The “less is more” lesson learned
by the new legislator-Representative Sherrie Sprenger
I have always been leery of too much government interference. Living in the heart of the rural Willamette Valley, the stories are many and they are very real to the people I call my neighbors: Stories of overwhelming government regulation, infringement on property rights, and too many taxes with the low margins of farming, logging and mom and pop businesses.
Yet, I know there is an important role for government.
I am a former county deputy sheriff and understand that personal freedoms are taken advantage of by criminals that invade our homes and our lives and that our local, county and state law enforcement is important in ensuring that a price is paid and that there are real consequences. I know that there is a role for public schools. Though they are not and should not be the only option available to parents, they are one important option in a menu of parents’ choices. And I know that there are some services the state needs to provide, especially to our children, to ensure they get a good start in life and have a chance at being positive members of society.
I took this point of view with me when I became a State Representative on Friday afternoon, was being sworn in on Monday morning and voting on the floor of the Oregon House by Monday afternoon. I was ready to take the stories, experiences, ideas and concerns from my district and turn them into good legislation.
And then there was the reality check. Along comes HB 3631; it was referred to as “the Toy Bill” and it was about pulling recalled Chinese toys off of store shelves; a good idea, right? Wow, my first week on the job, and this seems as easy as “motherhood & apple pie.”
“But, wait there’s more!” The way the bill was originally written, small businesses in my district and throughout the state could be potentially devastated by one honest, but mistaken, phrase. The language was intended to expedite the removal of the recalled toys, but it unintentionally set up lots of unsuspecting small stores to be sued, big time! I thought of Audie and Marion who own the local feed store, where I buy feed and my son plays with the small display of toys they have. They and other small businesses would have been unfairly impacted.
So, I had to vote “No” on the first Toy bill because it was the right thing to do. Fortunately, when the bill returned to the House floor with new wording, the positive outweighed the negative and I voted “Yes.”
While this was a lesson learned, it goes back to my deep rooted concern over government interference and my philosophy that more government is not the answer for all things. As a legislator, that means serving as the watchdog for the taxpayer, especially those in my district, and living within our means, not creating new taxes. It means preventing bad legislation from becoming a law and having the common sense and courage to make changes or vote no all together. Sometimes the “no” vote can be the most important one to take.
The key here is to keep that fresh perspective by remaining close to the people. For years I have worked side by side with people in my district solving problems together. I intend to be that kind of Representative too. A Representative of the people, not of government.