558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Oregon Representative Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) came to Prineville Perk on Friday Morning last week. He later held a town hall at Meadow Lakes Restaurant.
In a town hall meeting in Prineville Friday, Oregon Representative Mike McLane emphasized that PERS reform is the most contentious issue in the current Legislative session.
“It is emotional, but in the end, my goal is to step back, and say look, you guys, let’s just look at the math,” said McLane.
He doesn’t believe that they will have a fix, and he is afraid that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber will call then into special session to fix the budget.
“I’m not looking forward to that, because we could do it right now,” he emphasized.” If every side locks into their position, I think the Governor would probably call us into special session which would leave us in Salem until we figure it out, which could be long special sessions, which nobody wants.”
Second to the budget, McLane (R-Powell Butte) addressed a number of house bills, including several gun control bills that have received hearings. He also explained to the audience the journey of a bill, from the time it is submitted. McLane fielded a number of questions from an audience of approximately 40 local residents.
The forum was conducted at Meadow Lakes, after McLane made a guest appearance at the weekly Prineville Perk, put on by the Crook County-Prineville Chamber of Commerce. Prineville Perk is hosted by a different business each week. He joined other residents throughout the community at State Farm Insurance for coffee and cinnamon rolls.
Geographically speaking, McLane represents one of the largest districts in Oregon, but it is also one of the most rural. The three largest cities are Prineville, La Pine and Shady Cove.
‘Those are the three largest cities,” commented McLane. “After that, it is Chiloquin and a lot of towns that are under 1,000 people — so we are a small district (city-wise).
In addition to representing District 55, McLane has also served this term as the House Republican Minority Leader. He explained that in the Legislature, they do their work by committees. When they submit a bill, the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate assigns that to a committee.
‘The first level of politics, if you will, is what committee does the bill go to?”
Once in committee, the chairs have to give it hearing, if at all. From there, it goes from a public hearing to a work session.
“There are about 3,000 bills introduced, maybe more, so far. Of those, they all get assigned. Some of them get public hearings. Of the ones that get public hearings, some of them get work sessions.”
McLane said at this point of the Legislature, many bills are getting killed, and lines are being drawn. It is currently a very partisan environment. He added that the system actually works well to weed out bills that are backed by agendas.
“It’s an interesting, interesting system, and it works well in this regard,” he added. “When there are emotional and/or vindictive bills that are introduced, that system has a way of weeding them out. By the time something gets through that system, it has been bedded.”
He went on to say that even when there is one party in charge, and they run a bill that is really partisan, there are plenty of times for the minority party to raise a ruckus.
“The system has a way of leveling and ratcheting down the emotion and making something more palatable.”
McLane pointed out that of three gun bills that were introduced, three received hearings, including House Bill 3114, which would authorize public universities, the Oregon Health and Science University, or community college districts to prohibit possession of firearms on campus, including those who possess a valid CHL.
McLane was adamant that he thought House Bill 3200 was outrageous. This bill would make it a crime of unlawful possession or transfer of assault weapon or large capacity magazine.
It would be punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both. It would require current owners to dispose of or register assault weapons and large capacity magazines.
According to the summary that was introduced to the Legislature, the Department of State Police would be allowed to conduct background checks and maintain registry of assault weapons and large capacity magazines.
“Obviously, a lot of us had a problem with that,” he noted. “That (bill) does not have a hearing, but the Legislature is not over yet.”
McLane is also on the budget committee. He addressed budget issues with the audience.
“The budget basically is two sides, revenue and expenses. On the expense side, we are debating reform to the retirement system in Oregon — the public pension system (PERS).
“In the PERS retirement system, if you entered government today, your benefit system is not the system that is crippling state government.”
He explained that the service requirement is escalating, and there was a period of time when a lot of bad decisions were made in regards to PERS, and a lot of promises were made that may need to be changed.
He added that many local government entities have as much as 27 percent of their dollars dedicated to PERS, and some universities may be as high as 45 percent in three years. McLane emphasized that these were estimates, however.
“When you have a flat market or a market downturn, and then you have a guaranteed rate — like we do in Oregon of 8 percent returns, we are just going in the hole.”
McLane also fielded some questions from the audience, including resident Pete Sharp, who questioned the lease of private lands by Oregon Fish and Wildlife for hunting rights. Sharp questioned whether it was good use of taxpayer money for enormous amounts being paid to landowners for fencing in these areas.
McLane responded that Oregon and Fish and Wildlife is working with private landowners to provide more access for hunting to the public.
“It increases the footprint of what is useable,” said McLane.
He added that he doesn’t justify paying large amounts for things like fencing if that is taking place.
The current Oregon Legislative session will conclude in June 2013.
“I always point out that, when it comes to the Legislative Session, Democrats are often our political opponents, but they are not our enemies,” said McLane. “We are all Oregonians, and our job is to help govern and make legislation as best that we can. Unfortunately, when you have party who controls it, it means that all the committees are chaired by Democrats.”