SIMMONS MUST TOE LINE IN NEW ROLE AS LOBBYIST
House Speaker Mark Simmons new job as a lobbyist for a nursery association raises concerns that he will use his position of power in the state to benefit his employer. Simmons will be walking a fine line as a legislator who is working for an industry lobby.
Simmons, who has stepped away away from his career as a mechanic for Boise Corp., announced this week that he has accepted a position as government affairs director for the Oregon Nurserymens Association.
It would be wrong for the Republican from Elgin to jump in with both feet this year and begin to lobby his legislative colleagues on behalf of nursery causes. Simmons has pledged that he does not plan to do this. He said he wont mention his nursery cause to senators or representatives until he is out of office in January.
Oregonians will have to take him at his word. They have no other option. In Oregon there is no law that would prohibit what Simmons has done. He only has to declare conflicts of interest but can still vote on issues. Although he is following the letter of the law, a legislator working for a lobby doesnt smell quite right. And Simmons isnt just any legislator. He serves as speaker of the House and will oversee the body in the next special session, one that could include a farm worker bill that the nurserymen are interested in. Surely the nurserymen dont mind having friends in high places, but Oregonians as a whole should be concerned.
Simmons should have waited until he left office before taking a lobbyist position. Some states have laws that require a cooling off period before former legislators can jump into the lobbying business. Oregon needs such a law.
SPRING BREAK TO REMEMBER
Learning in the classroom is one thing; being at the site where history was made is something else entirely. Having a spring break blowout is one thing; making your spring break blowout at least partly educational is something else entirely.
Seven La Grande High School students learned just that over the recent spring break with a visit to Ground Zero in New York City. It was an eye-opener. The visit in person to a platform overlooking the scene of devastation and so many stories of heroes brought home as no newspaper or magazine story or TV broadcast or class lecture could just what Sept. 11 means to America and the world.
The students were among thousands of people from around the world who visit the platform each day to view the outcome of the terrorist attack. The mood there is stunned disbelief. Awe. Anger. Patriotism. Thankfulness for the many heroes that make America great.
Life-changing events dont come along every day, and at least one of the LHS students described the visit to Ground Zero as life changing. The visit proved spring break is a good time to decompress, to refresh and to learn.