Nearly three years ago lawmakers on both sides of the political fence joined together and spent 18 months canvassing Oregon to seek input on a billion-dollar plan to upgrade the state’s transportation system. Elected leaders visited just about every part of Oregon where they met with stakeholders and key community members. They then went back to Salem and crafted a sober, precise bill that, while it raised taxes, was very much a vehicle of the people.
The result was the passage of House Bill 2017, a massive transportation initiative.
Lawmakers should take a careful look at the process to get House Bill 2017 passed as they contemplate Oregon’s failed climate bill from most recent legislative session. Then they should copy that process and go back on the road to meet with the people of Oregon.
The climate bill ended up dominating the legislative session and eventually sparked a walkout by Republican lawmakers. There was criticism of the Republican move and threats by the governor to send the Oregon State Police out to find them. The bill created a tremendous political rift inside the Legislature. Democrats, who have a supermajority in the Legislature, tried to essentially ram the climate bill through.
Thankfully, that low moment in Oregon legislative history is behind us. Yet the supporters of the climate bill are not going to go away and there is more than a good chance some type of similar legislation will be presented in the future. We also need to face the fact that all of us need to be more than a little concerned about our climate and the way it is changing. Climate change is real, but the real question is what can Oregonians do about it? What is the best path forward?
That’s why the template used to pass House Bill 2017 should be carefully considered by our elected leaders. The recent climate change bill was a hodgepodge of wishful thinking, half-baked science connected to a cap-and-trade system that is convoluted and complicated. Our lawmakers can do better.
We need to address climate change, there is no doubt about that, but how we do it will be what is remembered. The way it was handled during the last Legislature was baffling and, ultimately, troubling for voters.
Going across Oregon, seeking input from the people, is the best way to move forward. And, if the people indicate they do not want a climate bill any time in the near future, well, so be it.