Lynn Findley said, as a state senator, being a voice for the communities in his district has been an important responsibility along with getting feedback on proposed legislation so his constituents can be heard in Salem.
As the pandemic continues, this responsibility has become greater since COVID-19 has made public input harder to receive.
“The public hearings we have are invited testimony only, and we don’t get people who come in and give us good input, and I don’t like that,” Findley said. “I need to ensure that I’m that conduit between policymakers in Salem and people on the ground that it impacts.”
Findley, the Republican incumbent for Oregon’s Senate District 30 from Vale, said being in a superminority is difficult because their voice is not always needed or wanted, but he believes success in the legislature is achieved by reaching across the aisle and working with colleagues.
“As I was in the House, I think I passed more legislation than any other Republican because I listen and I talk,” Findley said. “You work with them collaboratively to find a good solution for all.”
The biggest success that he has had so far as a senator was the 911 bill in the last long session. He said the bill originated in John Day because the city called him and said their 911 dispatch center was failing due to a lack of funds.
Findley worked with the city of John Day, and together they developed legislation that raised the fee collected for telephones, landlines and cellphones to go directly to the 911 funds.
“That took a lot of work,” Findley said. “The first thing you say is here’s a conservative Republican pushing to raise taxes, which is something I typically don’t do, but in this case it was a critical key safety measure for all of Oregon, and it took the entire session to do it collaboratively with people on both sides of the aisle.”
Findley said there were some hot-button issues during the last session, such as the cap and trade climate legislation, which was very divisive. He said the legislature heard from 34 of 36 counties in the state who opposed the bill. He said he is not a climate change denier and believes the climate is changing and carbon levels are high, but getting to the problem requires more than just taxing people.
“In my district’s case, we have better measures to reduce carbon,” Findley said. “Carbon sequestration with our natural resources is a key component of that, and that’s through forest management, rangeland management and having healthy ecosystems, which reduces fires, which are better alternatives.”
Findley served on a COVID-19 committee in the second special session and said the virus has impacted every aspect of life.
He has been engaged on talking about the impacts on rural Oregon. Some areas, such as Wheeler County, with one case confirmed in the county, faced with the same economic restrictions as downtown Portland, he said.
Findley continues to work with the governor’s office, Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education to open some rural schools and businesses.
“We’ve got to be respectful, and we have to have a safe work environment where everybody feels safe,” Findley said. “COVID is here, and we have to learn how to live with it and deal with it appropriately so we don’t kill our economy. Masks are terribly uncomfortable, but if I wear a mask and it allows a business to stay open, it’s worth wearing a mask.”
Findley said he respects and fully supports anyone’s ability to peacefully state their case and protest, but he does not support the destruction of private property and assaulting others.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with other caucus members on both sides of the aisle, and there are probably some injustices that have occurred, and we need to work better on that, but we’re in a law and order environment society, and we have to respect our law enforcement folks,” Findley said.
He said the state needs to help law enforcement do a better job through training and through augmentation of people who handle mental health situations.
Findley said he strives to have open communication and tries to be as transparent as he can with the virtual town halls. He tries to visit each community in person. He also established weekly communication between county commissioners and elected legislators to talk about what is being done right and what can be improved on.
“We’re all in this together, and I respect and understand the bountiful natural resources we have here, and we need to protect them,” Findley said. “They didn’t become degraded overnight, and they’re not going to be fixed overnight.”