Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


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 sessions.

“Everything we did was a balancing act,” said Linthicum.

“I look forward to learning more as time goes on,” said Reschke.

PERS deficit

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 entertained.

“We kept getting involved in the same partisan fights,” said Linthicum. “… Everybody can see the barn’s on fire and PERS is blazing.”

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 enforcement.

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 Program.

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.

  • House 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 College.
  • {span}
  • Reschke said it was difficult to propose tax breaks this session with legislators scrambling to cover budget gaps
  • {/span}
  • .

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.

Pool 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 bucket’s dry.”

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 too expensive.

“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.



In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

Home Contact


              Page Updated: Sunday July 30, 2017 08:12 PM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2017, All Rights Reserved