This week I “carry” three amendments on the floor of the Senate, which means I have to explain to all of the senators how we changed a bill in committee in the week or two previous. Yesterday I did that for 2242 – an amendment to a bill which intended to provide free hunting and fishing for our disabled military veterans with a one hundred percent service-connected disability. After testimony from our Game and Fish Department (they were in favor of the concept) we had to change it to the nominal fee of $3. Not because of the loss to state revenues from the sale of licenses, but because the fiscal loss from the federal government would have hurt the department by over $100,000. I carry the actual bill on the floor today, when I need to explain the entire issue before we vote.
The idea of carrying the vote is central to how we vote all the time because the 47 senators are split into 11 different committees so that we can delve into the myriad issues confronting the state with some detail. For instance, here is a sample of the other carries I have this week; today, 2147, a bill about being able to have a case of wine shipped into our state by any licensed carrier. Many of our alcohol laws seem archaic hangovers from the Prohibition era and we deal with these every session – we have another one in IB&l about brew pubs, for instance, that pits micro-brewers against our large distributors.
Today I am also charged with carrying 2321, which attempts to change how WSI (Workforce Safety and Insurance) is able to cover our volunteer firefighters should they be injured on the job. As a former member of the Portland Fire Department, I can remember holding a hose on a call to the sugar beet plant. My fellow hoser looked at me and said “Hey Murph, I work here you know and if this blows we are going to die.” At that time I had three young children at home and wondered if I really should be doing this for free… This bill improves the benefits that WSI could pay out if one of our community volunteers gets injured. It had better pass.
I also carry 2297, which calls for a study of the worker’s compensation systems treatment of preexisting medical conditions and it falls to me this week to write a carry for 2247 which will delineate what can be held out of employee’s paychecks and what cannot. These duties are a small but important part of every week’s duties out here as we strive to do our best for the people of our state. Thanks to those that showed up in Hillsboro last Saturday for our forum, next up is Hatton as we do those every other weekend, if you care to come.