When Rep. Rich Vial (R-Scholls) finished his presentation at the March 8 meeting of the Southwest Corridor Republican Club, everyone in the room felt exhausted after listening to how he spent his day.
Vial started by saying that "I have some pretty big shoes to fill, including those of former Reps. Charles Starr and John Davis." And he added, "I feel unintelligent, unprepared, unqualified and other 'un' words," but his schedule speaks otherwise.
He told the group he would lay out for them "a day in the life of a freshman legislator" and describe how he had spent that day.
Vial's day started at 5 a.m. in Scholls when he got up and hit the road for Salem, arriving in time for a 7 a.m. meeting of the agricultural and sportsman caucus that is made up of both Republicans and Democrats.
That meeting lasted an hour, and next on his agenda was a meeting of the House Committee on Transportation Policy, where his serves as vice chair. Among the topics discussed in the two-hour meeting were whether non-motorized boats should be licensed, whether self-serve gasoline stations should be allowed in rural parts of the state and whether big log barges passing through Coos Bay need a pilot on board.
Next up it was time for the Republicans and Democrats to meet in their caucuses for an hour, and with 25 Republicans and 35 Democrats, "we are mostly playing defense," Vial said. With a looming budget deficit of $1.8 billion, he said the legislators discussed ways to offset the gap.
"Now it's 11 a.m. and time to go to the House floor," Vial said. "The session starts with a prayer followed by readings of bills. We vote on the third reading. Today there were nine bills getting their third reading, and bills must have a carrier to sponsor them. Today I carried a bill."
At noon the session was over, "and today I actually had a fellowship session, which are held every Wednesday in the fourth-floor library, which is a sacred place," Vial said. "We had three Republicans and three Democrats."
A quick lunch was followed by a meeting of another committee on which Vial sits, the House Committee on Judiciary.
"It is the busiest committee you'll ever see," he said. "We discussed ignition locks and the CASA program which provides volunteer advocates for foster children."
Vial also sits on the House Committee on Education, when during that meeting teachers asked for smaller class sizes. "I said I would love to do it, but we can't without the funding," he said.
During that meeting, there was a fire drill, so everyone in the Capitol had to go outside, according to Vial.
Next he had three 10-minute meetings with lobbyists, and at 5:30 Vial was supposed to join a transportation work group but left to come to the King City meeting.
"Wednesday is the toughest day and includes 10- to 15-minute meetings with lobbyists and special-interest groups," he said. "We work 15-hour days."
Vial finds his work on the transportation committee interesting and asked the audience: "For the cost of rides on TriMet, the state pays 60 percent of the fare. What portion does the rider pay? It's 11 percent.
"It's also true that those of us driving on the roads don't pay our fair share," Vial said. "I might get kicked out of the Republican Party, but I bought an electric car."
According to Vial, the last time the gas tax was raised was 14 years ago.
One bill under consideration is to fund a "western bypass" to connect rural areas west of I-5 with the Portland area that would give cities and counties along the route the authority to sign contracts to build it, use imminent domain to acquire the needed property and raise funds via tolls. Vial said that would get 60 to 70 percent of the truck traffic off the freeway, adding, "It's better to have a toll road than no road."
Vial pointed out that he is the last Republican representative in the metro area and the one person keeping the Democrats from a 36-person majority, which would give them three-fifths of the House or enough votes to pass bills without referring them to voters.
"I'm the last guy standing between the Democrats having 36 representatives," he said.
Another problematic issue is the sheer number of bills that get introduced each session, with the tally now at 3,600 and counting. They don't all get heard in committee or go anywhere, but that many does tend to bog down the system, according to Vial.
Representing District 26 that includes Wilsonville, Sherwood, King City and parts of unincorporated Washington County, "I appreciate the opportunity to serve, and I am humbled by it," Vial said.
Vial and Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), who represents District 13, will hold a joint town hall meeting to provide a mid-session legislative update on Thursday, April 20, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Wilsonville City Hall, 29799 S.W. Town Center Loop East, Wilonville.