Despite being on opposite sides of the aisle, and the hallway in the state capitol, Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River) and Rep. Anna Williams (D-Hood River) are collaborating in support of their shared constituents.
“We’re working together whenever we can,” Thomsen said.
They’re currently working together on a bill to direct specific funding for a pedestrian path across the Bridge of the Gods. “That’s really exciting and we’re hoping to find some money for the Bridge of the Gods and the Hood River bridge as well,” Williams said. That bill is still in the early development stages, and Thomsen hopes that it will see some traction this legislative session.
Another bill they’re working on together on this legislative session is SB 440, which Thomsen said is intended to provide federal funding for search and rescue programs.
The bill itself directs the Oregon Military Department to institute ongoing basic training for the Oregon Civil Defense Force, which can provide support for search and rescue operations, and appropriates funds for the department to do so.
“It (SB 440) is kind of a placeholder bill, they don’t really know what they’re going to do yet,” Thomsen said. Search and Rescue operations are one of the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office’s largest expenses, and Sheriff Matt English has been down to Salem twice to testify in support of the bill. “That (Search and Rescue funding) is a big issue all over the state … hopefully we’ll make some good headway on that,” Thomsen said.
Williams and Thomsen are chief sponsors of HB 2503, which directs the Office of Emergency Management to study and make recommendations regarding Search and Rescue funding, to be completed by Jan. 1, 2021. Williams said that this study would be a step towards evenly spreading Search and Rescue costs statewide, so that counties with large recreation areas, such as Hood River, don’t bear the brunt of the program’s cost.
This legislative session, Thomsen said he has primarily focused his energy on the Capital Construction Committee, which he believes will have the biggest impact on his district.
“I’m spending my time learning, getting ready for that Capital Construction Committee to go into full gear and that won’t happen for a couple of months,” he said.
“So, I’ll be in a pretty good position, after being (in the Senate) for eight years, to help with (local) projects,” he said, adding that he’s been reaching out to constituents about projects the committee could potentially help with. “If I forgot somebody (with a project), have them contact my office,” he said.
While Thomsen is continuing his third term as a state senator and has experience with legislative sessions, this is Williams first legislative session as a state representative.
“Session-wise, it’s great, it’s fascinating and I’m learning a million things,” Williams said.
In addition to the bills she’s working on with Thomsen, Williams carried HB 2081, which modified the language of the Oregon Heritage Commission’s mission statement to replace the word “celebrate” with “commemorate” — a small change that Williams said makes a big difference in how the Heritage Commission operates and how Oregonians view their history, “particularly the history that’s not so fun.” The bill was created at the request of Gov. Kate Brown and is expected to pass.
The 2019 legislative session, which began Jan. 21, continues through June 30; both representatives encourage constituents to reach out with any comments, questions or concerns.
More information on the current legislative session can be found online at www.oregonlegislature.gov.