|Mid-County legislators tackle funding problems in Salem
Mid-Multnomah Countys state representatives and senators talk about challenges they face and goals they have set for themselves during this crucial legislative session
FOR THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Compared to last years five special sessions, filled with partisan bickering over budget number crunching, Mid-County democratic legislators are almost viewing the 2003 legislature as a gentle Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
We are learning to compromise without moving astray from our core values, said Dingfelder, whose 45th district goes from Northeast 21st Avenue to Northeast 141st Avenue and I-84 north to Killingsworth Street. Im enjoying the process and the people very much.
Both Merkley and Dingfelder noted court negation of term limits in Oregon have also helped. People realize they are going to be around longer and are making more efforts for respectful dialogue, said Merkley. There is more reason to invest in relationships when we are not leaving here due to term limits.
The Senate chamber has people who are working together remarkably well, said Sen. Frank Shields, whose senate district includes Merkleys house district and an area south into Clackamas County. With a membership tied at 15-15 for Republicans and Democrats and a shared leadership that finds Sen. Peter Courtney (D-Salem) as Senate president and Sen. Len Hannon (R-Ashland) as president pro tem, they are telling people to park their partisanship at the door and are really trying to work together.
Shields said his district has a high percentage of lower income, disabled, and retired individuals who are being hit particularly hard as the state goes through an unprecedented budget-cutting process in response to Oregons recession. Human services programs, like prescription drug coverage and long-term care, face ongoing pressure and threat of elimination as the state may have to cut $300 million more before June.
The same is true in Sen. Avel Gordlys adjacent Senate District (23), which includes the House districts of Dingfelder and Rep. Steve March, whose 46th district is bounded on the north by I-84, on the East by I-205, on the west along Southeast 60th Avenue and Foster Road, South to Ramona Street.
My districts problems are like the rest of the state, said March, noting the three key issues are education, health and safety. He recalled a recent visit to a nearby home for developmentally disabled where people were taking classes and getting vocational training to function in society. When Measure 28 failed, cuts to those services had been already spelled out in legislation from special session 5, not as these specific homes, but rather the funding for the department. March said he has requested those people be moved into nursing home settings, where services have not been cut and they have federally matched funding.
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