Though the 2019 legislative session wrapped up June 30th, deciphering just what happened (or didn’t happen) and the repercussions of those actions and inactions may drag on for years. How we perceive and discuss what happened will influence our memories, many of which are already archived on social media.
The practice of attempting to ram thousands of bills through two distinctly differing bodies is chaotic. Much of the attention was dominated by cap-and-trade legislation, which had been rebranded cap-and-invest or Clean Energy Jobs bills during the past few years. Decisions made on school funding, PERS financing, plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam take-out containers resulted in contentious floor votes in both chambers, while other very worthy bills died in committees.
No one in the legislature was elected with 100% of the vote. When we don’t agree with their choices, we accuse them of either rewarding the supporters who helped get them elected or catering to other interests. A common argument is expecting them to represent their entire constituency. So how does that really work? Are constituents counted the same?
This year thousands of activists descended on Salem. On at least four days activists from Tillamook County joined others from throughout the state to lobby on behalf of HB2020. When meeting their representatives, they often began with the phrase “I voted for you because …”
I was also in Salem the day of the #TimberUnity rally, when several Tillamook County activists joined others to drive their trucks around the capitol and demand a “NO” vote on HB2020. I listened to a House representative criticize the Democratic leadership of the House for avoiding their constituents by not convening a session, even as the Republican senators remained out of state in their shutdown of the Senate.
When I observed a few of these activists visit their senators, I noticed that they often began with the phrase “I live in …, and you need to represent your entire district.” I also noticed how many people removed their hats as they entered the capitol building, though they left them on while talking to their legislators.
The legislative session may be over, but the issue is not resolved. The question is still up in the air whether Oregon will ignore the climate crisis to which we contribute, or search for a different way to do our part in ensuring that our planet remains habitable. Also unknown is whether we will address dozens of other issues that never made it through this year, and how the voters will respond to issues referred to the ballot boxes.
A first step in achieving clarity would be to better understand what happened this session, and what was left by the wayside. There will be real interaction with the state legislators representing Tillamook County at the Political Pie Party on Thursday, July 25th at Tillamook Bay Community College. This is a great place to get educated on what happened.