Rep. Drazan: Capitol becoming closed door, offline, predetermined politics

By House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby
This article provided by Oregon Transformation Newsletter.

As a mom of three teenagers, I have the opportunity to help my kids with their homework from time to time, especially while they are learning from home.

A few weeks ago, my daughter’s assignment in middle school was to read letters exchanged between Washington, Hamilton and Jefferson. Her objective was to analyze the impact that a diversity of opinion had within Washington’s cabinet and its effect on the future of the nation.

I found this exercise incredibly interesting, my daughter less so. But together we explored an extraordinary start to our nation. The battle of words between these men echo through our civic life, all these years later. Here in the Oregon Legislature, we experience not only a diversity of opinion but clashing views, competing values and divergent priorities within an environment marked by a profound imbalance of political power.

This session, almost more than any other, has exposed a supermajority set on abandoning good government for partisan bumper sticker politics. This is the environment in which I am serving my second term as state representative and my first as House Republican leader.

Last week, the speaker of the House and I exchanged our own letters – expressing our opinions on the state of the legislature and the actions needed to move forward.

Speaker Kotek,

I have received your letter detailing your approach to this unprecedented legislative session. I share your concern for maintaining public health and would add to that, a rising concern for the need to come together to heal and recover as a state and nation.

The Oregon Legislature is not alone in navigating our obligation to fulfill the people’s work while minimizing health risks. In fact, several states have implemented measures that reflect innovative management of the legislative process – focusing not only on masks and social distancing, but recognizing the inherent inadequacy of the policymaking process itself under these circumstances.

I went on to outline concerns for process as the supermajority pushes controversial legislation with a convincing disregard for compromise or bipartisan support:

Here in Oregon, the House is running a crushing number of committees and pushing controversial legislation that impacts and reshapes our energy markets, labor practices, business mandates, criminal penalties, public safety, land use laws, housing policies, tax and spending policy, constitutional rights and quality of life. These concepts, many of which are being drafted on the fly and pushed to work sessions, are moving through committees despite substantial opposition and without a willingness to compromise or work to build bipartisan support.

This is not authentic engagement. This is closed door, offline, predetermined outcomes, not to be confused with meaningful bipartisanship in a public process.

As long as the building is closed to the public and deeply controversial legislation continues to be fast-tracked in committees, we will continue to depend on the Constitution to remind the supermajority we should not operate like it’s business as usual while the public is shut out.

As might be expected, my letter did not have the intended result. We are no closer to compromise. Partisan legislation has not been abandoned. We are still reading bills in full on the House floor, waiting for the speaker to come to the table to meet. Unity and cooperation are not yet within our reach.

In fact, the Speaker responded in the media, calling my request for bipartisanship and compromise “a subversion of democracy.”

Hamilton, Jefferson and Washington’s letters and speeches pushed policies and principles to persuade hearts and minds, and to shape a country in the same way I want to reshape the legislature – an institution I respect within the state I love – all to restore balance and better serve people in a time of great need.

This is the point of public service. Directing our principles and ideals to operate in service to the people of our state and nation.

The Democrat supermajority is intent on adopting policies that don’t serve the greatest good. Their ideas, soon to be law, will change the face of our state, endanger public safety, infringe on constitutional rights and stifle opportunity.

As in the time of Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton, the stakes are high: freedom or oppression, opportunity or hopelessness, help or harm. It sounds like these big ideas couldn’t possibly be at risk each day the legislature is in session, but they are. The work we do in Salem impacts Oregonians and without balance in the legislature, without the ability to hold power to account, our bright future remains uncertain.

I vote yes when I can, no when I must. Without remorse or regret, I use every tool available to change outcomes and make a positive difference. I am not there to ease the passage of a political agenda that harms my neighbors and state. I am there to serve people, to stand in the gap, speak out, and do all I can to help as many as possible.

And through it all, offer hope.

This is a year for healing in our state and nation; a time to come together. It is not a time for deeply divisive, partisan legislation while the public is locked out of the building. Struggling Oregonians don’t deserve to be traumatized further. Instead, let’s give them hope.

I look forward to working with you to find a path forward and encourage you to work with us to not only protect public health but find common ground in the days and weeks ahead.

Christine Drazan
House Republican Leader