With a 30-30 tie in the House, a closely divided Senate, and a third term governor, no one expected the 2011 Legislature to produce much. But like my colleagues, I was committed to working together to move Oregon forward and I think we did that.
- We balanced the budget without raising taxes, and we slowed the growth of government spending.
- We passed major education reform that will give more options to parents seeking better opportunities for their children.
- There’s still work to be done on creating an environment where the private sector can create jobs, but I’m pleased that we extended our enterprise zone program and connected our tax system to the federal code to allow businesses to take advantage of tax benefits passed by the U.S. Congress.
- Another major accomplishment was the passage of both legislative and congressional redistricting maps. For 60 years , the legislature had deadlocked. While I’m not completely happy with the changes to my district, we worked together and passed the maps without a long legal battle.
- I sponsored 18 bills that passed the House and Senate but there’s more that needs to be done to put people back to work and I’m looking forward to coming back in February. My position on the Emergency Board will give me the opportunity to keep watch on the state budget and make adjustments as necessary.
Redistricting Plan Passes for the First Time in a Century
One of the major responsibilities of this legislative session was a process called redistricting. Occurring every 10 years, immediately after the census numbers are released, the Legislature is required to redraw congressional and legislative district lines. There are several requirements for drawing the new lines; most importantly, the boundaries must not divide communities of common interest. If the Legislature cannot agree on a plan, the Secretary of State must then draw the new legislative lines and the courts draw the new congressional lines.
The redistricting committee worked hard and for the first time in 60 years drew the map without sending it to the Secretary of State. While the committee deserves congratulations for passing a plan, I voted against it. It may be “bipartisan” but it certainly isn’t fair. The Democrats used the Secretary of State as their trump card and while Republicans may say the final map is the best we can do under the current laws, I think it’s time to change those laws.
Several states set up an independent commission to redraw district lines and I think that would work better and remove the partisanship from the process. I’ll be supporting an initiative to give the responsibility of redistricting to a panel of retired judges.
Stopping Bigger Government
With a 30-30 tie in the House, we were able to stop proposals to grow the nanny state, increase taxes, and grow the size of government. There were 42 proposals to raise taxes; none of them passed. Twenty-three bills to grow government’s control over citizens, from a proposal to ban studded tires to a plan to increase control over paintball games, were all stopped.
Budgeting Within Our Means
I was assigned to the Ways & Means Committee and two subcommittees – Natural Resources and also Transportation & Economic Development. The state has a $56 billion budget for the next two years and it was a learning experience to see how the budget is written. I was surprised and frustrated to learn how much the agencies and budget staff in the building control the budget-writing process. This session, we were able to pass the most fiscally-sustainable budget in years without raising taxes.
I’m glad to be returning to my home in Powell Butte, but my office at the Capitol is always open to you. My legislative assistant will be available to answer questions and assist you if you have problems with state agencies or would like me to speak to your group or organization.
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