Cactus Crater on Runit Island in Enewatek Atoll holds 110,000 cubic yards of radioactive contaminated soil and 6,000 cubic yards of contaminated debris. Rep. Bill Post sponsored a bill advocating for service members who participated in the clean-up to receive an expansion of their Veterans Administration benefits.

Rep. Bill Post has a number of bills that are making their way through the Legislature this year, but he said the most unusual thing is simply the climate in which everything takes place. Committee meetings, public hearings and most interactions between legislators are all virtual because of pandemic restrictions.

“It’s just very strange from the way we’ve done business in the past,” Post said. The pressure from some constituents to stage a walkout and prevent work from getting done is also high.

“Here’s the thing, which bill do we walkout on? Is it for gun bills? Is it for prescription bills? Is it for timber tax? Pick one,” Post said. In 2020, Republicans in the Legislature staged a walkout over proposed cap-and-trade regulations on harmful emissions, the same tactics are being called for presently over other issues.

“We walked out because cap and trade would have fundamentally changed the economy of Oregon forever, but it’s a nuclear option and it should be used wisely and carefully,” Post said.

Of the bills he sponsored that are continuing apace, Post said one has garnered surprising levels of support while another addresses an oversight for veterans.

The bill garnering surprising support is HB 2650, which would permit emergency services to emergency transport for police dogs injured in the line of duty. Services would only be offered to canines if there are no humans requiring transport. The bill cleared House hurdles with a unanimous vote of all members aside from 13 who had excused absences.

Post is hopeful House Joint Memorial (HJM) 2, the memorial would recognize U.S. Armed Forces service members who participated in the clean-up from nuclear testing on Enewetak Atoll. About 6,000 service members, between 1962 and 1980, were exposed to radiation-contaminated soil, concrete and military equipment while living on the islands for six-month stretches. Because those who participated in the clean-up are not considered “atomic veterans’’ they are not eligible to receive compensation for their exposure. 

The memorial action calls for recognition of the soldiers’ clean-up efforts by the U.S. Congress and urges the body to extend “atomic veteran” status to those that took part.