By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
Your State Capitol has been deceptively quiet this week. But the session is definitely underway.
Committees have been meeting to review some of the bills proposed and to hear from state agencies as we begin to craft the budget. But those committees are meeting remotely. We legislators sit in front of the computer screen for hours each day, absorbing information and making difficult decisions. The process is open for you to testify, or watch hearings and floor session live or at a later date.
Once each week, legislators travel to Salem to manage details that the Constitution requires we vote on in-person. House members convene on Tuesdays and Senators on Thursdays.
Capitol doors are locked. First floor windows are still covered in plywood. And there are fence barricades to keep cars from approaching. There are a few essential staff in the building and as many state police. Otherwise, the Capitol is eerily quiet. And honestly, this is all quite heartbreaking for those of us who respect the building, our traditions of openness, and value broad participation in our legislative process.
I am looking forward to a time when falling COVID rates and increasing vaccination levels will allow us to reopen the doors to the public.
DOGAMI to be Funded: As I said, committees are continuing to meet. It is still early in the process but a critical decision was announced this week of consequence to our coastal district. The proposed budget from Governor Brown included a plan to dismantle the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries – also called DOGAMI. The agency has been struggling for several years, often spending more than they are allocated. I have been among those critical of management but not the important role DOGAMI plays. The Governor’s plan was to close the agency with a transition of its functions and less than half of its full-time positions to two other state agencies.
DOGAMI is the state’s geological agency, and a chief natural hazard watchstander. They manage ocean mapping, designate tsunami inundation lines, plan for earthquakes, and maintain the LiDAR (light detection and ranging) program which would have been discontinued under the proposed budget. LiDAR technology is critical in evaluating and modeling coastal erosion, as well as post-wildfire landslide risks.
When the proposed budget was released, I wrote to the Governor asking her to prioritize maintaining DOGAMI as a stand-alone department. I also reached out to legislators working on the agency budget.
Early Wednesday I testified before the joint budget committee on Natural Resources. “Coastal representatives recognize that DOGAMI is critically important to our present and our future.” I said. “The functions it provides are going to help us plan in ways that both help our economy today and for the eventuality of a major seismic event tomorrow.”
As I often observe regarding the budget, the Governor drafts and the legislature crafts. What that means is that the legislature is responsible for finalizing and fine-tuning budget proposals.
This week Senator Kathleen Taylor, co-chair of Natural Resources indicated we had been heard. She said she’d spoken with legislative leadership and the governor’s office and told them that “there did not seem to be support within the legislature to break up DOGAMI”. Going forward, our task is to ensure that management makes needed improvements and that necessary agency functions are appropriately funded.
Capitol Launches Live Virtual School Tour Pilot: I have always enjoyed the school tours that come through the Capitol. I make a point to meet groups from our district and escort them onto the House floor – which is not part of the usual tour.
Visitor Services has announced a Live Virtual School Tour pilot program. This is a great alternative until students are able to visit in person again.
They are accepting reservations from schools throughout the state to fill 25 tour slots between now and March 5th. The program is available to remote and in-classroom learners alike. During the tour, a Visitor Services staff member will guide students through our 360° virtual Capitol tour using the Microsoft Teams video conferencing platform.
If you have schools in your area that are interested in participating, please refer them to Visitor Services at 503-986-1388 or by email at Capitol.Events@oregonlegislature.gov.
What if I need a home repair? Limiting outside visitors is an important way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but sometimes you may need to have someone in your house for a necessary repair. If you do need to have a repair person or other visitors, here are some steps to limit the risk.
- Look on the repair company’s website or ask them what they are doing to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
- Stay at least 6 feet apart.
- Everyone in the house should wear a mask while the visitor is present.
- Open doors and windows or place a fan near an open window or door, blowing outside.
More information on ventilation is on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
And always remember when you hire contractors, be certain they are licensed and bonded. This will protect you in the unlikely event something goes wrong. Click here to look up Oregon firms.
DMV Grace Period: DMV offices are currently open and making appointments, but they are still catching up with the backlog caused by COVID-19. The state Department of Motor Vehicles has made an agreement with law enforcement to continue the grace period for some expired credentials.
Under the agreement, law enforcement will “exercise discretion” if your driver license, permit, or vehicle registration expires between November 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, and it’s been less than three months since the expiration date. Law enforcement can check the status of a driver or vehicle registration electronically during a traffic stop.
If your credentials are expiring or expired recently, DMV recommends making an appointment to renew them now. You can visit www.oregondmv.com to access online services or make an appointment to come in to the DMV.
Last week I detailed how to monitor current legislative proposals on OLIS and how to make arrangements to submit testimony or appear remotely before a committee. If you need help or information, please drop us a note.
Since Oregon voters adopted annual sessions in 2010, the Legislature meets for a maximum of 160 days in odd numbered years and 35 days in even numbered years. That means we’ll be working until the end of June.
Please stay tuned as the 2021 session evolves.