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Democrats Mislead Oregonians: Saying No to Bad Ideas

By Rep. Dwayne Yunker

The media really want us to believe some whoppers. Recently in California, a man was arrested for allegedly eating a train crash victim’s severed leg. A news story catchline described the man as a “hungry passerby.” In this case, the journalist was just trying to be funny. I think. But misleading catchlines are no joke.

Oregon’s misleading bill names

Just like news story catchlines, the catchlines that describe legislation can also be misleading – in many cases deliberately so. Many may sound like good ideas, but the devil is in the details.

Trust me. Every one of my “No” votes during the 2024 short legislative session was carefully considered. A principled stance means saying no to the silver-tongued Dems’ bad ideas. But more important than my no votes is what I didn’t get to vote on at all. I will return to that in a moment. But first, let me give you a few examples of misleading bill names and why I voted no.

Censorship

Requiring labels on artificial intelligence-generated campaign materials sounds like a good idea. As posted on the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS), the catchline for Senate Bill 1571 reads: “Requires a disclosure of the use of synthetic media in campaign communications.” But the bill cites CISA, a federal censorship agency, and grants broad authority to the secretary of state. The short session isn’t the appropriate time to make Oregon the test case in new technology law. No on SB 1571.

Surveillance

Video cameras on school buses is another ill-conceived idea. House Bill 4147’s catchline reads: “Permits an education provider to have stop arm cameras on school buses for the purpose of recording persons who fail to stop for bus safety lights.” School districts will be recording on behalf of the police. It’s been tried in other states. It hasn’t improved safety, and it results in lots of false positives and court challenges. This isn’t the best use of our already strained law enforcement and school district resources. I can think of 10 things off the top of my head that would keep students safer. No on HB 4147.

Privacy

The catchline for Senate Bill 1574 is provocative: “Provides that abuse of a corpse in the first degree involving sexual activity is a sex crime for purposes of sex offender reporting.” I would have voted for that if it was a standalone bill. But SB 1574 is a 17-page judiciary omnibus bill stuffed with policies that could never pass on their own. The bill gives “private” police more power, access to state records and worse. Another misleading catchline. No on SB 1574.

COVID relief

According to Oregon, COVID isn’t over. House Bill 4124 gives $27,414,114 to Oregon cultural institutions, including $455,690 to the Oregon Caves, in Josephine County. The bill’s catchline says it “appropriates moneys to the Oregon Business Development Department to distribute to Oregon cultural organizations in response to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on organization finances.” I am a strong supporter of the Oregon Caves and bringing tourism to Josephine County. But COVID relief was a federal thing from four years ago. State taxpayers shouldn’t be funding it.

The Oregon Caves site, including the Chateau, is part of the National Park Service, funded by the federal government (through congressional appropriations), user fees/bookings and some private philanthropy. Since all the revenue for the site goes back to the federal government, contributing to the Oregon Caves is not an appropriate use of state taxpayers’ dollars. No on HB 4124.

Recriminalizing drugs

Passing legislation aimed at ending Oregon’s drug crisis was my top priority this legislative session. That is why I voted yes on House Bill 4036, which would have made hard drug possession an A-Class misdemeanor. It would have addressed all the public safety stakeholder policy recommendations put forth at the beginning of the session. But Democrats voted no on HB 4036.

Instead, they passed House Bill 4002 which, according to its catchline, “prohibits insurers from requiring prior authorization or other utilization review for coverage of substance use disorder medications.” It isn’t recriminalization. It’s a 75-page Oregon Health Authority-funding bill. Common sense and looking at the drug policies in states across the nation tell us that “treatment first” isn’t enough. Deterrence is necessary. Deterrence prevents harm, before it happens. It’s the safest approach. No on HB 4002.

Housing

Senate Bill 1537, according to its catchline, “requires the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Department of Consumer and Business Services to jointly establish and administer the Housing Accountability and Production Office.” As a real estate broker, easing Oregon’s housing crunch is important to me. But the housing package legislation passed this session is a colossal waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars without generating any additional housing supply for average Oregonians.

For example, Project Turnkey, which converts hotels into homeless housing, was supposed to be a temporary COVID-relief effort. Now it’s receiving $65,000,000 more funding. Some homeless stays are stretching out to two years. Are these the types of tourists Grants Pass wants to attract?

SB 1537 funnels taxpayer money to certain legislators’ districts and favored politically-connected nonprofits that also act as activists for the Democratic Party. Instead, we need to get back to basics. Start with what would really make a difference for the average Oregon family: right sizing Oregon’s astronomically expensive land-use regulations and building-permit bureaucracy. No on Senate Bills 1530 and 1537.

Saying No to Salem’s bad ideas

As you can see, many of the bills we voted on this session had misleading catchlines. Most increased spending, state overreach and bureaucracy. I voted no on so many Salem bad ideas.

But more important than my no votes is what I didn’t get to vote on at all. Since Democrats have a majority in the legislature, they control every single committee. They control entirely which bills get brought for a vote on the floor.

In order to fix this, we must elect strong, principled Republicans to the legislature. We must restore political, civil and economic freedom to the citizens of Oregon. We must advance policies that put a real end to Measure 110, encourage economic growth and innovation, and protect citizens from state overreach, including providing education freedom to families and preserving parental rights.

Elections matter. Join us.

Rep. Dwayne Yunker is a Republican from Grants Pass who represents Oregon House District 3, Josephine County. Contact him at www.oregonlegislature.gov/yunker.