Eugene Weekly : Unda the Rotunda : 2.8.07

On a Roll
Some lofty goals for the Legislature
By Sen. Vicki Walker

The 2007 Legislative Session is not your father’s Oldsmobile. Democrats, in control of both chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in 16 years, are in charge and taking no prisoners. Like our national counterparts, Oregon’s Democrats believe that we have been given a golden opportunity to reinvest in the people of our state and our nation. Look out Bill Sizemore, Lon Mabon, Kevin Mannix, Taxpayers United and George W. Bush.

We’re on a roll to rethink the way we do business. No more slice and dice with our state budgets, siphoning off money to the rich and powerful and the out-of-state corporations who have their hands in Oregon’s piggy bank. Democrats want to put an end to discrimination and to rethink our justice system that is more concerned about incarceration than facing the underlying causes of criminal behavior. We’re willing to stand up to George W. Bush and this insane war by drafting resolutions to protest the escalation of further troops in Iraq. We’re expanding health care to children, investing in our education system, establishing a Rainy Day Fund, cleaning up the environment and building a future on renewable energy.

It remains to be seen whether we can achieve these commonsense albeit lofty goals in six short months. But if we don’t try, we’ll slip further into mediocrity and hopelessness and end up thinking that humans can do nothing to change their destiny.

So, just what is the 74th Oregon Legislative Assembly up to anyway? I hope to answer that question for you in a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious look at what goes on “Unda the Rotunda,” a phrase coined by retired Capitol librarian David Herrell. I’ve been asked to provide you a biweekly column of Capitol glimpses, but my workload may keep it to monthly. We’ll see. It’s 10 at night, I’m listening to Bob Dylan and Van Morrison on my laptop (I’m hopelessly stuck in the ’60s) and I’ve not yet left the building, which is not an uncommon occurrence.

Your first responsibility as a reader of this column, however, is to show up at a public hearing to support Oregon’s Clean Indoor Air Act to repeal the prohibition on local communities from passing stronger anti-smoking ordinances than state law. Our Senate Judiciary Committee will be coming to the UO Law School on Feb. 16 for a public hearing at 9:30 am. Please come share with the committee how you have enjoyed stepping into Eugene’s night life, bingo halls and restaurants and not coming home smelling like a pack of Camel cigarettes on a bad hangover. Find out more about this agenda and others on-line at— your link to the information highway about your state government.

And for those of you concerned about the Oregon School Activities Association redistricting plan that left Eugene schools split into different leagues, forcing students to travel hundreds of miles to compete, my Senate Education and General Government Committee will hold hearings in early March. I’m awaiting the final bill to be sent to the committee from Sen. Prozanski. Both Supt. Castillo and I have submitted SB 217 and SB 382 respectively. It promises to be an engaging hearing.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in Salem. Please join me and Reps. Edwards and Nathanson as we host our first Town Hall from 1 to 3 pm Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Irving Grange, 1011 Irvington Dr. We’ll be joined by Commissioner Bill Fleenor as our moderator. In the meantime, I’ll see you on the front lines.

Vicki L. Walker of Eugene is a state senator representing District 7.