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Legislature in review: The House

Western Washington County's legislative delegation reflects on the past session, which was dominated by a massive budget shortfall that required considerable bipartisan cooperation.

Western Washington County's legislative delegation included two freshman Republicans this year, Shawn Lindsay and Katie Eyre Brewer. Both hail from Hillsboro, but both of their experiences in the chamber were different.

While Lindsay was given the role of lead negotiator in determining new legislative boundaries, Eyre Brewer took on the Columbia River Crossing Project between Portland and Vancouver.

Both rookies will face reelection in a new district next year, along with veteran lawmaker Deborah Boone, who will represent more of western Washington County under the new boundary rules adopted by the 2011 Legislature.

All three reflected on the past session, which was dominated by a massive budget shortfall that required considerable bipartisan cooperation.

State Rep. Deborah Boone (D-32nd, Cannon Beach)

State Rep. Deborah Boone is satisfied with the state budget that was ultimately passed.

'We passed a balanced budget and went into the process with a deficit of $3.5 billion - that was not easy,' Boone said.

Boone does not sit on any budget committees so only voted for the completed budget plan. She did, however, serve on the House Energy, House Veterans Affairs, House Agriculture and Natural Resources committees and chaired the Environment and Water committee.

Boone says she fought in Salem for increased school funding, supported the Gov. John Kitzhaber's healthcare delivery proposal, renewable energy and worked to pass initiatives that provide services to the homeless.

'Finally, among other work, I am working hard to promote jobs by creating curriculum in the energy sector to support a future workforce for the wave/tidal ocean energy sector,' Boone said.

Bone introduced 19 bills, six of which ultimately passed and four of which directly impact Washington County residents.

Highlights for Boone include HB 2743, which adds podiatrists to the definition of 'attending physician' under Oregon workers' compensation law.

Another of Boone's bills that passed, HB 3590, permits a child weighing more than 40 pounds to use newer car seats designed for heavier kids. The previous law required the use of booster seats once a child exceeded 40 pounds. (The new law still allows use of those seats.)

Boone says she was disappointed that another of her bills, HB 2741, was shot down. The bill would have designated an Emergency Communications Account as trust exclusively for emergency communication purposes. The bill was introduced to protect the account, which was funded by the 9-1-1 surcharge paid by Oregonians on their monthly telephone bills. Without the legislation this account can currently be 'swept' by the state and used for other purposes, Boone said.

State Rep. Shawn Lindsay (R-30th Hillsboro)

Rep. Shawn Lindsay either sponsored or co-sponsored 75 bills this session, which effected everything from the economy to education and human services.

An issue he supports is reform of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). Lindsay was disappointed that several bills were voted down which would have required state employees to contribute toward their healthcare premium costs and would have eliminated an employer contribution of 6 percent toward PERS.

'It's important that the cost of PERS be addressed soon. Each year that passes without reform, the issue continues to grow and puts our state and local budgets at great risk,' Lindsay said. 'A great deal of our local school district's budget goes to billowing costs of PERS. I hope the legislature has the courage to address this issue in upcoming sessions.'

He was also disappointed by the failure of several bills that would have reformed K-12 education. HB 2512 would have established a task force to create a standardized method of determining the amount of money directly related to classroom instruction in Oregon schools.

The failure of House Joint Resolution 28 also disappointed Lindsay. The proposed amendment to the state constitution would have required the legislative assembly to pass a bill funding K-12 education by the 81st day of each regular session or forfeit their pay.

Most notably, Lindsay co-chaired the redistricting committee in the house and acted as the chief negotiator for the GOP, working with state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Beaverton) to develop a bipartisan redistricting plan that scrambled legislative and congressional boundaries across the state.

Washington County lines, in particular, were dramatically redrawn because the county's population growth outstripped that of the rest of the state.

'Many people will be moved to different house, senate, or congressional districts,' said Lindsay, who recently ruled out a run for the seat vacated by Congressman David Wu.

In regard to what he accomplished for his constituents this term Lindsay said, 'I stood firm in my promise to help clean up our state's fiscal house. I examined the validity of each and every budget and line items within in order to minimize waste.'

State Rep. Katie Eyre Brewer (R-29th, Hillsboro)

Rep. Katie Eyre-Brewer sponsored many bills this session, with much of the legislation focused on fiscal restraint.

'I am particularly concerned about unfunded liabilities of both our state and local governments and municipalities,' Eyre-Brewer said.

In that vein, Eyre-Brewer co-sponsored HB 3605, which would have provided a way for governments to repay their 'off balance sheet' debt over a 25-year repayment plan. The bill stalled in committee.

According to Eyre-Brewer, TriMet alone has approximately $817 million in unfunded liabilities for post-retirement benefits.

'While this is perhaps one of the largest unfunded liabilities of local governments and municipalities, there are approximately 1,700 local governments and municipalities in the state of Oregon,' Eyre-Brewer said. 'The aggregate amount of this debt is serious and needs to be addressed.'

Eyre-Brewer was also very vocal during the session about her opposition to the proposed Columbia River Crossing.

'While the actual I-5 crossing will not be in my district, the draft financial plan of this almost $4 billion project has targeted all Oregon taxpayers and businesses to foot the bill for some of this bridge,' she said.

Eyre-Brewer said she worked to increase the funding level for emergency, low-income energy assistance 'in order to provide some one-time relief for residents hardest hit by the economy, while protecting utility ratepayers from increased rates for increased bad debts due to low income residents' inability to pay their utility bills.'