Rep. Richardson: Legislative Week in Review

This past week has been like no other. On Monday the world witnessed the tragedy at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. On Tuesday Oregon witnessed the passage of Domestic Benefits for same-sex couples (HB 2007) and Civil Rights based on sexual orientation. I will address each of these issues below and end will a postscript on last week’s Rachel story.

Reflections on Virginia Tech Tragedy

We mourn with the families, friends and fellow Americans with the loss of the 33 students, facility and staff killed by the Virginia Tech madman. Words cannot express the shock and grief our nation, and in fact, the entire world felt on April 16, 2007.

A Chinese friend emailed her regrets and condolences from the People’s Republic of China for the loss of the Virginia Tech students. She asked what might be done to keep guns away from such madmen. I explained to her in my opinion if violent killers, such as this madman, had no guns available to them, they would accomplish their vicious goals using some other means–explosives, deadly poisons, chemicals or otherwise. Such isolated acts of extreme violence are a sad commentary on the deprived level to which our society has devolved.

Although there is nothing I can do about what occurred in Blacksburg, Virginia, there are a couple of notes, principles and lessons from the Virginia Tech incident I thought I would share with you.

Note: Thirty-two innocent people woke up on the morning of April 16, 2007. Each of them got up, got dressed and began their day, just like every other day. For those thirty-two people–although they had no way of knowing–it was their last day on earth.
Principle 1: No matter how routine a person’s life may seem to be, unforeseeable disasters can occur anytime.
Lesson: Live life as if every day may unexpectedly be your last”¦one day it will.
Lesson: Forgive everyone and keep silent the criticisms that sting those who you love; express your love everyday through word, touch and service.

Note: Virginia Tech student Jason Joseph stated after the massacre, “It’s pretty shocking, to be honest.” He went on to say, “It’s not like our school’s dangerous. There’s always this sense of security … I didn’t feel like I was in any sense of danger.”
Principle 2: No matter how secure you might feel, in a free society the government cannot always protect the innocent from violent or deranged people.
Lesson: Make and implement a plan to ensure your ability for self-protection.
Final thought: A Salt Lake City newspaper told of a Utah co-ed who was asked if the Virginia Tech massacre made her feel insecure on her Utah college campus. She said she felt secure to know many of her [veteran, law enforcement and other] classmates had concealed-carry permits and were armed. (In Virginia it is illegal for students to be armed on campus; the only person with a gun was the shooter. If the madman had started shooting on a Utah campus, it is likely there would have been fewer casualties, and the shooter’s death would not have been by suicide.)

Aftermath of House Bill 2007 and Senate Bill 2

On April 17, 2007, after a long House Floor debate, House Bill 2007 and Senate Bill 2 were passed by the Democrats after broad and serious opposition from House Republicans. House Bill 2007 passed the House with a 34 to 26 vote. H.B. 2007 creates “Domestic Partnerships,” and states the following:

“Any privilege, immunity, right or benefit granted”¦because the individual is”¦married”¦is granted on equivalent terms”¦to an individual because the individual is”¦in a domestic partnership.”
(H.B. 2007 Section (9) (1))

Thus, whether you support or oppose the concept, Oregon’s Domestic Partnerships truly are marriage by another name. HB 2007 was presented as an “anti-discrimination” bill. In fact, it creates a special class of beneficiaries by giving the benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples, while depriving those same rights from non-gay and lesbian couples, such as two adult sisters who live together, or a mother who lives with her adult child. In sum, HB 2007 creates special rights for a politically powerful minority, while discriminating against others in similar co-dependent circumstances.

House Bill 2007 now goes to the Senate for hearings, debate and a vote. The Governor is anxious to sign the bill and create Domestic Partnerships for “qualifying” couples. Senate Bill 2 passed the House by a 35 to 25 vote and is on its way to the Governor’s pen. S.B. 2 elevates “Sexual Orientation” to the same protected “civil rights” status as race and religion. The bill defines “Sexual Orientation” as follows:

“Sexual orientation” means an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity, regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth. (Senate Bill 2, Section 1, para. 6)

This is a broad and uncertain definition. Since it provides government enforcement power against those accused of discriminating because of “perceived” homosexuality, appearance, expression and behavior SB 2 will have far-reaching consequences. During the floor debate many instances of unintended consequences of SB 2 were proposed by the bills opponents, and the courts ultimately will be called on to sort them out. I believe there will be societial anomalies to deal with as well as the legal ones. In the years ahead, I believe SB 2 will result in a small minority of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) activists imposing their lifestyles and views of behavior on an unwilling majority in Oregon’s schools, work places, and eventually in all aspects of our society. When it comes to political strategy and maneuvering, the GLBT activists have certainly been successful in moving forward their political agenda.

Follow up on Rachel’s Story

I received many email responses to last week’s newsletter that contained Rachel’s story on hospital double-billing practices and an insurance company’s apathy regarding them.

Several of the emails contained similar situations of erroneous billing practices experienced by others. Rachel’s story was given merely to show there exists a systemic problem in the health system–one of many that drains much needed revenue from the health care system.

During the Legislative interim I heard testimony from an independent auditor of hospital bills in Washington State. She told our committee that in Washington State 70-80% of the audited hospital bills contained over-charges. I have no data on which to base an estimate regarding Oregon hospital billings.

I remain committed to researching, revealing and reforming government inefficiencies whenever and wherever possible. Such oversight must include situations where government assets may be overspent.

This session Oregon hospitals and health insurance companies have been very cooperative in joining coalitions for making information more open and available for citizens and patients. I believe transparency is the first step toward ensuring our government is being run more efficiently, more effectively and more economically.

Dennis Richardson
State Representative