Many bill have introduced in the Oregon legislature for the 2011 Regular Session. At least forty of those bills concern PERS. Of those, there are three that would prohibit legislators from joining PERS, HB 2987, HB 2988 and HB 2989. Only one of those three bills, HB 2899, has had a public hearing and with time running out in the session, it is unlikely that it will be voted on by either house. The other two bill have seen no action and will die in committee.
The legislators, most of whom are PERS members, have shown little interest in ending their conflict of interest regarding PERS. Governor Kitzhaber has even recommended passage of a bill, HB 2113, that will make it easier than ever for new legislators to become PERS members. Under current law, if a legislator wants to join PERS, that legislator must send a letter to PERS stating that he or she is joining within 30 days of taking office. If that notice is not given on time, the legislator cannot join PERS. The Governor’s recommend bill would flip that procedure. It provides that a new legislator is automatically a PERS member, unless the legislator notifies PERS within 30 day of taking office that he or she is not joining PERS. That is a great plan for PERS. It make sit very easy for new legislators to join, intentionally or unintentionally, and once they are in PERS, they can’t get out while serving in the legislature. HB 2113 has had a little more action than HB 2987, HB 2088 and HB 2989. It has had a work session and it has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee but without a recommendation as to passage.
One measure that has seen plenty of attention and has passed a vote in both houses of the legislature is House Concurrent resolution 3. It had multiple work sessions and public hearings and was voted on once by the House and voted on six times in the same day by the Senate. To those legislators who voted for that resolution, HCR 3 was far more important to them than getting legislators out of PERS. And what did HCR 3 do? It established jory soil as Oregon’s Official State dirt. The fact that so much of the legislature’s time and resources were spent on such a trivial matter when bills that could actually make a difference in Oregon were ignored is nothing less than a low down dirty shame.