Lubricated Legislators: Drinking on the Job Appears to Be a Problem
Register-Guard, The (OR)
Fri, 26 May 2006
The allegation first surfaced in a guest viewpoint by Anne and Bruce Pratt, published in The Register-Guard last September. The Spring- field couple, who lost their son to a drunken driver in 1998, lobbied the Legislature for tougher drunken driving laws. During the closing days of the 2005 session, they witnessed "LUII" - legislating under the influence of intoxicants.
"Alcohol is apparently still an acceptable political lubricant in Salem. We and several others saw this while contacting legislators during the final day and evening sessions of the Legislature," the Pratts wrote.
"While we are neither prohibitionists nor members of the Temperance League, we do believe the time to celebrate is when the work is done, not while deciding serious matters for the state of Oregon."
The Pratts are not alone in that belief. They told their story to the Public Commission on the Legislature, which voted unanimously Monday to recommend House and Senate rules against legislating while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The commission, appointed by the House and Senate leaders, is working on recommendations to improve the Legislature's credibility and efficiency. Ensuring that lawmakers stay sober while on the job would serve both goals.
What's amazing about the Pratts' story is that any legislator would talk to anti-drunken driving activists while showing the effects of alcohol. That's dumber than wearing a fur coat to an animal rights rally. How would someone so stupid get elected?
But apparently some do. The Pratts would not identify drunken legislators, but said they encountered several. Sen. Avel Gordly, D-Portland, a member of the commission, agreed that "we have had members vote while drunk." Lobbyist Dave Barrows, who has worked in the Capitol since the 1950s, said drinking while conducting public business is less common than it used to be, but it still happens - particularly in the closing days of a session.
The commission left it up to the Legislature to decide what an anti-drinking rule should say. Apparently the rule of common sense, which ought to suffice, isn't enough. Attaching Breathalyzers to the voting equipment would be going to far.
How about this: Legislators under the influence of alcohol or other drugs shall not vote or conduct other public business, and the reason for their absence from legislative proceedings will be noted publicly.