Should Oregons lawmakers get together each year? Yes.
Last month's special session showed it can work
The special session of the Oregon State Legislature, which began on Monday, Feb. 4, and ended on Friday, Feb. 22, was intended to demonstrate to the people of Oregon that the legislature could successfully meet annually, get our work done and get out.
While we were there we passed some important legislation, often with broad bipartisan support.
• Getting recalled toys off the shelves: I was shocked to learn that retailers in Oregon were allowed to continue selling children's products after they were put on the federal recall list. HB 3631 corrected that by requiring retailers to remove those items from their shelves immediately.
• Making government more accountable: As chair of the House Committee on Government Accountability (GAIT) and Information Technology, I introduced a bill to create the Committee on Performance Excellence (CPE). The CPE committee will advise state agencies on ways to be more effective and will report the results to the Legislature. This is all part of our accountability as legislators to taxpayers, and will result in better use of tax dollars.
• 24/7 State Trooper Coverage: After 16 years of cuts to state troopers, we added 100 new troopers during the 2007 regular session. During this special session we increased the number of troopers by another 39, bringing the number up to that required for 24/7 coverage.
• Plain Language: In the 2007 session I introduced and got passed House Bill 2702, the Plain Talk Oregon Plan, requiring the state to use plain language in it's communications with citizens. During the special session the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) reported to the GAIT Committee that it has developed a style guide and a class for state employees in the use of Plain Language. Also, every state agency has designated a Plain Language contact person to help agency personnel comply with the plan and six agencies are participating in Phase One by conducting pilot projects. The Oregon State Library has also developed a Plain Language web site, http://plainlanguage. oregon.gov/.
• Public Safety: I sit on the Oregon Interoperability Execu-tive Commission which was formed to oversee the design and installation of a state wide, multiagency radio communication system. The importance of this was made clear when the north coast was completely cut off from the state by high winds and rain this winter. Add the fact that unless they carry multiple radios, the different state, local, and federal public safety agencies cannot talk to each other in an emergency situation and you have the makings for an even greater disaster. During the special session the legislature approved the first phase of the Oregon Wireless Interoperability Network.
• Preserving Family Agriculture: Last session, we passed a law allowing family farms, fisheries, and woodlot owners to pass their land on to future generations by providing an inheritance tax relief. But the law didn't work as intended and needed fixing. Working with all the major agricultural organizations, we found a solution so family-owned natural resources can be passed from generation to generation. We also passed critical legislation to help farmers and ranchers access water by funding studies across the state to store, reuse, and conserve water while still protecting our salmon runs.
All in all it was a very worthwhile session. I am sure, given the good bipartisan work we did, that the voters will agree and will allow us to begin having short annual sessions. Biennial sessions were perfectly adequate 200 years ago when our constitution was written, but things move a lot more quickly now and we cannot afford to go almost two years without meeting to do the people's business.
Chuck Riley, a Democrat, represents House District 29, which includes Cornelius and Forest Grove.