Senior Staff Writer
A little over a week into the 2019 legislative session, the Republican legislators representing most of Douglas County say they are building bridges to the members of the Democratic supermajority that now controls the state House and Senate. And they believe that approach will pay off for their Southern Oregon constituents.
State Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, said he has three top priorities, and all of them involve bringing money home to Southern Oregon. One is to obtain money to open an emergency room in Brookings, which doesn’t have one. Another is to increase funding for a planned veterans memory care home on the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus from about $11 million to about $16.5 million.
The final of his three top priorities is to gain financial support for a proposed Allied Health College in Roseburg. He said there’s still work to be done before those working on the project will know exactly what they need to ask from the legislature. However, he said they should get there in a month or two. It’s a project that will provide a valuable service and also help diversify the county’s jobs.
“If we’re going to start turning the community around over the next 10 years, we have got to get this done,” he said.
Heard said he’s tried to build relationships with the Democrats to help them better understand how Southern Oregonians see things, and the commonalities they share with the struggling areas in Portland. He said he avoids being antagonistic.
“On both sides, majority, minority, you have people who just love to antagonize the other side. I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. It’s not leadership to me, it’s politics,” he said.
Heard believes his approach has paid off, as he’s been appointed to the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which deals with how the legislature’s money is spent. He said it’s a big honor to be appointed to the committee as a young, first-term senator.
Heard has also been appointed to the Senate Human Services Committee and the Senate Education Committee. He said he’s particularly interested in promoting career and technical education programs, as well as financial literacy programs for K-12 students.
Leif has been appointed to two subcommittees of the Ways and Means Committee, one on public safety and the other on transportation and economic development. The latter committee approves about $15 billion of the $77 billion Oregon budget.
Leif is supporting bills this session that would allow off-highway vehicles to cross the road in places like Winchester Bay, restrict marijuana advertising and bar women under 21 years old from being exotic dancers. That final bill, he said, is connected to concerns about human trafficking.
Both Leif and Heard said they oppose gun control laws being proposed this session.
“I’m a Second Amendment supporter, lifetime NRA member, and so I am not supporting anything that I’m seeing so far!” Leif said in an email.
Heard said many of the restrictions proposed — including limits on the number of rounds that can be purchased, age restrictions for buying guns, and a requirement that guns be locked up at all times — amount to “an assault on freedom and liberty.”