Advice to divided Legislature from former lawmaker

A guide to success as a legislator
By Hon. Gary Wilhelm
Former Oregon Republican Leader in the House

1.) Remember the Golden Rule.
2.) When in doubt, vote no.
3.) Doing nothing is an option.
4.) Never say never.
5.) Make the decision.
6.) Your word is your bond.
7.) Be able to communicate in 30 seconds.
8.) Use discretion in how often you speak.
9) It’s the taxpayers’ money.
10) Respect the legislative process.
11) You’re on the air.
12) Say yes or say no.
13) Face to face communication is best.
14) One person, one vote.
15) Summer begins in June.
16) Bipartisanship, not non-partisanship.
17) The legislature is an equal branch of government.
18) Be an active member of your caucus.
19) Don’t over-meet.
20) Know the Governor.
21) Know the Rules.
22) Don’t forget your family.
23) Take care of your health.
24) Be patient.
25) Perception is reality whether you like it or not.
26) Listen.
27) It’s not a business and it won’t run like one, but good business principles can be used.
28) The lobbyist’s first concern is their client, not you.
29) Politics happens in the State Capitol.
30) The final product is usually more important than how you get there.

  • John in Oregon

    Here are a few more.

    31] Have some principals and values to live by and stand by them.
    32] When we don’t have the money, say we don’t have the money.
    33] Speak the truth.
    34] Don’t hide spending in the next legislature’s budget.
    35] Don’t put the crap in the other guy’s pocket.
    36] Frame the debate properly. Raising taxes are not tax cuts.
    37] Don’t kick the can down the road.
    38] Don’t use weasel speak to tar the other side.
    39] When we don’t have the money, say we still don’t have the money.
    40] When they use weasel speak call them on it.
    41] Act like an adult.
    42] There is on Bipartisan compromise between right and wrong.
    43] The legislature is the employee and not the ruling class.
    44] The people pay the bills.
    45] Less is often more.
    46] For every new law, get rid of two old and useless laws.
    47] Cut the number of administrative rules.
    48] When no one knows quite what a rule means, get rid of it.
    49] When we don’t have the money, we still don’t have the money.
    50] Let the people decide how to live, being elected to the legislature is not being elected to be mommy or daddy.
    51] Government can’t fix everything, often it can’t fix anything.
    52] Most problems are the result of a previous Government fix.
    53] When a rule can be interpreted for some one way and others another that rule has no meaning.
    54] Arrogance is best left in the dictionary.
    55] We still don’t have the money.

  • Anonymous

    (not going to number these because by the time I am done someone else might post)

    – If it ain’t broke, leave it the hell alone instead of trying to “fix” it.

    – It’s not that we shouldn’t try to improve everything. We just need to prioritize, and there is no point investing a lot of time and energy trying to perfect an already good law when the state is going down in flames.

    – Everything you do costs ME money.

    – If it takes away liberty, freedom, property, personal accountability, personal responsibility, or is generally a restriction on anything, you had damn well better be sure it is vital and narrowly tailored to be the least burdensome solution to a specific problem.

    – If you would personally object to me coming into your house and imposing a similar value upon you, your family, your property or your lifestyle, think how it feels when you do it to me. And remember that you have the police and the department of revenue making it worse.

    – If you have to choose between doing what is right and doing what will help you get re-elected, do what is right. Because we are watching you now, and what you think will help you get re-elected might actually backfire.

    – Everything you do will affect every Oregonian, so you had better be able to explain to every Oregonian. You need to be able to issue one single policy statement that makes sense to your grandmother, your grandchild, your doctor, your lawyer, your plumber, and the person who sold you your coffee this morning.

    – You as a legislator have the final say on every rule that every agency produces. If the agency has rules that you don’t like, that is YOUR fault, not the agency’s.

    – You as a legislator are subject to the Constitutions of Oregon and the United States. If you think even for a moment your law might be in conflict with either document, stop what you are doing and start over. Don’t try to justify why a questionable law may be constitutional. If there is doubt, you wrote it poorly.

  • Wayne Brady

    John has some good additions. I particularly like 31, 34, 46, 47, 52, and 53.

  • Sol668

    here’s my suggestion for Democrats in the legislature

    1. Realize conservatives are not honest partners in our desire to improve oregon
    2. Realize conservatives seek to destroy their political opponents, politically economically socially
    3. Realize conservatives do not compromise
    4. Realize when conservatives speak of bipartisanship, they mean giving into their desires

    • Anonymous

      This is all exactly what liberals have been doing for years. The time has come to give up the useless name calling and bickering and positioning for power and try to actually FIX THIS BROKEN STATE for a change.

      • Sol668

        Really? As I’ve seen democrats nationally and locally bend over backwards to appease conservatives….for 30 years…and where have your tax cuts wars, and “deregulation” got us?

        Well in rural oregon it means 20% unemployment, and in the willamette valley it means the greatest wealth inequity in our history

        your “fix” seems to be lower wages, less security in retirement, less healthcare, a degraded environment…..

        So when you say “FIX THIS BROKEN STATE” what you mean is, fix the problems the wealthy have in concentrating every more in ever fewer hands

        • Steve Plunk

          Sol, That 20% unemployment can be laid at the feet of a Dem controlled congress and the President. The uncertainty they have foisted upon business is creating a climate of fear when it comes to investment and hiring. Your socialist rant has no basis in fact. Bring more to the table next time.

          • a retired professor

            Yeah, right, Obama was President when the economy almost cracked up that’s why the voters turned to McCain and Palin and ousted the Democrats from Congress.

            Oops, that was September 2008.

            True, there is not much confidence in the Democrats. There is no reason for confidence in anyone.

          • Steve Plunk

            Professor, The economy cracked for a variety of reasons. The housing bubble created by the Community Reinvestment Act, the oil shock, natural business cycle, and who knows what else. Funny thing is the TARP money was Bush’s program and it’s almost paid back completely. I can’t help but think the impending election of Obama was also to blame for business hunkering down and precipitating a slowdown. My opinion of course but based upon facts and observations.

            You’re certainly correct when saying we should have no confidence in either party. Neither has done anything completely right for at least a generation. It’s always been a lesser of evils choice but that the nature of government. Ours isn’t perfect but it’s still the best.

          • eagle eye

            Interesting that among all the causes of the financial calamity, you don’t mention greed-crazed financial industry millionaires (and billionaires), reckless banking practices, conflict of interest ridden financial institutions — unless all that is supposed to fit into “who knows what else.”

            And it’s been said here before, it’s laughable to say that the financial industry “paid back” the TARP loans. They paid them back with free money printed by the evil government. We paid for recapitalizing them in the form of having lousy returns on our deposits and investments. That might even help account for the troubles PERS is having. And also the trouble business is having getting loans. (The big banks would rather loan it to the government for a guaranteed return.)

            The financial crisis is actually an argument for a return to sound, “conservative” banking practices — limited leveraging, regulation of risk, breakup of big institutions, regulation of destructive speculative financial instruments.

          • Steve Plunk

            Eagle that’s short on specifics to say the least. How does printing money pay back TARP? Greed crazed? That’s just leftist nonsense. Sure there was some greed but no more than a public employee unions greed or the greed of connected politicians.

            I might agree with your last paragraph but what exactly in my post is incorrect?

          • eagle eye

            The problem with your post was that it left out the role of the greed-crazed “private” financiers in bringing on the near-economic calamity (which was averted only by action of the bad old government).

            It’s been explained here before who really paid for TARP and why it hasn’t been “paid back” in any meaningful sense. Anyone who has money in a money market fund can understand it: we get reduced (or zero) interest on our savings; the financial institutions “loan” it to the federal government in return for Treasury notes, on which they get decent interest. The profits from this deal they use to “pay back” the TARP loans. In effect, the government is giving them money which they then use to pay off their loans.

            Nice deal if you can get it. Try it next time you need a loan for your truck company.

            As for who is greedier: you’ll never convince me that a janitor making $22K working for the state is as greedy as a banker making $22M working for a giant financial institution that has been bailed out by us.

            It seems to me only someone with an obsessive hatred of governement workers could think as you do.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Actually I think your attitude is spot on, and frankly would be helpful.

      Liberals took your approach in congress and thus we had the historic turnover in the house. Your approach took a party that was decimated two years ago, Republicans, and handed them the majority in the House, increased numbers in the Senate and ended the Democrats super majority in Salem.

      Republicans did absolutely nothing, but waltzed right into the House solely because of your approach.

      Thank you.

  • eagle eye

    Mr. Wilhelm looks like a good guy. A Republican who could win Oregon, unlike most.

    I would add: a sense of humor helps smooth a lot of rough things! Could use more of that in Oregon.

  • valley p

    When in doubt vote no seems to contradict never say never. And anyway, shouldn’t one always have a smidgen of doubt?

    Being able to communicate in 30 seconds is great, but sometimes issues are more complex than can be properly communicated in 30 seconds. And most issues also require greater depth of thinking than 30 secs, so I hope My Wilhelm accounts for that.

    Say yes or say no? There is never a “perhaps if” in there?

    Summer begins in June? Maybe in California.

    Beyond that, good advice, but I’m searching for something that invovles respecting the opposition and being willing to settle for less than 100% of what one wants.

  • SOL668

    So much for “personal Responsibility” huh, just blame the democrats

  • SOL668

    Really? from my perspective the democrats bent over backwards to appease and compromise with the GOP, with no dramatic departure from the status quo….a GOP dedicated as their first priority to seeing obama fail of course.

    And you enjoyed great success in pinning the outcomes of 30 years of your trickle down policies on obama, sadly for you this didn’t work on the west coast

  • SOL668

    So much for “personal responsibility” looks like its alot easier to just to pin rural conservative oregonians abject failure on the democrats isn’t it?

    • Anonymous

      As a friend put it — originally from another country, who had lived in several countries, and who owned a farm in rural Lane County — after he decided to move to Colorado — the rural Oregonians are the most stuck in the mud, unimaginative, stubborn bunch he ever knew.

      I actually think some of them are not like that — the wine industry a major exception — and rural Oregon probably is hampered somewhat by the land use laws — not nearly as much as all the complainers think.

      But he has a point. 20% unemployment is quite an achievement, not easy to do.

      • Sol668

        I like rural oregonians, I may be a progressive born in portland but I lived in sisters, bend, my family is from klamath falls…and conservatives do have legitimate gripes, over environmental issues, but in general we’ve tried to work with them..its for this reason, that more board feet of lumber were cut in 2007 before the economy collapsed then in 1989 before the spotted owl issue….but too often conservatives seek only to blame, and call names (lazy liberal)…well in portland when your conservative “free trade” outsourced our blue collar union jobs that used to provide living wages….we innovated, we went green we went open source, and NO portlands employment isn’t GREAT…but we did something, and as such our unemployment is HALF of 20%

        And what the conservatives here on oregon cataylist don’t get, is that the blue parts of Oregon are way more BLUE, then the red parts are RED…what works for them nationally isn’t going to work for them here

      • valley p

        “Pres W Bush did not Veto one bill…”

        He had a Republican Congress that did his bidding, so no need to veto. When the Dems took over Congress, he did veto or threaten to. And nothing wrong with that. Its in the constitution for a reason.

        “Democrats, even if we were forced to give our ENTIRE paycheck to the Gov’t and depended on uncle sam for all of our Medical, Housing, Food, energy and transportation needs – Socialism, is that really how you want to live? Really?”

        The answer is no, and I don’t know a single Democrat who is proposing this. We are proposing that you (conservatives) accept the reality that there is a role for government, that it is pretty much as it has been for decades, and that it is time we actually paid for what we are getting.

  • Anon

    Bottom line…Socialism does not work and capitalism does when following the rule of law.

    The U.S.S.R., Cuba and Europes’ control of the peoples lives with high taxation & rationing does not work. Even Communist China has seen this and their new acceptance of capitalism and the resulting prosperity is proof.

    The Republicans DID compromise with the Dem.s.

    Pres W Bush did not Veto one bill and even agreed to the multi-Trillion dollar Medicare prescription law. The economy went under NOT because of a free market society but because some got away with breaking the law and hurt our economy.

    Yet Socialists/Democrats hurt us as well with their – ANYONE can now get a home loan plan and we are paying the price for that to this day.

    Capitalism made us the Wealthiest and the most envied & most powerful Nation on earth, not massive and expensive Government entitlement programs for primarily the lazy and the weak.

    The policies of our Democrat owned Congress for many years and for the last 2 years, a 100% Socialist Pres. (can’t really blame him he doesn’t understand anything else), and the resulting massive growth in Debt and persistent high unemployment, should be enough PROOF to you Dem.s/Liberals that Socialsim does not work. It didn’t for the ussr and others and it never will.

    I WORKED FOR THAT PAYCHECK, it belongs too me! Why should I be forced to give it to Big Brother, who is completely unaccountable & irresponsible in it’s spending?!

    Democrats, even if we were forced to give our ENTIRE paycheck to the Gov’t and depended on uncle sam for all of our Medical, Housing, Food, energy and transportation needs – Socialism, is that really how you want to live? Really?

    You can only rob Peter to pay for Paul until Peter has nothing left to steal from dummy!

    • Steve Plunk

      Well said. Capitalism has created more wealth, for more people, and done so much to improve the human condition I can’t figure out why so many hate it. Sure it needs tweaks now and then but the underlying foundation is solid.

      • Rick Hickey

        Thank you Steve!

        Valley P…You do not know one Dem that wants full tilt Socialism, more and more of our paycheck, really?

        Medical…Obamacare-Gov’t control, all of us FORCED to buy, our helath care and Yes a Dem in Oregon wants all of us to have free care cradle to grave, OHP healthy kids is Free for families making $65K a yr. free gov’t “Medical” clinics in low income schools, Free gov’t Medical clinics for low income adults everywhere and a taxpayer provided “Cultural” competency person at each location because mostly Illegals get this.

        Housing…Dem.s Anyone can get a home loan started much of this, Farmworkers subsidized housing for those that have a job, tens of thousands of residents here get big brother housing & Gov’t help with dummies with bad mortages. CHICAGO just destroyed over 70 acres of “Public Housing”, because it does NOT work.

        Food…over 50 Million on food stamps, one in five Oregonians rely on big borther groceries, a big increase in the last 2 years, while we are under Dem.s control of all branches of gov’t. and gov’t cheese 🙁

        Energy, Transportation…Light Rail, Million dollar Bike lanes, high-speed $100 Mil. a mile Trains in Wisc., Ohio, etc. forced down our throat by DEMocrats Valley P. And pitiful eletric cars forced on us while PGE is forced to close their largest source of energy- Coal. Destroy Private industry for energy by not allowing off shore or anwar oil rigs. Meanwhile my energy bills at home have a “Public Purpose” or “Needy Citizens” TAX added i’m forced to pay via Liberals/Dem.s

        Valley P, I do not know of any Dem that doesn’t want us to give them our whole PAYCHECK and live only with Big Brothers “Help”. This IS why they just got fired. I thought you were a little smarter than that, guess not.

        ps, Capitalism, conducted under the rule of law, has proven thru history to be the most beneficial for all people. Socialism has never worked and is only applied by Big Brother forcing it down our throats.

        Republicans just like to have CHOICES in life, we call it Freedom silly Liberals/Democrats.

        • valley p

          “Valley P…You do not know one Dem that wants full tilt Socialism, more and more of our paycheck, really?”

          Those are 2 separate questions Rick. To the first part, the answer is no, I do not know a single Democrat or liberal who wants full tilt socialism. To the second part, it depends on which income bracket you are in. If you are in the lower 90th percentile, then no, we don’t want more of your paycheck. If you are one of the fortunate few, then yes, we think you should chip in more.

          Obamacare is a middle of the road program that relies on private for profit insurance companies. Most Democrats I know don’t like it, and favored other options,including a government run insurance plan allowing people to simply buy into Medicare (their choice, not mandated.)

          The reason people are being forced to buy in is precisely due to the insistence of private for profit insurance companies, who would have scuttled the project otherwise. Go talk to them.

          “Valley P, I do not know of any Dem that doesn’t want us to give them our whole PAYCHECK and live only with Big Brothers “Help”.

          Well then you don’t know any Democrats. You may know some aging Socialists. I live as independent of government help as anyone, down to growing most of our own food and chopping our own firewood. I think your characterization of what Democrats want is pure BS. We accept the reality of a big government as a price of modern living. And yes, this includes rail transport, bicycle lanes, social security, Medicare, environmental regulations, and measures to slow down global warming. We support government doing these things because the private sector can’t or won’t. It would rather pollute the commons to boost profits. But none of this adds up to 100% government control. Not even close.

          Capitalism within a democratic governance, tempered by regulation and a strong social safety net, has been most beneficial to people. When regulation is eased, we get financial crashes, pollution, and festering social problems. Capitalists unfortunately need a baby sitter, and the bigger capitalists get the bigger, smarter, and tougher the baby sitter has to get. So your big government problem is a direct result of your big capitalism success story. Learn to accept the tradeoff.

    • S0l668

      Capitalism is a complete failure, how do we know? Look around, not one nation on earth embraces your sociopathy masquarading as an ideology….we have SS medicare medicaid, and a whole host of social programs, because the “free market” failed the american people

      A return to the policies of the past can only produce the same conditions that produced the motivation for reform in the first place.

  • Rob DeHarpport

    Mr. Wilhelm’s list should be given to every State Senator and Representative, and a copy of the US Constitution as well. I can think of several books that should be required reading also…

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Are you ok Sol668?

    The zany mid sentence all caps thing is par for the course, however the stream of consciousness paragraph long run on sentences talking about Portland going “open source” is kind of kooky.

    this is especially so when about half of your posting on this thread is a bunch of blanket statements about conservatives when you are trying to make the case that only conservatives call names.

    Might want to take it easy on that fair trade coffee.

    Switch to Sanka maybe?

    Just a thought.

    • SOL668

      Typical of the sneering sociopathy and singular self absorbtion you think passes for an ideology, I know you need these petty little criticisms to enforce the only thing your ideology has to offer

      A psycological crutch for losers to accept the status quo without question