Bill Hansell

T he 2018 legislative short session is about to wrap up. We are constitutionally limited to 35 days and as such are required to finish by March 11. These past few weeks I have worked to ensure passage of many bills, a couple of which have an importance to our area.

First is Senate Bill 1517, a bill that would allow free hunting tags for disabled veterans in the state of Oregon. During a town hall meeting Rep. Greg Barreto and I were holding in Enterprise last fall, we spoke to a gentleman who runs a hunting camp for veterans. He asked if there was anything that could be done to help them obtain their hunting tags, and my staff and I began looking into it. Currently, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife offers a program for critically, terminally ill children.

The Department sets aside 35 hunting tags every year, even though they generally use only 11. Using this program as a model, Senate Bill 1517 was created. The bill sets aside 15 tags for the children’s program and the other 20 tags are reserved for organizations, like Divide Camp in Wallowa County, for use by disabled veterans.

Second is House Bill 4153, a bill that officially designates Eastern Oregon University as Oregon’s Rural University. In my last column, I let you all know that when this bill came to the Senate I would work hard to ensure its passage. I spoke to the bill with EOU President Tom Insko and Representative Barreto when the bill was up for consideration in the Senate Education Committee, and the bill passed out of committee unanimously.

I was fortunate to carry the bill on the floor of the Senate last Monday. The college plans to use this official designation, the second university in the state to have an official designation, as a way to entice students from across the nation to come to La Grande for their higher education. The designation also allows EOU to leverage additional federal education dollars. I am happy to have sponsored this bill for the college in our area. I even wore an EOU hat when I carried the bill.

One of my favorite aspects of being in Salem is meeting with constituents who travel to the state Capitol. This past week I was fortunate to have the McBean family from Athena join me for a Senate floor session. John McBean, a combat Army veteran of 15 years, his wife, Chris, and their three daughters joined me for the session, and their son, Gunner, served as an honorary page for the proceeding.

The McBean family came to Salem the evening before and I was able to give them a Capitol Tour at night. It was very much like the “Night at the Museum” movie —  we thought the picture of former Gov. Vic Atiyeh was going to come to life and help with the tour. It is truly an experience coming to the Capitol, and I hope the family remembers their time here. I know I will remember sharing it with them.

Honorary pages are very important to our daily floor sessions as they help us with our voting process.

Anyone between the ages of 10 and 18 is welcome to be an honorary page if they are in Salem while the legislature is in the session. I am happy to sponsor any child from the district for the Honorary Page Program.

Again, I want to thank The Observer for the invitation to write these columns about what is happenin g from my perspective in Salem. I will do my best to make them interesting and relevant to you great people of Northeast Oregon.