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Looking back: my freshman year as a state legislator

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The final week of the legislative session was like packing up a dorm room to go home for the summer - boxes stacked in offices waiting to be loaded out to cars, last-minute meetings and voting was like racing to class for finals. After signing yearbooks and planning next year's schedule, the final bell rang. People tore out of Salem, headed back to their families, communities, and everyday jobs. By 8 p.m., with just a few legislators left waiting until the morning for the long drive back to the furthest corners of Oregon, the Capitol was deserted.

In those last quiet moments, I reflected on the session with another freshman. Going in, we were told we shouldn't expect that freshman legislators can be effective. The advice: Spend a session learning the process, and then come back next time to work on your ideas. I'm unsure if it was the tied House, that there were nine of us, or just sheer force of will, but the 76th Legislative Assembly's freshman class had some dramatic successes.

Shawn Lindsay from Hillsboro was given a co-chair assignment on the Redistricting Committee. Through the committee's dedicated efforts, we passed both legislative and congressional plans, the first time the legislature has done both in 100 years. It will inform Oregon politics for the next 10 years.

We balanced the budget without major fee or tax increases. That's good news for our community where small businesses is the life-blood of West Linn and Tualatin. We also passed/renewed tax credits with small business in mind. Mike Mclane from Crook County served on full in the Ways and Means committee and was appointed to the Emergency Board on the last session day, an unusual slotting for a newcomer. Katie Eyre Brewer from Hillsboro and Matt Wand from Troutdale served on the Revenue and Tax Credit committees that helped drive pro-business policies to the floor for a vote.

Sometimes stopping bad ideas is as important as moving good ideas forward. Patrick Sheehan from Clackamas and Wally Hicks from Josephine County were diligent about putting the brakes on ideas that harmed business and did not serve Oregonians well.

Nowhere was the effect of new voices more dramatic than in education reform. Mark Johnson from Hood River was Higher Education co-chair. Two of us, Jason Conger from Bend and I, served on House Education. Two of the 14 bills in the education package were bills I'd brought forward. One allows higher education institutions to charter a school. The other allows students to transfer between school districts based on family needs. Both made it to the Governor's desk for signature.

We also passed policy and funding bills that help our local districts. When the Governor signs HB3225, Tualatin, Wilsonville and Sherwood can work together on a road that opens industrial lands which will create jobs - an easy commute for those of us in West Linn. Opening that road will let people live, work, shop and play right here in proximity to our homes. I'm proud to say it's a huge win for our community.

Nine new freshmen were mentored well by veteran legislators and staffers from both major political parties. But we didn't wait to learn the ropes. We jumped in, hit roadblocks along the way and ultimately left Oregon a better place for our neighbors. I'm excited to see what we'll accomplish in February during the second half of our freshman year.

Julie Parrish, West Linn, serves as state representative for House District 37 - serving the communities of Tualatin, Stafford and West Linn