The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
It was an honor to serve as State Representative for Oregon’s 2017 Legislative Session. This session was intense — the inner workings of state government are challenging when serving in the minority party. I am proud to represent people in House District 56 located from Keno to Lakeview.
Fortunately, I went to Salem with two important tools: principles and courage. I cast 249 No votes on the House Floor (second most) and never missed a floor vote. I was one of only two legislators out of 90 in the House and Senate, who made this accomplishment. It is an important job, that requires an incredible amount of time, energy and mindshare — a job which I take very seriously.
Below is a brief summary of the session.
The following are my Chief-Sponsored bills that passed during 2017 Session.
HB 3077 protects privacy rights for crime victims. This law adds email address and social media accounts to the list of items kept private when police collect victim information.
HB 3206 was a team effort with House Minority Leader Rep. Mike McLane and Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris. We secured a tax credit for workforce training programs coordinated through Klamath Community College.
HB 3435 allows Klamath County Commissioners to loan road funds to other special districts. Klamath County earns higher interest on Road Fund dollars, allowing special districts to borrow money at a rate lower than previously available.
HB 2729 creates the Open Education Resources program, which requires public universities and community colleges to increase number of OERs (freely accessible textbooks, videos and images) to be used for coursework, saving students several hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars, making higher education more affordable.
HB 2345 directs the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to ensure all base course credits taken at a community college will be 100 percent accepted by Oregon’s seven 4-year universities.
In addition to these specific bills, I also secured nearly $50 million in capital construction funding:
- $40 Million for Oregon Tech’s renovation of Cornett Hall. This new facility establishes Oregon Tech as a national leader of mechanical, civil and electrical engineering programs;
- $7.85 million for Klamath Community College. This builds a Work Skills Technology Center and Founders Hall for student registration, advising, veterans services and Learning Resource Center;
- $1 million for Klamath’s Youth Integration Program (YIP). Klamath YIP helps young women in juvenile detention learn decision-making skills to live a better life when released from detention, ending the cycle of incarceration.
HB 3078 lowers minimum sentencing on Property Crimes and Identification Theft from 18 to 13 months. It is yet to be seen if shorter mandatory minimum sentences will yield the cost-savings advocates envision. I voted no because minimum sentences were voted into law through Measure 57. I believe if the legislature wants to change these minimums, a new ballot measure must be voter-approved by the people.
HB 2355 reduces the penalty for some possession of hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroine from felonies to misdemeanors. Moreover, the new requirements of the law make it more difficult to enforce by the Sheriff's department. I voted no because lowering penalties does not decrease illicit drug usage, but only encourages it. The lower penalties become a “cost of doing business” rather than a deterrent and safeguard for society.
HB 2705, HB 2706, HB 2707 were all water bills that would have cost Klamath and Lake county farmers thousands, if not tens-of-thousands of dollars a year to comply in order to help the Oregon Water Resources Department study ground water. I voted no, because I did not believe farmers should bear the full burden of research which would benefit all Oregonians.
HB 2017 Transportation Package. A large portion of the $5.3 billion focuses on fixing bottleneck problems in Portland. While a traffic-jam-free Portland benefits all Oregonians (many Klamath/Lake products go to and through Portland), I voted no because of funding that raises fees and creates new taxes with little return for House District 56:
- Increases gas 10¢/gallon over 8 years
- Increases Registration & Title fees
- Adds new 0.5 percent sales tax on new passenger car/truck purchase
- Adds new 0.1 percent payroll tax
- Adds new bicycle sales tax
The only local upside is, with four fuels tax increases stair-stepped over seven years, cities and counties get additional money each year to maintain county and city roads.
HB 2391 raises taxes on large hospitals and adds a new 1.5 percent tax on all private business insurance plans. This new revenue helps pay the larger burden states now carry for Medicaid under Obamacare. I voted no for two reasons: due to the new tax on small business insurance, as well as cost of coverage for those in Oregon without legal status.
HB 3391 was the worst bill passed this session. It ensures any abortion can and will be funded by Oregon taxpayers. Even if an insurance plan does not cover abortion procedures, the state will step in and cover the cost.
SB 719 allows for the confiscation of guns without proper due process. If someone reports a gun owner to be unstable and can convince a judge, the guns will be confiscated. The gun owner must provide evidence to the contrary to get their guns back. In other words, a person can be declared guilty and then needs to prove their innocence. While the bill is well-intentioned, to remove guns from the hands of mentally unstable people, it tramples over every citizens second amend rights.
Those who have been in the legislature for several terms mentioned it was the most partisan session they can remember. That said I am up for the challenge and will continue to work towards what is best for all of Oregon: our families, our faith and our future.
We The People • Your LIBERTY First!