By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
Hello Neighbors and Friends,
I was very proud of our district Friday night.
When the Ways and Means roadshow went to Portland a week ago, 400 people showed up. When we came to Newport on Friday, 350 people were in the room. For the legislators who came here from the Valley, from the metropolitan core, or from Eastern Oregon, the message was clear. We are as engaged, as passionate and articulate, and in many ways, more complicated than the big cities. We too have our priorities and our needs. Our concerns mirror those found in other parts of Oregon and then add local dynamics to the budget mix.
Mayors Cross, Wahlke, and Sawyer address the Ways and Means Committee.
About a third of the people who signed up to testify were called on in the two-and-a-half-hour program. That was actually more than spoke in Portland. We heard about schools, health care, and the wages of those who care for us and do the public’s work. Our Marine Reserves and HB 2903 were a major topic. And we heard plenty about the need for investments in rural infrastructure.
You’ve heard me make the point often that people from all over Oregon come here to drive on our roads, flush our toilets, and rely on our first responders. As our water systems and fire halls age, small towns need help with the big costs of replacing them.
You can review a recording of the hearing here. Watch yourself or your neighbors in action! What you will see is a fascinating glimpse of government listening and citizens speaking about the fabric of our community and the difficult choices of allocating tax revenue to a myriad of competing needs.
Next Friday we travel to Roseburg.
It has been a long, hard, demanding week in Salem.
Construction continues as we legislate. As I told one reporter this week, “Take all the usual pressures, egos and issues. Compress them into one-third the building space. Add the sounds of drilling and pounding. What you’re left with is the political and construction zone known as the 2023 Legislature”.
With the passing of the first major deadline for legislation, policy committees have moved a flood of bills. Most remaining measures have died in committee. I’d estimate that we have gone from about 4,000 proposals to perhaps 500, with half of those in the budget committee waiting for the May revenue forecast to see if we have money to pay for any of them. The balance were scheduled for a vote on the House and Senate floors.
Some of those bills have been controversial. With Democrats in the majority, measures scheduled for a vote are likely to pass. In response, the Republican minority have resorted to procedural and delaying tactics.
A walk-out is no longer possible as a result of Measure 113 approved last November. In the Senate, bills are tediously being read word-for-word by a droning computer voice. In the House, Republicans resorted to a more productive and proactive strategy. They actually debated the measures! Usually when a measure is heard, one or two people may speak. But with each bill scheduled, nearly every Republican rose and spoke to the question. This may have actually taken more time than reading, but it was a remarkable effort that I had to respect. Several days I presided over the House as bills took as long as two hours each for discussion to then often pass overwhelmingly.
With bills backed up on the floor, committee meetings were cancelled and floor session extended to full days and evenings in a practice that came to cynically be called “Super Floor”. In normal circumstances, we might have heard 40 or 50 bills Monday and Tuesday. Instead, we covered about a dozen. The process was hard and physically demanding. One member went to the hospital Monday, and another slumped into his seat Wednesday midway through another floor speech and was helped to his office and then went home for the balance of the week.
The main points of contention between Republicans and Democrats regard guns and abortion.
HB 2002 builds on Oregon’s 2017 law ensuring access to abortion and other reproductive and gender-affirming health care. Every Democrat on the joint budget committee voted Thursday to send House Bill 2002 for a vote of the full House — and every Republican voted against it.
The measure says in part, “Every individual has a fundamental right to make decisions about the individual’s reproductive health, including the right to make decisions about the individual’s reproductive health care, to use or refuse contraception, to continue the individual’s pregnancy and give birth or to terminate the individual’s pregnancy.”
Among other things, the bill would create a new crime of interference with a health care facility and provide legal protection for medical providers who carry out procedures that are allowed under Oregon law.
I have consistently voted to support reproductive choice in Oregon. I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
I understand that Oregonians have strong feelings on these issues, and I respect anyone who disagrees. That said, I was disappointed Wednesday with the need to contact the State Police and inform them I had received a death threat ahead of my committee vote on 2002.
HB 2005 seeks to regulate homemade firearms, restrict the purchase of some guns to buyers under the age of 21, and allow public bodies to regulate concealed carry on their premises.
I am a gun owner. I have voted for some firearm safety measures, including one to prevent convicted domestic abusers from making new purchases. I’ve also voted against some measures, including a recent proposal to require locked storage even if there are no children in the home. I authored the only bill in the past ten years expanding gun rights, a measure allowing concealed carry permits for people previously convicted of possession of small amounts of cannabis (which is now completely legal). And I have worked to get more money to the State Police so they can complete background checks quickly, screen out unqualified buyers, and not delay lawful purchases.
Please know that I take a balanced and rational approach to second amendment issues. Our challenge is to try and keep guns out of the wrong hands while not unreasonably burdening lawful owners. There are many points of view to take into account when considering firearms legislation and I consider bills one-by-one when they make it to the full House for a vote.
HB 2005 raises the age to purchase some firearms to 21. That section has been modified to allow other purchases and protect access for people younger than 21 to guns used for hunting, target shooting, and other similar purposes. This solution aligns Oregon law with Federal law to provide clarity for what people 18 to 21 can possess and purchase, instead of a blanket prohibition on all firearms ownership until age 21.
HB 2005 also addresses firearms that can be made at home on a 3-D printer. We currently conduct background checks for purchases and screen out convicted felons, domestic abusers, and people judged suicidal or a threat to others. Those laws are intended to make it more difficult for firearms to land in the wrong hands. But if those people can quickly and cheaply make guns at home – which cannot be detected by metal detectors – I see the potential for serious problems.
Right now, “ghost guns”, or guns that aren’t serialized, have emerged as a weapon of choice for violent criminals, gun traffickers, dangerous extremists, and, generally, people already legally prohibited from buying firearms. We have an obligation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but ghost guns are untraceable by law enforcement when they are used to commit crimes. House Bill 2005 will make sure law enforcement can do their jobs, while ensuring enthusiasts can still pursue their hobbies, by simply requiring that guns now be serialized. This bill also exempts antique firearms and firearms manufactured prior to 1968, when federal firearms legislation went into effect.
Again, every Democrat on the joint budget committee voted to send House Bill 2005 for a vote of the full House and every Republican opposed it.
Late Thursday, House Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement to delay consideration of both bills until mid-May and to limit delays on other bills. Things began to move again. A special four-hour floor session on Friday quickly covered dozens of measures, including my bill, HB 2904, regarding medical research using live primates, which passed the House 58-1.
Bill reading continues in the Senate…
Listen to my floor speech about primate research here. “They keep making mistakes. They don’t want to tell you about it. And if you ask too many questions, they call the police…. We can do better than that.”
The addition of a special floor session Friday forced me to scramble my plans for a series of in-district events.
The Joint Town Hall with Senator Anderson went on as scheduled, but I had to attend from Salem with a computer link. You can listen to the program here.
I had to cancel remarks to the Ocean Acidification Symposium and as guest speaker for the Newport Chamber of Commerce at noon. But I did get back to the Coast for the opening of the new Read and Seed program at the Newport Library and then the Ways and Means hearing at five.
Many legislators spent the evening in Newport and Saturday, I arranged a special introduction for them to our fishing industry and fishing fleet. About 20 members and staff boarded the Predator for a two-hour cruise of Yaquina Bay, the docks, processing plants, Port, and research hub. Fisherman on board talked about their challenges and special role in the Coastal economy.
Legislators and staff aboard Captain Cooper’s Predator.
David chats with the Ways and Means Committee before embarking on a tour of the bay.
David and Ways and Means Co-Chair Tawna Sanchez chat with a local fisherman over a bowl of chowder in the galley.
Special thanks to Commissioner Kaety Jacobson and Heather Munro Mann for organizing the trip and to the Cooper family for welcoming legislators on one of their vessels. Thanks to everyone for an informative trip and scrumptious onboard lunch. And also big thanks to Englund Marine for loaning us extra life jackets…
I rounded out Saturday with a stop at the Crab Crack in Depoe Bay and then a lovely banquet in Lincoln City to support the Siletz Bay Music Festival.
It’s Monday and I’m back in Salem. Wish us and Oregon well as the session continues to evolve.
address: 900 Court St NE, H-480, Salem, OR, 97301