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The News-Times publishes reader letters on lobbying, COVID-19 relief and healthcare.

Special interests should not have special access

The Oregon Senate is considering Senate Bill 463, permitting lobbyists to spend more than $50 on gifts, food, and beverages in their interactions with legislators. This is in response to Senate Bill 10, passed with bipartisan support, resulting from a scandal (2006) where several legislators supposedly used campaign funds for a trip to Hawaii and accepted $30,000, among them, in contributions from lobbyists.

I question the appropriateness of granting the Oregon Medical Association, Service Employees International Union, Oregon Business Association privileged access to legislators to influence votes? It is hard to imagine the seed farmer from Linn, business owner from Multnomah, rancher from Malheur and caregiver from Washington counties having the opportunity to chat over a long lunch, to "help nurture the types of relationships lawmakers need in the Capitol because people are better able to connect when they are sharing a meal or drinks," as the chief sponsor of SB 463 says.

Speaker Tina Kotek's philosophy is spot on, believing the current spending limit has never interfered with her ability to serve constituents. Individual citizens and lobbyists should have the same access to legislators, making one-on-one appointments, emailing their views, and providing public testimony. Senate Bill 463 is a step in the wrong direction.

David A. Nardone, Hillsboro

Again, Republicans won't lift a finger to help

A large and much-needed economic aid package was passed by Congress today, virtually without one vote from the Republican Party. [Ed.: This letter was received Wednesday, March 10, the day the House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan.] This is in keeping with their evident philosophy that no matter how dire the situation, people should just have to deal with it. And this is much how they acted during the Great Depression.

During the 1930s, the voters saw fit to throw many of them out of office for this "let them eat cake" attitude. Let's do the same this time.

David Pauli, Forest Grove

COVID-19, people's worries and state legislation

As a Washington County resident, I'm glad to see the area move to "moderate risk." I'm still extremely cautious when going to work or to the store, and even as I see a bit of light in the tunnel with vaccines and the ability to loosen restrictions, I know that this feeling will stay around for a while. It's likely that many feel the same as I do, and know that this feeling will linger well after things go "back to normal."

In such a time of anxiety and worry, any sense of security is welcomed, and that's why I feel it's important that people know about some key legislation that could help our recovery and strengthen an overall feeling of safety.

Both HB 2010 and HB 3267 tackle healthcare issues, a key area that needs addressing as we balance reopening with safety measures. HB 2010's introduction of a public option and HB 3267's setting of upper payment limits of prescription drugs would make it so medical security is available to more people.

When people are already worried about a pandemic, they shouldn't have to worry about their everyday medical needs. Making care and prescriptions more affordable is key to supporting and encouraging people as places reopen and restrictions ease.

We still need to be vigilant, but being able to focus our worry on COVID-19 and not general healthcare would make this time less stressful for many. Our representatives need to see that in order to get back to a semblance of normalcy, more issues than just COVID-19 itself need to be tackled, and these bills are the groundwork for just a couple of the essential ones.

Ashley Hilfer, Hillsboro


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