By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Even though he was a freshman serving in the state legislature, Rep. Bill Post of Keizer had some idea what to expect during the session.
After all, the Republican visited area lawmakers like Sen. Kim Thatcher (who formerly held the House District 25 seat Post defeated Chuck Lee for in 2014) a number of times and hosted a radio show from the Capitol in Salem many times.
“There was nothing that really surprised me, but then again I had a little more insight than the average citizen,” Post said following a Keizer Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Keizer Quality Suites on Tuesday. “But I was shocked by the absolute volume. More than 4,000 bills were introduced and about 900 new laws were passed. I don’t know if I was surprised or shocked, but I couldn’t believe the volume.”
Post said he got some good advice from veteran lawmakers.
“Some of the old members said wait until the end,” he said.
That was certainly the case this year as about 100 laws were passed at the end of the session after Sine Die was declared by the Democrats, who controlled the house and the senate.
“It’s a tool to get done what they want at the end,” Post said. “Republicans have done it, too, when they were in control. The bills kept coming so fast.”
During his speech to the three dozen present for the luncheon, Post expanded on the hectic ending.
“You have several days for a bill to be introduced and talked about,” Post said. “With Sine Die, you have one hour. Some of them weren’t given in writing. We didn’t know what we were voting on. One was a budget bill with 147 budgets in it. I wanted to vote on each one separately. I couldn’t because I had to vote on the overall bill, so I voted no. The majority party uses (Sine Die) as a tool. If there was a Republican majority and this happened, I’ll still stand up and say this is wrong.”
Post predicted the short 2016 session won’t be pretty.
“When we voted in 2010 for annual sessions, the law said it was to revisit and balance the state budget only,” he said. “It said nothing about introducing new bills. Then the legislature said well we’re here, so let’s run some bills. It’s all for the re-elections. Legislators will be able to say I caught him or her saying yes or no on something. I’ll introduce a bill to take care of that and a bill to not fund abortions.”
For this session, Post co-sponsored five bills, three of which he referred to as “throwaway” bills.
“I was the first Republican to get a bill signed by the governor (Kate Brown),” Post said. “It was a pro-business bill to get rid of some restrictions. The governor and I have a unique relationship. She really likes me for some reason, even though we are opposites. She showed us freshmen around and took me by the arm. She said, ‘I know I can count on you for the transportation package, right?’ I said ‘no.’ She said, ‘That’s why I like you.’”
Post used the story as an example of how he didn’t change his stances on issues. He noted tallying the second highest no vote count, with 285 no votes.
“There was no reason to vote yes,” he said. “If it’s 35-25 in the House (Democrats versus Republicans), it’s going to pass anyway. What does a 36th yes vote mean? Nothing.”
Post noted a concealed handgun license bill passed the House but died in a Senate judiciary committee. He expressed angst over a new law “banning the box” on an application form asking about a criminal background check and also about Senate Bill 454, the mandatory sick leave bill.
“Business will always make the right choice. We don’t need government to tell us,” Post said.
Post also took exception to House Bill 2960 (mandatory retirement savings), Senate Bill 324 (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and Senate Bill 941 (expanded background checks for gun sales).
“There are 19 counties now that have said they won’t enforce (SB 941) because they don’t have the money to enforce it,” Post said. “It was just a feel-good measure.”
Post noted HB 2012, the increased minimum wage bill, will be back on the table next February. He found the debate over the bill somewhat entertaining.
“It was the House Democrats fighting the Senate Democrats at the end,” Post said. “Tina Kotek wanted $15 an hour, while Peter Courtney wanted $373 million for a capitol retrofit. We don’t want anyone to die in our capitol. I walked by Courtney’s office when Kotek was in there. They were screaming at each other, full volume. The Republicans just laid back and let the Democrats fight each other.”
Post noted he responds to every e-mail, which was a chore with SB 941. That bill led to more than 4,000 e-mails, the most he got for any bill. Thatcher agreed she “hands down” got the most comments about that bill as well of all the legislation from this year’s session.