Study first, then make new laws (if necessary)

I Just want to quickly point out that there’s an alternative method for legislators to “start a conversation” on complex and/or potentially controversial issues (other than proposing a new law that would prohibit a popular and safe activity).

The current legislative session has two such bills that I’m aware of…

The first, which we covered back in December, is from the House Transportation committee. Instead of proposing a bill about bike licensing/registration (which we know would be met with outcry), they’ve drafted a bill, HB 2331, that directs the Oregon Department of Transportation to do a study on the feasibility of the idea. If the idea is found to have merit, then legislation could follow.

Another bill that calls for a feasibility study is HB 2032. The bill, introduced by Portland House Rep. Jules Bailey, directs the DOT to conduct a study regarding the cost and feasibility of replacing Marquam Bridge (the I-5 freeway that crosses the Willamette River south of downtown Portland. And, as we shared back in 2006, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think).

Both of these bills are excellent first steps in learning more about an issue — and then determining whether or not to propose legislation. The problem with Rep. Mitch Greenlick’s approach (and others before him) is that he has gone about it backwards.

In a story about his bill that was just published by The Oregonian, local bike shop owner Todd Fahrner puts it this way, “He says he wants to start a discussion. It seems patently ridiculous to start a discussion by trying to criminalize something.”

Representative Ben Cannon, who got his share of push-back for proposing a beer tax last session, says he’s learned his lesson from that episode and is now, “… more careful about the precise form of the bills I introduce.”

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