Before protestors attempted to enter the Oregon Capitol for the second time in recent weeks on Wednesday, the same day the nation’s Capitol was stormed, lawmakers got a heads up.
Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, said lawmakers received word that “the facilities folks strongly encourage people coming every day not to go in, and closed as much as they possibly could, including keeping out regular workers.”
As such, he was in Vale on Wednesday, he said during a phone interview on Thursday.
He was there during the special session in December, however, when protestors did breach the rotunda.
“It was a little harrowing,” he said of the experience. “But the Oregon State Police, Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Salem City Police Department did an incredible job in restoring order in short time.”
While it is concerning, Findley said he personally never felt threatened or in jeopardy at all because of the incredible police force, but added that shouldn’t be the case.”
“It’s a sad day now,” he said.
Findley completely and fully supports the First Amendment Rights for gathering to protest, saying it is “critical to a great democracy,” but added that the the “violence and lawbreaking has to stop.”
“It’s such a fine line, and can go from one to the other really quickly,” he said.
As many of his lawmaker colleagues expressed, Findley said he was happy to see the parties come together” to do what they set out and “not be bullied out.”
His hope is that this will help with reaching across the aisle.
“It became more bipartisan, and I hope we’ll all get to that point — that’s what we need to be doing,” Findley said.
While he doesn’t expect full support in everything he does as a lawmaker, he would like to listen, and have good, viable discussions.
“That is what makes our democracy: dialogue, discussion and consensus, as opposed to insurrection and anarchy,” the District 30 senator said.
Getting back to Salem
As for Oregon’s upcoming session, which starts Jan. 19 and is expected to wrap June 27, Findley said the first thing they have been trying to address is how to safely have a session that will invite people to have an opportunity for discussion, involvement and decision.
The Capitol has been closed to the public since March of 2020 he said. As such, it is difficult for people to “know what we’re talking about and provide input.”
A document with proposed rules was floated on Wednesday he said, adding that it was the work of a large bicameral group.
The 2021 Session Capitol Operations Plan was released to the public on Thursday afternoon.
Among the top issues he and his Senate colleagues will be considering are unemployment, housing and spending. Mentioning that the state “raised record revenue” in 2020, he said Oregon still has a spending problem. However, they deficit was eliminated in May because of the pandemic’s impact, Findley noted, due to some big businesses prospering.
On the other hand, he said, the hospitality industry is “closing doors all over the place,” and the landlord and rental industry is filing for bankruptcy at record level.”
In Malheur County and throughout District 30 he has talked to landlords and they are in distress over the large amounts of rent owed. The state’s latest program passed in December offers “very limited” help for those people, he said. The result is that “we’ve limited their income stream, but not the spending stream.”
“Housing is a huge issue and we are not making it easy on landlords.” he said.
Findley said he had multiple letters from landlords who were near retirement and invested in purchasing an apartment building or other rental property to retire on.
“Now they have no income, and their expenses are up,” he said.
Lawmakers will be sworn in on Monday, he said, and he and Rep. Mark Owens are gearing up for their first virtual town hall on Thursday.
“There are an endless number of issues to work on,” he said, adding that he heard Wednesday during a first reading in the Senate, that there are 800 bills on a list to be introduced in the coming legislative session.