The start of a Legislative Session is much like the first day of school.
Everyone wears their best clothes and is upbeat, friendly, and excited. The seniors all size up the new freshman.
There is a big assembly – where we are all sworn into office. Then we get a speech from the principal, or in this case, the governor. Classes are assigned. I’m appointed to the Education Committee, the Human Services and Housing Committee and the Budget Committee for General Government. You meet with teachers – the Committee Chairs.
There are also homework assignments. On the opening day of Session, 1200 bills were introduced, and we are hard at work reviewing each to determine which to encourage or support, and which will affect this district the most.
Then everyone sets about learning where the rooms, elevators and toilets are.
I was pleased with the Governor’s message on Monday. Doctor Kitzhaber seems intent on tackling big and bold issues to save money, create jobs, improve education and better the lives of Oregonians. Working to improve the delivery while reducing the cost of health care will continue.
Central issues for the next six months will include reforming the PERS retirement system and restructuring public safety.
For PERS, we need to make sure whatever we do is fair to recipients, produces substantial savings and is likely to pass court review. At last count, there were about 1,100 PERS recipients in Lincoln County earning an average of $14,000 per year.
We’re presently spending over $30,000 a year to incarcerate criminals but only $10,000 to educate each student in our schools. Our incarceration rate is low, but our costs per inmate are high.
Who should we lock up? How long? What are the costs and the possible consequences of any changes? I welcome this important conversation in Salem on how to reduce expenses, while maintaining public safety.
Meanwhile I’ve been busy on projects outside of the Capitol. On Wednesday, I testified for a second time to the Oregon Transportation Commission, urging them to complete work on the troublesome improvements to Highway 20 (Corvallis to Newport). Not only is this one of the most dangerous stretches of roadway in the state, there is also a significant ripple effect on our regional economy. Trucks destined for the Toledo Mill or the new International Terminal in Newport cannot navigate the tight Highway 20 turns and instead must detour through Lincoln City, Lincoln Beach and Depoe Bay. That creates even more traffic congestion, affecting our tourism, safety, livability,and the simple odds of making a left hand turn in August!
I’m pleased that ODOT agreed with us this week and has voted to move ahead to complete this critical project.
The legislature is in recess for two weeks as committees organize their assignments. I’m spending the time with a series of Town Halls in Lincoln City, Newport and Tillamook, and I’ll be appearing before the County Commission later this month to talk about home businesses, local enterprise zones and job creation.
In the coming month, I’ll report back in these pages to keep you informed on legislation and issues that affect all of us here at the beach.
Please feel free to call or email my office with any questions, opinions or words of encouragement.
Thank you so much for the honor of representing you!
Rep. David Gomberg
House District 10