State Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, will begin her first long legislative session as minority leader of the Oregon House of Representatives amid unwavering political unrest and unprecedented challenges.
For the District 39 representative, making sure the Legislature can help streamline vaccine rollout and ensuring that schools can open safely are two of her biggest priorities.
And despite Republican walkouts over multiple legislative sessions in the past two years, Drazan said she was hopeful based on the productivity of recent emergency sessions that the body could work better together this time.
"We've had quite a year with COVID and wildfires, and despite the strong supermajority they (Democrats) have in Oregon with single-party control, we did have the opportunity to work together on the first three special sessions and effectively respond to calls for additional police reforms and accountability and changes to the employment department in response to COVID," she said.
"There's an extensive track record of the two parties working well together."
Regarding vaccines, which have been distributed to states in recent weeks, Drazan hopes the state and Legislature address the slow rollout in Oregon compared to other states. She thinks hospitals having more leeway to vaccinate a broader population, particularly if there are excess vaccines available, would be beneficial.
"It's life or death. There's no excuse to delay distribution of these vaccines because the (state) agency is trying to navigate the philosophical approach of who gets vaccinated when," she said.
Drazan also wants the Legislature to support school districts in whatever ways it can. One example she noted was providing funding for regular COVID-19 testing.
"We can't remain in an online format for the remainder of this year. We need to get kiddos back in the classroom," she said.
One COVID-19 impact that won't need as much addressing as originally thought, Drazan said, is the state budget. However, she noted that the higher than anticipated revenue underscores that the pandemic's wrath has disproportionately impacted already disadvantaged populations.
Drazan said the state should do its best to help provide support for those people, but that the economy reopening would be the most effective solution.
"At a state level, we will continue to invest in supports for Oregonians impacted, but it will be inadequate. The best way to be able to recover is to get vaccines distributed and reopen the parts of the economy driven by tourism and driven by restaurants and hospitality," she said. "The best way for someone to recover is to be able to have a job again."
Drazan added that continued grants to small businesses and rental assistance will help soften the blow.
When asked about the potential for continued violence at the state Capitol, Drazan thought new security reforms would help. She also hoped tensions would cool.
"I would hope that 2020 was the year of our collective discontent and that we start fresh with 2021. We have an enduring nation that has seen its fair share of ups and downs and hard times. This has been a hard year for everyone," she said. "I would hope any destruction, violence and protest that leads to behavior would not continue."
Along with her role as minority leader, Drazan also will serve on the full Ways and Means Committee and the subcommittee on capital construction, as the vice chair on the rules committee, and as a member on the health care committee.
Drazan said she's excited to help try to find ways to make health care more affordable and expand mental health services, and mentioned that the rise in telehealth has helped improve accessibility.
She wrote a statement denouncing the insurrection that took place at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.
When asked about the recent certification of the Electoral College votes that secured Joe Biden's election as U.S. president and the many Republican votes against certification in key states, Drazan said she was focused on local issues and that the Electoral College wasn't on the top of her mind.
However, she said, "I am supportive of a peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20, and I think it's really important for our country to heal and unify."
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