About 20 local citizens attended State Rep. Lynn Findley’s town hall meeting Wednesday night at the Sunridge Inn.
It was the Vale Republican’s first town hall in Baker City since he was appointed in January to replace Cliff Bentz, who replaced Ted Ferrioli as Baker County’s state senator.
Findley spoke about the recent short legislative session and fielded questions about issues.
Findley is a retired BLM fire manager and former city manager of Vale, where he was born and raised.
“What I’ve told the people in Salem repeatedly is I work for the 65,000 people in District 60,” he said. “I don’t work for anybody in Salem.”
Findley said his goal is to “work through the quagmire of state government” and reduce its burden and its unnecessary rules and explain to Western Oregon residents how their actions affect the eastside.
“The rural/urban divide is alive and well,” Findley said, “and I would like to figure out how to combat that.”
Findley said positives from the short legislative session include a bill that creates a tuition program for National Guardsmen, Eastern Oregon University’s designation as the state’s rural university, which will make it more competitive in receiving federal funding, transient lodging tax requirements for vacation rentals such as Airbnb, watershed studies funding and funding for broadband at Elkhorn Industrial park and upgrades to the Baker City Armory.
“Less than positive things: I have a pretty long list, but I won’t bore you with all of them,” Findley said.
He said he fought hard against a bill that removes federal tax breaks for small businesses that he said should have been passed with a three-fifths majority as is required for revenue raising tax bills, but wasn’t.
“I would hope we can revisit that in future years,” Findley said. “It’s sitting on the governor’s desk. We’re lobbying hard for her not to sign it.”
He said the net neutrality legislation that passed is “a pretty nice headline but there’s no meat there.”
Findley explained that it’s a bill that only prevents state agencies from dealing with companies that don’t abide by net neutrality rules unless there is only one internet provider available. It doesn’t actually do anything to address internet companies that might slow down access to certain websites.
“It’s a great big sham that I didn’t agree with and didn’t support,” he said.
Findley said a bill that allows first-time homebuyers to establish a savings account with tax exemptions sounds good until you realize the bill also raises document recording fees charged by county clerks by 300 percent.
“That’s sitting on the governor’s desk and we are hoping she will not support it,” he said.
Findley said he was thankful that Democrats failed to move cap-and-trade legislation during the session, but said it will be addressed next year.
Bill Harvey, chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners, said cap-and-trade legislation would be disastrous for the county and would also cost Ash Grove Cement a substantial amount of money.
“It’s more of a cap-and-invest — a cap in productivity here and they invest the money in their programs that have nothing to do with carbon control or anything else,” Harvey said.
Findley agreed and said he had asked in committee hearings concerning cap-and-trade legislation how Ash Grove could be held to a standard that is unobtainable.
“They couldn’t answer that question,” he said.
Harvey also asked how to stop petitioners in Portland from trying to get an initiative on the ballot that would require Oregonians to surrender certain types of rifles.
Findley said the problem is not a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue. He said law enforcement’s hands are tied because they don’t have the tools to deal with those with mental health issues.
He said he voted against the bill that the Legislature passed this session that bans people convicted of stalking and domestic violence or under restraining orders from buying or owning firearms and ammunition.
Findley said there is an incredible amount of misguided dollars spent on initiative petitions such as the one Harvey mentioned, which is being promoted by an interfaith group in Portland. He also said that it’s unfortunate that such petitions are driven largely by three metropolitan counties on the west side.
“I hope it goes down in flames,” he said.
See more in the March 23, 2018 issue of the Baker City Herald.