Legislative duties keep Tigard resident busy in Salem and in her district
In the throes of a busy legislative session, Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard) is juggling a lot of balls in the air.
"I usually leave for Salem around 6:30 to 6:45," said Doherty following a town hall meeting in Tigard on Saturday, March 12.
Doherty, who represents District 35 in the Oregon Legislature, serves on the Business and Labor Committee, which meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 to 10 a.m., and she also serves on the Health Care Committee.
On Monday through Thursday, there is usually a legislative session starting at 11 a.m.
In between, her days are filled with a variety of activities, including meeting with lobbyists and people they bring who are affected by the various issues they represent.
Groups of lobbyists come on designated days, whether their issue is mental health, family farmers, nurses, chambers of commerce or something else. "Some lobbyists I see five to eight times," Doherty said. "I know what bills are coming up."
As if she is not busy enough, Doherty also represents the House of Representatives on the Oregon Cultural Trust and as a retired teacher, she is a member of the Oregon Education Association.
The Washington County delegation meets every other Thursday, and Doherty also calls or meets in person with the county commissioners, school superintendents and other leaders in her district.
"It's a way to stay in touch," she said. "I try to stay in touch with Tigard-area people. I get lots of invitations to things but don't go to everything.
"What is my district most interested in? Jobs, followed by education."
She gets back to her home in Tigard most evenings but occasionally spends the night in Salem if she has a late event followed by an early morning meeting.
While Doherty joked that sometimes her legislative aides overbook her, they also offer a lot of support. "I couldn't do this job without them," she said of Peter Sarasohn and Katharine Ryan.
"There is a big push for constituent service and to represent what people want," she said.
Sarasohn explained, "If people really care about an issue, we want them to call us or email us."
As an example of a bill affecting local people, Doherty noted that the King City Lions Club accepts donations of used eyeglasses and distributes them to people in need.
A bill going through the Legislature would allow such groups to do such charitable work without being held liable.
One of the fun aspects of her job is meeting constituents and answering their questions.
Doherty recently met with eighth-graders at Hazelbrook Middle School in Tualatin, and a big question was if she had ever met President Obama.
The kids were a little disappointed that she had only seen him at the Oregon Convention Center last fall along with thousands of other people when he made an appearance.
Doherty also talked to Tualatin Elementary fourth-graders who visited the Capitol.
"They were sharp," she said. "They knew more than I do. They asked me if I knew how many stars are in the dome in the state Capitol. I didn't know, so they told me there were 33, because Oregon is the 33rd state.
"They also were impressed with the gold statue of the pioneer on top of the dome."
One evening, Doherty stopped at a potluck dinner at the Tigard Grange to hear what was on the minds of grange members.
Doherty said she has always been active in politics, including working for the OEA, when she was approached to fill the seat vacated by Larry Galizeo, who won three terms as the District 35 representative before resigning.
Because District 35 includes a little piece of Southwest Portland in Multnomah County, both the Washington and Multnomah boards of commissioners had to approve appointing Doherty to the seat.
"It was a very interesting process," she said.
She ran in the November 2010 election, winning the seat in her own right.
A training session was held for newly elected representatives "to get us ahead of the curve," Doherty said. "The chief clerk led a lot of it, explaining ethics laws and other issues. All of us have mentors too.
"And we had pre-session meetings and did lots of planning."
That work evidently paid off, as Doherty said that this year's session is well ahead of where previous sessions were at this point on the calendar.
Doherty credits aides Ryan and Sarasohn for keeping her on track.
"I rely on these guys a lot," she said.
Doherty was pleased to be appointed to the Business and Labor Committee because "I know a lot about labor and education," she said. "I know how PERS (Public Employees Pension System) works. I learned about public and private pensions working for the OEA."
Overall, Doherty said she is happy with the people she sees running the state agencies.
"I'm a skeptic by training, but I am impressed with the agency heads," she said. "They are very responsive."
As for budget cuts looming as the Legislature works on the 2011-13 budget, "there are no good cuts in this business," Doherty said. "I don't want to take money from programs aiding seniors, the disabled, the mentally challenged.
"There are no easy decisions. My mom always said to put yourself in someone else's shoes, and that's what I try to do. I respect everyone's job."
Finally, people don't need to worry that Doherty won't always be up front with them: She is 100 percent Irish and a proud member of the All Ireland Cultural Society.
"The Irish speak their minds," she said.