Why I and other lawmakers left Salem
As I prepared to head to Salem for my first legislative session, just a short session — a mere 35 days — I talked to community leaders, voters, neighbors and people in the media. All of them shared the same sentiment; they feared the short session would result in a grab for guns and the imposition of new taxes not approved by the voters. The fear has come to fruition. While in Salem, I participated in committee hearings, meetings and numerous casual conversations regarding these very issues. The one opportunity I had to make comments regarding the Cap and Trade Bill was in a very controlled environment with very limited time frames to say much of anything.
Senate Bill 1530 came through the sub-committee on Ways and Means on Natural Resources, of which I am member. The committee had a three-day notice for our first public hearing and work session on the 128-page bill, with 59 amendments. After hours of reading the bill and proposed amendments, I and a few colleagues sent a letter to the chairs requesting we slow the process down and get some agency perspective. We did get a whole 48-hour reprieve. Two days later, I listened to a quick agency presentation, proposed an amendment to refer the entire issue to the voters and witnessed a party line vote by the Democrats to reject the idea. With no real answers to questions raised during the hearing, the bill moved on. No real discussion, no negotiation, nothing; the bill just pushed forward.
I expressed my concerns about how the proposed cap and trade program, intended to control something as huge as global air pollution, would be devastating to my constituents and deadly to business in my district, all with no real goals, creating a new government agency and allowing an environment rich in opportunity for politically connected corporations to make lots of money. My concerns fell on deaf ears, as did my amendment request to refer this issue to the voters. So did all the additional arguments, comments and other amendments offered by my Republican colleagues. We were effectively cut out of the conversation.
My experience is not isolated in the legislative process. My Republican colleagues and I are not done trying to create more conversations regarding cap and trade, we aren't done working to find ways to deal with other important issues facing the State of Oregon; but we are done being pushed into a corner and forced to accept something we don't believe in. We have heard overwhelmingly from constituents around the state regarding cap and trade . . . overwhelmingly they want to vote on it. We left Salem to push back against the deaf ears that are not listening to our comments, our amendments or our requests to let the voters decide on big issues like cap and trade.
There is no vacation, there is no down time, I am not with my family at home; I am working all day everyday just in a different place. We may not be in the Salem meeting rooms, but we are still working on the issues that are still alive in the form of legislative bills, emails, research and constituent concerns. We are attempting to reach some consensus with our Democratic counterparts, but they have not been at all receptive to letting the voters decide on cap and trade. We are not willing to come back to Salem without allowing the voters of Oregon the right to decide the fate of their state, their hard-earned dollars, their future. I pledged to be a strong voice in Salem for my constituents. I have reiterated less is more time and again. Sometimes the less physical presence you have, the more you are seen; the less you say, the more you are heard.
Vikki Breese-Iverson represents Crook County as part of Oregon's 55th House District. She can be reached at 503-986-1455.
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