at 10:08 am

    Matt asked: \”What ever happened to actually submitting legislation, approving it, and signing it?\”

    In Oregon, the short answer is the initiative and referendum provisions of the Constitution. If every legislative act is potentially vulnerable to challenge by a citizen petition, referendum or initiative, why bother legislating at all? That, at least, seems to be the attitude of many Oregon legislators.

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  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland June 28, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Thanks everyone for answering my question. I should have mentioned that I\’m aware there has been an effort in Salem to start meeting every year and they\’re actually meeting for one month this winter as sort of a test-run to see how it goes. It\’s clear that it\’s a matter of if, not when.

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  • Cecil June 28, 2007 at 10:21 am

    FYI, Oregon is one of only 6 states not to have an annual session. The other 5 are Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada and Texas. Vermont and Kentucky recently switched to annual sessions from biennial.

    Only 9 states have legislative bodies that meet year-round.

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  • steve 2 June 28, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    This is just one example of an endless list of insults to the people who pay the wages of the state and national legislators.

    Their inability to do ANYTHING useful is why the polls show extremely high dissatisfaction with our US Congress and the President as well as with state legislators. The only things they seem willing to do are things for corportations and for extremely small groups or individuals (Terry Schiavo, for example).

    There are some extremely easy to fix problems that will be extremely serious if they aren\’t fixed: One example: Social Security – the fix is to raise the SSI payroll tax from the current approximate 6% deduction to approximately 8%. This is an extremely minor adjustment that would give every American some security in the future, yet our do-nothing politicians are not even looking at this problem.

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  • Coyote June 28, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    At some point don\’t we have enough laws? Would having legislative session every year make Oregon nirvanna?

    In a obvious analogy to traffic, more roads do not reduce congestion, and more laws do not increase justice. The proposed vehicular homicide law is redundant.

    If I accidentally kill you with a gun, sharp stick, etc. I will likely be charged with manslaughter. If I do it with a car, the crime should be the same. The reason it isn\’t is car-headed thinking by police, DAs, plus the rest of us.

    You cannot legislate attitudes. Cars are at least as dangerous as guns. Operating either in a reckless manner is a crime. If somebody gets killed as result, it should be obvious to me that it is the same crime.

    (An excellent article on car-headed thinking can be found in the latest issue of Momentum http://www.momentumplanet.ca/ )

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  • Phil Hanson (a.k.a. Pedalphile) June 28, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Although the legislature meeting every other year has some drawbacks, it has at least one saving grace. It minimizes the damage legislators can do.

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  • Steve Brown June 28, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    The Senator is one of the true champions of cyclists in the legislature. It is a bold move and will give us the time to have an organized effort to get a like bill passed in the next session. Reference the bill number in contacting legislators in advance of the next session and anyone new running for office. If they are a true supporter of cycling they should be able to have an intelligent response to the question, if asked.

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  • Antonio Gramsci August 16, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Back in the old days where this \”biennial legislature\” came from, they had real simple ways to handle these problems. No vehicular manslaughter law yet? No problem! For the next two years until it gets passed, you just lynch any careless drivers that the cops let off with killing people.

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