The 2019 Legislative Session ended early Sunday evening, just a few hours before the constitutional deadline.
The news of late has focused on drama in the Senate. But I believe history will record that in 2019, the Legislature took bold and meaningful steps to address major issues facing Oregon.
Here are a few examples:
Kids and Schools - A major effort was designed to improve school performance and support pre-school children’s programs. To pay for it, Oregon will tax our largest businesses half a percent on sales. Health care, fuel, and groceries will be excluded as will any company with less than a million dollars of activity. I worked to make sure our smaller businesses, dairies, and fishermen were not taxed.
PERS - We sent new revenue from the Lottery and $100 million from the General Fund to the PERS Fund. We refinanced that fund. And we now will require public employees to contribute a small amount to that account. Without immediate action, we were told increasing pension costs would require service cuts and terminating 5000 teachers by 2025.
Family Leave - Starting in 2023, Oregonians will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to help a new baby, sick child or spouse, or aging parent. The money will come from a fund similar to unemployment insurance. I worked to allow small employers to opt out or to provide reimbursements if they can’t find replacement workers.
Housing - The Committee I co-chair allocated new dollars to affordable housing. Apartments and duplexes will be allowed in residential neighborhoods for cities over 25,000. Rent control and changes in no-cause evictions were approved. I opposed the rent control bill believing most of our landlords are small “mom and pops”, not big companies, and this measure would cause many to stop renting or raise prices.That measure did pass both chambers.
Juvenile Justice - Measures were passed changing how some young offenders are classified as adults and sent to prison.
Diesel Emissions and Oil Trains - Safety standards for trains and limits for diesel trucks were adopted. The diesel measure only applies in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties and doesn't require engine transitions until 2025.
Health Care - A task force was created to study health care reform and a single-payer system to reduce costs and encourage early treatment.
Election Reform - A measure was passed to restrict electronic petition sheets. I opposed it. A measure was also passed to provide free postage on election ballots envelopes. I thought the $3 million cost could be better spent on other projects and voted no.
Referrals - The legislature sent a proposal to Oregon voters to allow limits on campaign contributions. You will also be voting on a proposed increase in cigarette and vaping taxes. Money would be used to help avoid or reduce tobacco addictions. Our district suffers the highest rate of smoking in Oregon – particularly among pregnant women. This effects our health and health care costs for everyone.
Additionally, the final budget bill passed each session funds special projects around the state. This year, that includes proposals supporting wildlife rehabilitation at Oregon Coast Aquarium, a new dam in Newport, emergency earthquake preparation in Neskowin and improvements for the Lincoln City Cultural Center.
Sadly, this session will also be remembered for confrontation, walk-outs and threats. Oregon was in the national and international news. And not in a good way.
Twice, Republican members of the Senate left the building in order to deny a quorum and stop all business. In response, the Governor issued an order for the state police to locate the missing Senators and return them to the Capitol. The Senate President directed that missing Senators be fined $500 per day since they were being paid and receiving per diem while absent.
One senator responded with threats of violence against the police if they attempted to apprehend him. Finally militia groups scheduled a rally at the Capitol. The Oregon State Police issued warnings of a credible threat and all business was cancelled. The Capitol was locked down.
The issue was opposition to a measure which would limit the emission of greenhouse gasses by businesses in Oregon.
That is a simple explanation of a large and complex proposal. In recent newsletters, I have described in detail the Cap and Invest bill. I also outlined the steps I took to mitigate the effects the measures would have on small businesses, family farms, dairies, fishermen, our local mills, and most importantly, rural residents.
“Rep. Gomberg made a number of important proposals to support our Dairy and Agricultural families. We look forward to working with him more during the 2020 short session,” said Tammy Dennee, Oregon Dairy Farmers.
“David engaged early and often to offer changes that helped rural and coastal communities,” said Representative Karin Powers, Co-Chair, Joint Carbon Committee.
Early last week the Senate President announced that the Cap and Invest measure lacked enough Democrat votes to pass in the Senate and was “dead”.
Ultimately, the Senators returned and in the final two days, expedited the process to conclude most pending business and budgets. That’s the good news. But I worry that something important has been lost.
No matter how you feel about the issue, all of us should be concerned when your government is closed by threats of violence. Esquire magazine observed: “People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute … and one session of a state legislature was cancelled because of it. Roll that around in your head for a while and see where you end up.”
When confrontation, ultimatums, and threats of violence replace conversation, negotiation, and principled compromise, all Oregonians lose.
The Oregonian Newspaper editorialized, “As a whole, the state voted in a Democratic supermajority and a governor who made no secret of their plan to push for a carbon bill several years in the making to address climate change.” When one side wins an election, does the “minority party” have a duty to show up and argue their cause, or can they walk away and crash the entire governmental process?
I still believe that Democrats and Republicans can work together to benefit all parts of the state. It’s hard. But it is attainable. I believe in win-win scenarios. Some people may win more and others less. But I believe in outcomes where everyone wins something.
As I said before, ultimately the Cap and Invest measure failed for lack of Democratic votes and not because of a Republican walk-out.
I want to close by thanking the House Republicans for showing up each and every day. I know they too were frustrated. I know it was hard for them. But they continued to represent their constituents in the Capitol, seeking accommodations and amendments, or simply voting no. It wasn’t easy and they have earned both my gratitude and my respect.
Three Town Hall Events Coming to House District 10
I'm pleased to announce three town hall events in Lincoln and Tillamook Counties in July. The public is invited to this series of community forums to ask questions, share concerns, and review the recently concluded legislative session. Further town halls will be scheduled in Yamhill and Polk Counties later this summer.
I’ve worked hard to regularly visit every corner of our sprawling district. Interacting with people – listening to people – is the best part of my work as a local legislator. The 10th House District ranges from Tillamook and Cape Mears in the north, to Yachats in the south and inland to Sheridan and Grand Ronde. The schedule for the events is as follows:
Mid Lincoln County Town Hall
Sunday, July 7
Newport Library, McEntee Meeting Room
35 NW Nye St, Newport, OR 97365
1:30 – 2:30pm
Southern Tillamook County Town Hall
Monday, July 8
Kiawanda Community Center, Faye Jensen Hall
34600 Cape Kiwanda Dr, Pacific City, OR 97135
6:30 – 7:30pm
North Lincoln County Town Hall
Saturday, July 27
Driftwood Library Community Room
801 SW Hwy 101 Ste 201, Lincoln City, OR 97367
11:30am – 12:30pm
Those wishing to share their legislative concerns but unable to attend any of the events are encouraged to email me at Rep.DavidGomberg@oregonlegislature.gov. I can also be reached in my Salem office at 503-986-1410.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10