Umatilla County will have representation on 13 different legislative committees during the 2017 legislative session.
Committee assignments for the House and Senate released on Wednesday show Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner), Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove) and Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) serving on a total of 13 different committees that will help make policy and budget decisions for the state.
Committees, according to the Oregon Legislature’s website, are where “the majority of the work to shape legislation and public policy is done.” Small groups of legislators hear public testimony, study proposals in depth, craft budgets, make amendments and choose whether to table a measure or pass it on to the House or Senate floor for debate.
Smith was appointed by Speaker Tina Kotek to the House Revenue Committee, Joint Committee on Ways and Means (co-vice chair), Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on General Government (co-chair), Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction, Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization, Joint Committee on Tax Credits and the Legislative Administration Committee.
“What Oregon needs now are problem-solvers dedicated to finding the center-ground where we can craft a budget that works for all Oregonians,” Smith said in a statement. “A budget the business community can support, public employees can support, and a budget that supports Oregon families. Such a budget has been achieved in the past and can be done again.”
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means and its subcommittees review all bills with revenue attached and facilitate adoption of the biennium’s budget, meaning Smith’s appointments will put him in the center of Oregon’s budget conversations. The Subcommittee on General Government crafts the PERS agency’s budget and the Subcommittee on Capital Construction determines large state capital investments in projects such as the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center and Blue Mountain Community College’s Early Learning Center.
The Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization, meanwhile, will help craft the major transportation package the legislature hopes to pass in 2017.
Barreto was appointed to the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee, the House Business and Labor Committee (vice chair), House Rules Committee and House Transportation Policy Committee.
While Smith’s appointments will be focused on the budget-making side, Barreto’s appointments will allow him to have a voice in policy-making.
“We have a lot of work to do!” Barreto wrote in announcing his appointments on his official Facebook page.
The Transportation Policy Committee will also figure into the legislature’s transportation package discussion as the legislative body that reviews policy related to streets and roads, public transit and traffic safety.
Many of the legislature’s most controversial bills pass through the House Rules Committee, which is chaired by the House majority leader. The committee is the legislature’s last policy committee to close during the session and as such is used to make final amendments to bills near the end of the session.
The Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee examines all of the bills related to those issues, while the Business and Labor Committee will look at policy-setting bills affecting businesses across the state.
On the Senate side, Hansell was appointed by Senate President Peter Courtney to the Senate Workforce Committee, Senate Special Committee on Conduct, Joint Committee on Ways and Means, Transportation and Economic Development Subcommittee and Legislative Administration Committee.
Hansell said he was honored to be chosen to serve on those committees and is glad he is back on the Ways and Means Committee, which looks at any bill with revenue attached and therefore influences where money is spent in the state.
“It’s a very important committee,” Hansell said.
It’s the only committee that meets on Fridays, making it difficult for Hansell to make the 600 mile round trip to his district regularly, but with teleconferencing and encouraging constituents to call or email with any concerns he said he make everything work.
Most of the committees take hours of time per week, but Hansell said in his four years on the Special Committee on Conduct, which examines ethics violations filed against senators, has only met once.
Hansell said he is looking forward to serving for the first time on the Senate Workforce Committee, which looks at PERS-related bills and every Senate bill affecting businesses.
“I concur with (business owners) the legislature has not been very friendly in the last couple of sessions to small business, with the regulations put on them,” he said. “...I’m confident we’ll have a more balanced approach.”
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.