Chris Garrett is the Democratic nominee for Oregon State Represen-tative in District 38. He is an attorney with the law firm Perkins Coie LLP in Portland. He previously served as a policy adviser to Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and State Sen. Richard Devlin. He lives in the First Addition neighborhood of Lake Oswego.
This election, we are told, is about 'change.' In Oregon, a strengthened Democratic majority in the Legislature will deliver big changes for our state. If I am elected as your next state representative, I look forward to working with my Democratic colleagues on a reform agenda to stabilize funding for K-12 schools; achieve affordable health care for every Oregonian; develop cleaner, cheaper, renewable energy sources; and strengthen our economy and environment by attracting sustainable industry to our state. Growing up in this district, these values were instilled in me. After a year of campaigning, I am even more convinced that voters want these things for Oregon, and I look forward to being part of a progressive Democratic majority that will move Oregon forward.
But even more, voters want the kind of change that is neither 'Democratic' nor 'Republican.' We want our government to function better. We want our elected leaders to work together, find common ground and put aside partisanship to forge real solutions. My experience in Salem has taught me a lot about how the Legislature works today and how we can improve it. Here are a few nonpartisan ideas that will make a big difference and benefit everyone.
1. Humility. The majority party gets to control the legislative agenda. That's the point of having a majority. But that doesn't mean the minority should be powerless. When the House was controlled by Karen Minnis and other right-wing Republicans, Democrats couldn't even get their bills heard in committee. That's wrong, no matter who is in charge. As a member of the Democratic majority, I will ensure that my Republican colleagues are treated fairly and have a chance for their priority bills to be considered.
2. Extend a hand. We are constantly told about Oregon's 'urban-rural divide.' This is exaggerated, but there is truth to it. Those of us from the Portland metro area must recognize that rural Oregon counties are having extreme financial difficulty, and the state needs to help. In exchange, we will ask for rural Oregon's support of some things that matter dearly to us, like allowing our communities to raise more money for their local schools.
3. Campaign finance reform. Oregon is one of very few states with no limits on campaign contributions. Previous attempts to impose limits have been thrown out by the courts as unconstitutional. We should amend our constitution to allow for reasonable campaign contribution limits. Without them, too much power can be placed in the hands of too few, which undermines public confidence in our institutions of government.
4. Fix the initiative process. Our initiative process was designed a hundred years ago as a grassroots check on entrenched power. It has been hijacked by out-of-state special interests, charlatans, and racketeers who use it to divide Oregonians, advance a private agenda, and keep the Legislature from doing its job. I support reforms to make it harder for initiatives to amend the state constitution and require initiatives to specify a new funding source for any proposed spending.
5. Annual sessions. Oregon is one of just six states where the Legislature doesn't meet every year. Let's face it - the business of our state government is a lot more complicated than it was in 1859. In January, we should mark our 150th year of statehood by modernizing our Legislature and instituting annual sessions. This will allow the Legislature to do a better job of overseeing state agencies, adapting to changing economic conditions, and keeping government accountable.
This is an exciting time to be in politics. Great changes are in store for our country and state. It is important to remember that many of the best ideas do not have a party label attached to them.