Unlike much of the public, Rogue Central respects and admires Oregon's legislators.

So we groaned in the 11th hour of the 2007 session when lawmakers, led by Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), passed a bill including a $34 million no-bid contract to spruce up the Capitol. The contract went to Fortis Construction of Portland.

Yes, the building's water may be brown; in fact, all 90 legislators got samples maild to their homes to show constituents. And yes, members' offices look like the Soviet Politburo's circa 1970.

But if lawmakers are going to spend money on themselves—and there's $4.3 million in the project for new furniture, according to legislative administrator Dave Henderson—they should have debated the expenditures sooner than the final week of the recently concluded session. And they ought to put the project out for competitive bids.

Henderson says legislative leadership driven by Courtney discussed seeking such bids but decided the timeline was too short—the work must be done before Jan. 1, 2009. And they doubted firms would make serious bids before money was appropriated.

Rep. Scott Bruun (R-West Linn) prepares and submits bids for Lorentz Bruun Construction as the Portland company's chief financial officer. He doesn't buy Henderson's explanation.

"There was plenty time to get bids," Bruun says, "and contractors are regularly asked to bid jobs for which funding is not in place." (Bruun was one of 15 House members who voted against the bill funding the project.)

Courtney, the Legislature's longest-serving member and biggest booster, pushed for the creation of the Public Commission on the Legislature, which last year proposed ways to improve the Legislature's image, including fixing up the Capitol.

That commission never recommended exempting the Legislature from competitive-bidding requirements that apply to all other government projects.

Courtney's spokesman declined to comment.