Linthicum, Reschke, freshmen legislators recount
wins and losses
It’s no easy task being a freshman legislator from a rural area
and in the minority party.
This was no secret to state Sen. Dennis Lincthicum and Rep. E.
Werner Reschke when they were sworn into office in January. The
Republicans represent Klamath and Lake counties and portions of
other counties, as well.
Following the close of the 2017 legislative session, both men
said they met many challenges which they expected, but also
walked away with victories for local constituents.
Linthicum and Reschke spoke with the Herald and News editorial
board Monday for a debrief of their first session. Both said
they were daunted by the volume and complexity of their work in
Salem, but said they believe they are better-equipped for future
“Everything we did was a balancing act,” said Linthicum.
“I look forward to learning more as time goes on,” said Reschke.
One issue they hoped to address was the increasing liability of
the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), which
accounted for a large portion of a $1.6 billion budget deficit
legislators had to tackle. Republicans favored cutting PERS and
limiting benefits offered to new employees, but Linthicum said
the Democrat majority blocked possible solutions from being
“We kept getting involved in the same partisan fights,” said
Linthicum. “… Everybody can see the barn’s on fire and PERS is
Reschke said PERS remains the “No. 1 problem” for the budget in
Salem and costs for the program are expected to increase by
another $200 million when the next biennium starts in 2019.
Linthicum said they also failed to gain traction in revising the
way the Oregon Water Resource Department studies the link
between groundwater and surface water. He said there needs to be
a shift from using models and projections to using
property-specific data and said this would be a more scientific
approach to the problem.
‘Pretty big wins’
But there were also successes for Klamath County during the
legislative session, including funds for local schools and law
Oregon Tech is to receive $40 million in bonding authority to
build its Center for Excellence in Engineering and Technology;
Klamath Community College is to receive $7.8 million for its
Career and Technical Center; and the Klamath County Juvenile
Department will receive $1 million for its Youth Inspiration
Reschke said these counted as “a pretty big win,” especially
considering other schools competing for funds.
Reschke was also able to sponsor multiple successful bills,
including legislation aimed at protecting crime victims.
Bill 3077, Reschke’s first bill, prohibits attorneys from
providing a criminal defendant with a victim’s email or
social media information, unless directed by a court.
Reschke said this information would otherwise remain part of
the public record.
- House Bill 3435 gave
approval for Klamath, Curry and Yamhill counties to loan
excess road funds to other public agencies. Reschke said
this was a first for Oregon and will allow the three
counties to earn interest on funds that otherwise sit in
reserve, while borrowers stand to pay less interest than
through conventional lenders.
- House Bill 2998 created
uniform expectations for transferring credits from community
colleges to four-year schools for base courses. It also
helped students by directing the Higher Education
Coordinating Commission to increase the availability of
free-to-use teaching materials as an alternative to
cost-prohibitive text books.
- House Bill 3206 passed
with tax breaks for local businesses, but not after being
“gutted” in committee, said Reschke. The bill proposed tax
incentives for tech companies who operate and hire in
Klamath County, but the final version offered a break only
to businesses who hold training through Klamath Community
- Reschke said it was
difficult to propose tax breaks this session with
legislators scrambling to cover budget gaps
Linthicum said he also submitted several bills, but none of them
made it out of committee. The bills addressed issues including
charter school funding, stricter requirements for local tax
measures, right to work laws for public employees, reducing
costs for contracted public projects and a requirement for state
departments to justify all proposed budget expenditures.
One bill not proposed by either legislator, but inspired by
their candidacy last year, was House Bill 2945, which would have
extended filing deadlines for elections when incumbents withdraw
near or after the scheduled deadline.
Reschke said, though the bill was initially lauded in the House,
Senate and by the governor’s office, it died in committee
because Democrats stood to lose what has become a favorite
political maneuver in Oregon.
of funds runs dry
Linthicum said part of the challenge of passing bills in Salem,
when funding is involved, is so many people pull from the pool
of funds and there is little left to divide when the session
draws to a close.
“All along the way there’s a special interest group that wants
to put their straw in the bucket,” he said. “… By the time we
get from the beginning of session to the end of session, the
Linthicum said he also learned a lot serving on the Senate
committees for Education, Judiciary and Information Management
and Technology, and meeting with people in these industries.
He said he saw a lack of resources dedicated to new teachers in
Oregon, most of whom do not remain employed past four years, and
said he was told of the need to draw and retain teachers in the
state. Linthicum also said he saw a need for alternative
sentencing programs as placing inmates behind bars is becoming
“Frankly, we house a lot of individuals in jail in the state of
Oregon and it’s fast becoming unaffordable,” he said. “We can’t
just build more concrete, and iron bars, that’s just not the way
to solve the problem.”
Linthicum also said he learned legislators in Oregon are very
“committee-centric” and base many of their decisions on
committee recommendations. He said this can lend itself to party
politics as the majority party can organize a committee to
affect a certain outcome.
Working on solutions
Reschke, who serves on House committees on Economic Development
and Trade, Energy and Environment, and Higher Education and
Workforce Development, said he also saw party politics lead to
bills he could not in good conscious support. But both he and
Linthicum said they were surprised a majority of policy
proposals were ideas they could get behind.
“Most of the stuff is good that goes through that we actually
agree to work together to find a solution,” said Reschke.
But despite good ideas coming to the floors of the House and
Senate, Linthicum and Reschke said they found occasions to vote
“no” simply to voice an alternative to the majority perspective.
Linthicum said, as a Republican in a Democrat-controlled state,
his dissenting votes often had no bearing on the impact of a
bill, so he felt freer to vote “no” out of protest.
“It’s a great opportunity to stand up and give a voice to the
things you liked or didn’t like,” he said.
Reschke said he was also “pressing (his) no button a lot” but
said it remains the job of a legislator to come back with a
report of successes for constituents.
Looking forward to 2018
Looking ahead to next year’s short session in Salem, Linthicum
and Reschke said they expect environmental issues will dominate
discussions such as diesel emissions and economic incentives for
pollution reduction. Linthicum said the 2017 session saw big
losses for environmentalists, and Democrats are likely feeling
pressure from such groups to deliver next year.
Reschke said he will also push next year for additional tech
incentives for Klamath County to restore what was removed from
HB 3206. He said the area remains optimal for tech companies
small and large and those in cyber security, and said he will
make such a pitch to fellow legislators.
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