A former longtime public health nurse, Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-District 25, never has health-related concerns far from her mind — or legislative agenda.
One of her most recent targets is vaping products, which have come under fire in recent months after they were linked to a spate of lung-related illnesses by their users.
Although an attempt to draft legislation earlier this year to ban the products didn't come to fruition, Monnes Anderson is back on the case and now working with Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, on a new bill targeting only flavored vaping products.
"I didn't pursue it because I figured I didn't have the support," she said of the earlier bill. "Then there was another (vaping-related) death, and I blew a gasket. Now I'm sponsoring a bipartisan bill with Rep. Helt."
Vaping and public health was among myriad topics Monnes Anderson and several fellow legislators discussed at the Fifth Annual East Metro Economic Alliance Legislative Breakfast held Thursday morning, Dec. 5, at Heidi's of Gresham Restaurant on Northeast Cleveland Avenue.
In addition to Monnes Anderson, the breakfast event featured Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham; Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River; Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Northeast Portland; Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley; Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale; Rep. Anna Williams, D-Hood River; and Rep. Jeff Reardon, D-Portland.
Each lawmaker spoke briefly on his or her legislative passions and answered questions from the approximately 25 guests including civic and business leaders, merchants and the general public.
At the event, Monnes Anderson, who will not seek re-election in 2020, also shared her interest in a controversial cap-and-trade carbon emissions-related bill that the House of Representatives passed last June.
"In my eyes, the carbon bill is a big item," she said. "A lot of us would like to see it (pass the Senate), but it has to be the right carbon bill."
House Bill 2020 would require major polluters to purchase allowances or "credits" for every ton of greenhouse gases they emit into the environment
Gorsek agreed that the bill, which led to a dramatic Republican-led walkout protest in June, will need to be reckoned with in the upcoming legislative session.
"It's a very important issue," he said, citing other, less controversial advances in carbon pollution control such as clean diesel technology. "We probably should have been dealing with this as a culture 30 years ago … but it has to be done properly."
In response to a question from an audience member, Gorsek added, "We need to hear from businesses other than the big groups. The more information you can pass on in terms of how you all feel as an organization, would be helpful."
Piluso concurred, emphasizing the need for bipartisanship on such a broad environmental- and business-related issue.
"What needs to happen is a collaboration between Republicans and Democrats," she said.
Gorsek also agreed with Bynum and Frederick on the importance of a pending arbitration-oriented bill that would effectively prohibit arbitrators from overturning discipline of public employees in cases involving sexual harassment or inappropriate use of physical force.
Bynum contrasted the urgency of the arbitration issue with the potentially less immediate implications of the carbon bill.
"As much as I enjoy clean air and water, as long as I have a fear that someone could kill one of my children and not be accountable for it," she said. "That scares me. That's the big issue of the day for me."
Other topics and bills discussed at the breakfast included higher education's role in workforce training, grants to preserve farms and farmland, and a bill to help incarcerated women stay connected with their children.
The latter provides "better futures, less recidivism and stronger and more families," said Piluso, who, like Monnes Anderson is not seeking re-election next year.
Immediately after the forum, EMEA Executive Director Jarvez Hall said he was pleased with the turnout and discussion.
"It's important because business has to be able to speak directly to decision makers," he noted. "The more opportunities we can create for people to connect with those who make decisions that affect their lives, the better off we are."
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