This was a great chance to hear from the people who we work to elect and who shape how Oregon moves forward. We can be so grateful that they are willing to take time (especially after many committee meetings today during legislative days) to share with us. We are reminded that the quality of our government depends on the people we elect. You can find a written summary of this discussion below.
Faith leaders have worked for years to craft reasonable gun legislation. To add your signature to get this on the ballot, or to become a signature gatherer, go to https://www.lifteveryvoiceoregon.com
Heidi Lueb invites us to join us at her campaign kick-off: I’m Heidi Lueb and I’m the Tigard City Council President. I’m running for Tigard Mayor and would love if you joined my virtual campaign kickoff on Sunday, June 5 @ 5pm. Register here: https://heidilueb.com/kickoff
Meeting summary: I will try to summarize some of the main points we heard. For more information, it is valuable to listen to the recording. These are my takes on what was said during a rich and braided discussion and may not always reflect the speakers' intent, but are my best shot. Listening to these thoughtful, caring people gives me deep hope for the future. We need to meet their dedication and support them in the ways that we can.
Lightening Round: What is something that you are proud of in our legislature - it could be something about the structure or a bill we have passed.
The Student Success Act - that addressed increasing essential funding for all areas of pre K-12 education
The process of negotiating the minimum wage bill that took feedback from all areas of the state to craft a bill that worked differentially for everyone.
SB762 - which creates transformative change in how we mitigate and respond to wildfires. This was a bipartisan bill that required all to tackle uncomfortable topics but led to a powerful bill with built in flexibility to address different needs.
The cultural change in the legislature to become one of the most diverse legislatures in our history - in age, gender, social economic status, profession, and race.
The awareness that the Student Success Act passed because we flipped three seats from red to blue in the past few years. This highlights the need for us to work together within the party as well as between parties.
The telehealth bill which is a model for the country.
Gun safe storage
That use of federal rescue plan money was in line with our values and involved input from a variety of levels.
What is the power and responsibility of the legislature when they pass a law that doesn't get implemented as they want to see it implemented?
Passing bills is the least of the work, followed by rulemaking, transparency, accountability - making the bills visible and effective.
Would love to see the house speaker create a legislative accountability committee
800-1000 bills are passed and many of them are important only to the person who proposed them. They eventually disappear without any real implementation
Committee heads meet frequently with agencies to hold them accountable. However, when you receive numerous 100 page reports, it is hard to find time to stay on top of it all.
There are many tools, but legislators frequently don't know the powers they have - the power to convene, to ask a question, to publicly or privately have a meeting.
Bills can be amended to clarify when it appears they will not be implemented as wished
Things change with each change of the executive branch
Sometimes there is significant oversight such as meetings every other week with DHS regarding the ONE data system which is struggling. They need to report what their plans are and if they are on time.
Finally, we all need to hold each other accountable, but also extend each other grace during these hard times.
How much is failure of infrastructure at the core of many of our problems of implementing laws?
Democrats have to take responsibility for being in power and not investing sufficiently in an outmoded infrastructure. We need to own this
CFO's of small non-profits say that there are so many layers of compliance that it is impossible to apply or compete for some program funding
Audit findings have identified some of the problems and we have failed to take action.
We could do better oversight if we were a full time legislature, just as Congress is.
The legislature puts a lot on agencies without any funding. We shouldn't have unfunded mandates.
We have antiquated IT systems. We must also have cybersecurity responses.
How can legislators coordinate policy and share informally their pooled knowledge?
This is a problem of a part time legislature, but leadership is working to put systems in place to help this happen.
Relationship building is critical to policy making. The ability to gather together over meals, etc. has been sorely missed during the pandemic. Legislators talk among themselves about family, etc. and build relationships that help during controversial times.
Legislators frequently go to each other to use their expertise. There is little time in committee meetings for this to happen.
What is the effect of so many bills coming into the legislature?
There is talk of limiting number of bills such as the Senate does. One former legislator would submit 100 bills.
It is important who is chair because they schedule which bills get heard.
Every bill we ask for has to be drafted by LC (legal council) and summarized and researched by LPRO (legislative policy and research office) . This represents incredible time and pressure for the people working in these offices. Then every amendment takes more work
Legislators have to learn that they can't say "yes" to every request for a bill.
On testifying on bills: The legislator has codified remote testimony. This is a big win for everyone. There are ways to reach your legislature beyond verbal testimony - submit written testimony, coordinate with like minded people in submitting testimony,
Be aware that the most effective thing you can do is to reach out to your legislator. These are the letters that get most attended to.
How well do we do in creating programs that are not "siloed" - that overlap but may not be coordinated
When we look at different levels of government, we need to hold the counties and other governments accountable for funding they receive.
Money sometimes is in the pipeline, but doesn't reach the intended people in a timely manner, such as getting stuck at the county level instead of coming to the cities who are administering the programs.
There's always going to be siloing and also streamlining. It is challenging because things such as education cross over so many sectors.
Lightning round: Your dream about how the current structure of government could be even better.
Campaign finance reform - and not having to spend a year raising money instead of governing
Time available to do things - things are so rushed
Set priorities on legislation - not just personal things on behalf of the legislator as opposed to something that might help everyone
We may be too small for a full time legislature, so have to define what we can do.
A massively expanded ability for the legislature to conduct full time oversight - to be a full time branch of government with the same weight and implementation oversight as the executive branch.
A dream: A return to civil discourse and for social media to completely disappear. It has become a tool for abuse which every legislator has experienced. We have to go into uncomfortable spaces with each other where we are authentic and real.
We need to be able to compromise without losing our values.
Thank you to all who participated on-line or reading this letter. And thanks again, to our representatives. This is just a step in the continuing dialogue about how we can move forward from these hard times and make things even better.
Wishing all of you hope as spring slowly comes to Oregon. As always, feel free to reach out with comment or questions.
Carol Greenough convenor, East Washington County Dems