By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Sen. Kim Thatcher and Rep. Bill Post, the two Republicans representing Keizer, are expecting a trying 2019 session.
Democrats hold a supermajority in the Oregon Legislature and the governor’s office which means that Republicans have little recourse when it comes to stopping the bills they oppose without getting Democrats to cross the aisle. What Thatcher and Post are hoping is that Sen. Peter Courtney can reign in his party to some degree.
“He’s the last Oregon statesman and that’s what this session will be about,” Post said.
“But he has a fractured caucus and I think it will be difficult to keep the more divisive stuff at bay,” said Thatcher.
As far as their personal priorities, Thatcher is a chief sponsor of Senate Bill 321, which would modify the procedure by which a person convicted of a felony can request new DNA testing.
“Oregon’s laws are such that they have to prove innocence before ordering a new DNA test. [SB 321] would allow retesting before proof of innocence,” Thatcher said. “We want to ensure that we have the right people locked up for rape and murder.”
Thatcher’s office is also looking into potential solutions to the state’s housing crisis and alternatives to Democrat-endorsed cap-and-trade limits on carbon emissions.
“I am working with my staff who know some people who have alternatives. If Democrats want to go this direction, I want to know what the alternatives are.”
Post is again trying to free up allergy sufferers to purchase Sudafed-type medication without seeing a doctor for a prescription. Oregon’s restrictions on Sudafed are some of the strictest in the nation while other states keep the medication behind the counter and allow purchase of the medication as long as the consumer presents a photo ID.
Post has new hope for the bill, which has failed previously, because it appears to have the support of House Speaker Tina Kotek.
“All the legislators are tired of driving to Vancouver for Sudafed,” Post said.
Thatcher is also returning with another attempt to mandate that Oregon honor concealed carry licenses issued in other states. Rather than a blanket reciprocity for any license issued in another state, this time she’s focusing on states already offering reciprocity to Oregon concealed license holders.
Post is pushing for a new $2 million allotment for recipients of SNAP and TANF benefits. He knows it isn’t going to be popular with some of his constituents, but he’s heard from many families who are running out of money for basic needs like diapers before the end of the month.
Another bill that even Post admits is something of a surprise for him, is one that would give certain youth offenders a chance for a sentencing review before being transferred to adult facilities.
“I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with the youth at McLaren as part of my church (Salem Evangelical), and I’ve met enough of these guys who can say they were being idiots or made a mistake. I have a young man in my mind who deserves a break, and this is coming from a hard-on-criminals guy,” Post said.
While they are still waiting to see what other major issues rise to the surface, one issue they are united in standing against are gun control efforts including a proposed limit on ammunition sales and outlawing magazines with a capacity of more than five rounds.
“Only allowing someone 20 rounds a month limits people’s ability to be proficient with their weapons. That’s a safety issue for me,” Post said.
“There are the perennial bills that whittle away at people’s constitutional rights. Every right is abused and people get hurt over it. There will always be those people, it’s not the tool,” Thatcher said.
All of the work will be taking place against a background of a major investigation at the Oregon Capitol. The Bureau of Labor and Industry is following up on reports of sexual harassment throughout the Capitol, some of which have mentioned Post by name.
While Post said the investigation is an “act of revenge by [Democrat] Brad Avakian against his own party,” Thatcher is hoping some good can come out of it.
“It’s also shedding some light on things and because of it I am hopeful that we make some good changes,” said Thatcher who is part of the Capitol Culture Committee working to improve the workplace environment. “We’ll be dealing with the rules and hope to make it better for people and without creating a space for politically-based allegations. I do want to make sure people don’t have to be subjected to creepy behavior.”
Regardless of the issue, both legislators hope to have more constructive talks than are happening at the federal level of government. Both expressed frustration with the partial government shutdown after attending a training on civil discourse last week that illuminated the problems that arise when parties become too entrenched in a particular position.
“I think that demonstration will be in the back of peoples’ minds,” Thatcher said. “There are instances when you have to agree to disagree, but we have to keep talking.”