Hillsboro Chamber hosts state legislators at panel event
Five local lawmakers shared their priorities for the upcoming Legislative session, which begins next month.
Speaking to a small crowd of city leaders and business owners, Hillsboro's legislative representatives and senators shared their areas of legislative focus for the 2017 session during a Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce panel event Thursday.
Representatives Susan McLain (D-Forest Grove), Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro), Rich Vial (R-Scholls), and Ron Noble (R-McMinville) joined senators Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro) at the Hillsboro Chamber, 5193 N.E. Elam Young Parkway, for an hour-long Jan. 5 discussion on taxes, economic development, employment issues and transportation funding.
Nearly all the politicians said transportation would be a topic they'd like to address this year.
"Transportation looms very large in my world," said Johnson, who specifically noted her roles this year on the Joint Transportation Committee and as co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which deals with transportation and economic development.
Of the transportation issues Johnson outlined, improvements on Cornelius Pass Road from Hillsboro to Scappoose will be a priority, she said.
"That will continue to be an issue on all our radar screens, particularly as the relationship between Washington County and Columbia County deepens with the anticipated physical presence of (Portland Community College) in Columbia County," she said.
Johnson and McClain travelled the state last year, speaking with cities about transportation and infrastructure needs as part of the Joint Transportation Committee, but Johnson said that despite the outreach, the committee "is going to struggle" putting a package together for wont of a printed bill, Johnson said.
"We've stated the problem enough," she said. "It's time to get to the solution, and that's where the difficulty is going to be. I'm going to plead with you (the voters) to come down and be more engaged in the legislative process."
Each of the five speakers, in fact, made some reference to the need for more constituent input.
"I think it's important to understand that we can't do the job that we were elected to do unless the community is going to be there with us, talking, explaining, helping — trying to get us to the middle if we have some disagreements, and trying to understand what is going to be the problems that we can solve within one session," McLain said. "There's a lot to do and we're not using a system that is necessarily easy.
"You've got a public process and a lot of really good ideas," she continued. "You've described your priorities … and we know that everyone around the state has their list, too."
McLain added that she will also spend time focusing on transportation needs, noting transportation safety as a primary topic of concern among cities across the state.
Sollman, a member of the Hillsboro School Board and a freshman legislator elected in November, admitted she has a lot to learn about the state political system, the legislative process, and the people involved.
"I'm not here to provide the answers. That would be unrealistic," she said. "I want to listen to hear what your concerns are. It's been refreshing, and I enjoy that. Your voice is incredibly important — making sure you say from your perspective how things affect you and your business. It's absolutely imperative we have that message."
Last month, Sollman began hosting listening sessions with the community, where she asks a roundtable of constituents about their concerns, she said.
Vial said he'd focus on transportation, education, and judiciary issues, noting his disappointment in the state's recent transportation efforts.
Vial said he believes state legislators are playing "tiddlywinks."
"We can't really address in any kind of honest fashion our transportation issues with a few hundred thousand dollars. It's just ridiculous to even think that's possible," he said, acknowledging greater transportation investments in nearby states, including Colorado. "If we don't do something … here in Portland, we're just kicking the can down the road."
"We have to think in terms of revenue sources," he added. "We may have to think in terms of tolling. We may have to think outside the box."
The 2017 Oregon State Legislative Session begins in February.
By Travis Loose
Reporter, Hillsboro Tribune
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