Letter from Salem: Rep. Chuck Thomsen says prosperity should be bipartisan

May 25, 2011

The week of May 16-20 in the Oregon Senate was a wild one.

Going into my first session I had no idea what kind of complexities can stall good legislation. We pushed hard for job and economic growth, and I sincerely wish I could report success to you.

One bill was SB 464, which would allow us to responsibly manage and harvest more timber and add an estimated 4,300 jobs to Oregon. The economic advantage goes without saying, as those would be living-wage jobs. The revenue acquired would add at least $100 million we could allocate to schools or other services.

Furthermore, our responsible approach to timber harvesting these days is very sustainable, which negates environmental concerns. I know our district would support this bill with a whopping majority.

The other was SB 190 dealing with water allocation from the Columbia River. Right now 7 percent of the river's water is withdrawn for usage. Of that 7 percent, Washington uses 55 percent, Idaho uses 41 percent and Oregon takes 4 percent.

Imagine what we could do if we took 8 percent - which is still miniscule compared to our neighbors. An estimated 16,682 jobs would be created especially in rural Oregon. That is what SB 190 proposed - again, a clear solution that should have bipartisan applause.

So how were these two bills not given a vote in the Senate, or even in committee? That is because the majority party blocked it from happening. At this point, smart bills like these get sent to committee by the Senate president, and in that committee the chairman gets to decide which bills are heard. In this case, these two bills were not even listened to.

What we tried to do recently was circumnavigate this process by using a unique and rare procedural vote on the senate floor. We called for a vote not on whether or not to pass them, but on whether or not to discuss and vote on them despite no committee referral. All we asked for was the chance to debate -but even that had a party line vote of 14 to 16, so our motion failed.

I want to keep pushing. I know what my constituents want to see, and what they elected me to do. It is a shame that what should be bipartisan will only be politically feasible if we reach a greater point of economic desperation than we are at right now. Oregon must use the resources that once made it great, and two aisle-crossing votes would have taken us there.

Sen. Chuck Thomsen, Senate District 26, lives in Pine Grove.

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