Everyday citizens make their voices heard in Salem
While full-time lobbyists work hard behind the scenes to educate legislators on the effects of proposed laws, everyday citizens trying to make their voices heard are also a fixture at in Salem.
On Wednesday, 800 real estate agents — five percent of the total number of Realtors in Oregon — converged on the capitol to talk with representatives and senators about issues affecting home ownership.
While a massive white tent offering free lunch to capitol staff and lawmakers was set up across the street, creating the opportunity for casual conversations on the issues, eight real estate agents from Umatilla and Morrow counties also met with Representative Greg Smith (R-Heppner) and Senator Bill Hansell (R-Athena) to voice their support or opposition to several bills.
Suzi Frederickson, president of the Columbia Basin Board of Realtors, said they let the legislators know they supported HB2996 and SB849, which would allow first-time home buyers to put aside up to $50,000 over 10 years tax-free in order to save up for a downpayment. They also supported rebates for replacement of wood-burning stoves and low-interest loans for septic tank repairs, and talked about the need for legislation addressing the shortage of appraisers in the state. They opposed a bill that would make landlords pay up to $4,500 to tenants in no-cause evictions.
“According to Sen. Hansell this bill has failed, so we’re happy about that,” she said.
Frederickson said the Realtors’ annual day at the capitol is always interesting, and a good way to network.
On Wednesday citizens also traveled to the capitol to testify about various bills in front of committees. A busload of protesters from the Portland area also thronged the capitol steps, holding signs about the effects of homelessness under a giant banner reading “Oregon Families Need Rent Control.”
Free public online access to everything from bill amendments to video of committee hearings has made it easier than ever for the public to get involved in lobbying their legislators.
Katie Fast, director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, said that while lobbyists who know the system can be effective in educating legislators about an issue, lawmakers take seriously the concerns of their constituents who take the time to come to Salem, write a letter or make a phone call.
“They want to know what the thoughts are of the people back home,” she said. “A lot of times that’s more powerful than what I can do.”
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.