Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ten years representing you in the Oregon House of Representatives has flown by.

It’s been an honor serving our community and helping lead Oregon to better strengthen education, health and human services, transportation, public safety, veterans’ services, economic development, our environment, and government efficiency.

I’ve learned several key lessons on this legislative journey:

Everybody Loves Jobs:  Democrats and Republicans don’t always work well together, but we’ve actively collaborated to strengthen jobs and our economy.  We increased loans and grants for small businesses needing capital, invested in emerging industries, broadened research and development tax credits, streamlined regulations, and expanded industrial lands.  Timber harvesting in state forests has been increased, maintaining sustainable practices.  I authored the law creating “Oregon Business Xpress,” a one-stop shop for businesses.

Kids Don’t Vote:  Children are too often ignored.  But Oregon kids have been well served by major expansions of Head Start and $250,000 for Gladstone’s new Family Stepping Stones Relief Nursery.  We reinvigorated career/technical education programs and facilities in high schools and community colleges.  School facilities are better because we reformed the “double majority” election requirement, amended the Constitution to allow state K-12 capital funding, and authorized construction excise fees so new housing developments help fund school facilities.  Clackamas Community College won big with state funding to build the Allied Health Center, a second workforce building at the Harmony Campus, and enhanced workforce development facilities.  We increased college financial aid by 72% and allowed greater flexibility for Oregon universities.  Tragically, the 2011 Legislature reversed our positive progress on K-12 and community college funding, but 2013-15 holds greater promise.

You Can’t Get There from Here:  Transportation issues are amazingly controversial, but diligence pays off.  The historic Jobs and Transportation Act funded our new Sunrise Corridor Highway in Clackamas (after 30 years of talk, construction begins in 2013), the Jughandle project on Highway 213 in Oregon City, the new I-5 northbound lane near I-205, the added westbound lane on Highway 212 at 82nd Drive, and significantly increased state road funds to our county and cities.  We opened a new Amtrak stop in Oregon City, the MAX Green Line to Clackamas Town Center, and delivered $250 million for Portland-Milwaukie-Oak Grove light rail.  We created ConnectOregon to improve air, rail, and marine infrastructure. 

While Others Fight about Health Care, Oregon Leads:  Healthy Kids now provides health insurance to 90,000 uninsured children and 30,000 low-income adults (reducing the cost shift onto the rest of us), a highlight from my tenure as House Speaker.  We created a prescription drug bulk purchasing pool for seniors and the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange to reduce costs for small businesses and consumers.  After a decade trying, mental health parity now ensures mental health care is covered by insurance companies.  I also passed a law strengthening organ donor rights.  Oregon now leads our nation in health care reform.

Prevention is Cheaper than Punishment:  After 15 years of drastic cuts to Oregon State Police, we restored 24/7 highway coverage.  We led America by successfully cracking down on methamphetamines and metal theft.  I authored two new laws to prevent drunk driving by requiring offenders to install ignition interlock devices.  We protected child abuse funding and changed the domestic violence funding formula so services in our county get a fairer share.  We’ve begun to shift greater resources to crime prevention.

Whiskey is for Drinking, Water is for Fighting:  Environmental issues are often hard fought in the Legislature.  But win/win solutions can be achieved: helping businesses and homes become energy efficient, passing Ballot Measure 49 to bring greater balance to land use laws, and modernizing Oregon’s Bottle Bill.  New renewable energy and low carbon fuel standards will improve air quality.  Wave energy investments are creating jobs.  And we increased protections for Oregon fish and sportfishermen by cracking down on California sea lions at Willamette Falls.

Freedom Isn’t Free:  I was honored to serve on the first Veterans Committee in 50 years.  We funded new Veterans Service Officers across Oregon, doubling local services.  We passed a renter’s tax credit for low-income veterans and returning soldiers and a property tax exemption for disabled vets.  We expanded educational opportunities, created a second Veterans Home, increased transportation services, and created an emergency fund for military families.  We enabled service members to more easily vote in elections, even when stationed in a war zone.

There is Waste, But It’s Not All Waste:  Two recessions during the past 10 years have required major budget cuts and agency streamlining.  We created Oregon’s first Rainy Day Fund to protect services during recessions – and a pro-active review of tax breaks each biennium.  Campaign finance reforms increased transparency, ethics laws were strengthened, and “double majority” reform enabled local voters to fairly pass local measures.  Under my leadership, we reduced the legislative budget and the length of legislative sessions, while increasing productivity and public access.

Live by the Golden Rule:  We have a moral responsibility to serve needy Oregonians.  We made progress by expanding farmer’s market vouchers for low-income families and seniors, providing more school breakfasts and lunches, more summer meals for hungry kids, and Oregon Project Independence for seniors at home.  Amidst the greatest recession in our lifetime, Oregon took bold action to protect critical services.

Clackamas Deserves our Fair Share:  Part of my job is standing up for our county’s unique needs.  In addition to dramatically increasing infrastructure investments here, I worked with community leaders to author laws protecting unincorporated areas from unwanted annexation.  We eliminated spiritual beliefs as a defense for refusing health treatment for children.  We re-opened the Government Camp Rest Area on Highway 26.  Clackamas County has finally begun receiving our fair share.

Families Bear the Brunt:  Families of candidates and elected officials endure lots of collateral damage.  I’m deeply grateful to my incredible wife and kids – and families of all public servants.

Staff Facilitate Success:  I’ve been blessed with amazing staff who’ve enabled us to achieve so much.  Legislative staffers are unsung heroes.

Constituents Count:  Your input and feedback has been vital.  Based on ideas from your e-mails, letters, calls, surveys, and over 100 Town Hall Meetings, we’ve accomplished a lot for our community and state.

Did we accomplish everything during the past ten years?  No.

Did you agree with every vote or action I took?  No.  (My wife didn’t either.)

Did we leave Oregon and Clackamas County better off than 10 years ago?  Yes.

But we’re not there yet.  Please stay actively engaged in the legislative process by working closely with my amazing successors:  newly-elected Reps. Brent Barton (Gladstone, Jennings Lodge, Johnson City, and Oregon City), Shemia Fagan (Clackamas and Happy Valley), and Jeff Reardon (North Clackamas and Happy Valley) and returning Rep. Carolyn Tomei (Milwaukie and Oak Grove).  They will serve us well.

I’ve learned so much representing you in the Oregon House of Representatives during this decade.  Thank you for the honor and privilege!


Dave Hunt has represented Clackamas County in the Oregon House of Representatives since 2002, including service as Democratic Leader, Majority Leader, and Speaker of the House.  He previously served on the Oregon City School Board and is Executive Director of the Association of Pacific Ports.

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