Dear Friends and Neighbors:
The 2016 “Short” Legislative Session has adjourned. It was a compact and intense thirty days, often colored by election-year ballot measures, and not without controversy. Some argued that the legislature tried to do too much. Others said we should have tackled even larger issues, such as a statewide transportation plan.In the end, we did some good work for Oregon and for the Central Coast and Coast Range. We ended four days ahead of schedule. And we concluded with a remarkable and emotional show of bi-partisan respect and comradery that I will always remember.
I often observe that ours is a small business district, defined by family farms, fishing boats, and “mom-and-pop” tourist enterprises. And being a real small business owner, I bring that unique perspective to the Capitol.
Last week the Governor asked me to serve on her Small Business Cabinet. A few days later, the House Speaker asked me to chair a legislative special committee on Small Business Growth. With these two important and high profile appointments, we’re now in a critical position to address real issues like red tape, support for Small Business Development Centers, funding for start-up or growth, and an improved workforce.
My Committee has already begun to meet and I’ll be sitting down with the Governor on Tuesday. If you have suggestions on how to improve our small business climate, please get back to me with your suggestions.
As I write this, major highway projects are underway east of Newport/Toledo, north of Lincoln City, and in Depoe Bay. There is clearly a lot going on! All of this work reflects a significant investment by the state in our own local highways, and as Chair of the Transportation and Economic Development Committee, I’ve been encouraging that.
At the same time, I’ve been working with ODOT to try and minimize the inconvenience all this construction will cause to local drivers and to our coastal economy. Certainly there will be some frustrating driving delays ahead. But in the end, our roads will be safer, easier to drive, and more resilient.
Speaking of safety, I am disturbed by the recent and ongoing loss of life on Cape Kiwanda near Pacific City. The good news is that valiant first responders from local Fire and Rescue and the Coast Guard have saved more lives than have been lost. But far too many are being lost.
I will be meeting in the next few weeks with County officials, local leaders, and State Parks to consider improved signage and railings. We need to make it clear that the dangers are real and that the soft sandstone of the Cape is no place to play! Please enjoy the views from the safe side of the fence and from our stunning beaches.
Protecting the Environment:
We’re all concerned about livability and our special part of Oregon. And those of us near the coastline best understand the effects of rising sea levels, ocean warming, climate change, and acidification and hypoxia.
In a move endorsed by both environmental groups and utility firms, we passed a bill that will free Oregon of coal-fired power by 2040. The bill also requires half of Oregon’s power to come from renewable sources. Oregon is doing its part to reduce disastrous loading of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. And the evidence is that utility prices will not be affected. This is a win for rate payers, energy producers, and the planet.
At the same time, I helped lead a successful effort to fund biomass “digesters” that help turn manure from our many dairy farms into electrical power. We eliminate waste, reduce odors, and make electricity. I also helped guide legislation that enables property owners in Tillamook County to better mitigate conflicts between farms and wetlands. This is a serious issue for those in affected areas and I was pleased to see this special local bill pass. Good stuff!
Finally, one of my highest priorities for the short session was securing funding to continue wave research as part of the Hatfield Center in Newport. In the closing hours, we approved $1 million for the Pacific Marine Energy Center. Discussions continue about where on our coast wave energy sites might best be placed. But there is no disagreement that more research is vital. I was pleased to bring another “win” home to the district.
In my last newsletter, I spoke about this complex issue. I supported a compromise intended to phase in small increases rather than face ballot measures with large, immediate, and potentially damaging consequences to small businesses or the prices paid by fixed-income retirees. The Governor has now signed this new law and the leading ballot measure has already been withdrawn.
By 2020, increased wages are expected to generate about $30 million in new tax revenue. Working through my new special committee chairmanship, I’m looking at how we can actually return this money to small business owners who generate new jobs. The wage was never intended as a money-maker for the state. Watch for further developments and a “Small Business Rebate” in the 2017 session.
In a move that could significantly change the support we provide to those who have served, we passed a measure asking voters to divert 1.5% of Oregon Lottery revenues to helping connect veterans to federal services including housing, health care and pension income. Now each of you will be asked to vote on the proposal in November.
A number of measures were introduced this year to address the critical problem that over half of Oregonians are challenged by the cost of housing. In my district many employers have a difficult time finding qualified workers, and a big part of that challenge is the lack of good, affordable places to live. And at the same time, homelessness is a disturbing problem. As many as 10% of the kids in our schools don’t have a reliable and secure place to sleep.
I did not support every measure presented. For example, I opposed weakening Urban Growth Boundaries to free up buildable lots. I prefer in-fill and using identified lands more effectively. I helped amend a Tennant Protection bill to remove sections requiring landlords to pay relocation costs and making it harder to evict problem renters. The final bill requires longer notice of rent increases. Overall I was pleased to see the broader issue of housing affordability move forward.
I was very proud to be named a “Champion for Children” earlier in February by the Children’s Advocacy Center “in recognition of your dedicated service and commitment to the Children and Families of Lincoln County”. But the real champions are those good people working every day to help kids at risk. We have far too many of those children throughout the coast and coastal range.
During the session, I had the pleasure of spending an hour answering hard questions from students of Nestucca High School, and watching visitors from Eddyville School organize a “wave” in the House balcony when introduced.
Recently I had the honor of being named Legislator of the Year for 2015 by the Oregon Chapter of the Humane Society for my work on animal welfare. Again, we are making progress but have much to do. Later this year I’ll be supporting a ballot measure to end commerce in animal parts from endangered species like rhino horns, elephant tusks, or shark fins.
A Remarkable Finish:
In the closing hours of the session, the House recessed, and all sixty members—Republicans and Democrats—walked across the Capitol to the Senate to ask one final bill be considered there. It was not a measure of major policy, but rather a simple proposal to change the statues representing two Oregonians in the Nation’s Capital. But it was a bill long championed by a well-loved Representative now battling ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Marching on the Senate was unprecedented. Seeing Republicans and Democrats arm-in-arm, smiling, and united in a common request was a remarkable and emotional climax to the Session. And it said much more about the people working here than the many headlines focused on conflicts and differences.
I’ll bring that memory and sense of common purpose back home with me as this 2016 Session concludes. I’ll be out and about in our very special part of Oregon in the coming weeks and look forward to seeing you soon.
Rep. David Gomberg
email: Rep.DavidGomberg@state.or.us I phone: 503-986-1410
address: 900 Court St NE, H-371, Salem, OR, 97301