As I was nearing the conclusion of my first legislative session in May of 2013, someone asked me what my plans were for the interim. That caused me to pause. I had never even thought about it, because in my entire working life, I had never had an interim. But I quickly figured out the answer, which was to keep on serving the citizens of my Senate District, in any way I could.
Had someone asked me in February 2020, “What are my plans for a pandemic?” I would not have had an answer. But I sure do now. So far in this interim, the COVID-19 pandemic is front and center in everything we legislators are doing. Most all of what I am doing falls into three categories of focus: pandemic, policy, and politics.
I have learned more about this pandemic, this disease, this plague then I ever imagined. But to formulate good policy you should know what you are fighting and what you need to fight it.
The last pandemic was the Spanish flu of 1918 over a century ago. The one thing about the COVID-19 virus, that seems to be universally agreed upon, is the primary method of spreading is through breath droplets. Masks and physical distancing really do work, which I have been trying to do.
When it comes to policy development and resource allocation, this is where the bulk of my time has been being spent. I would never have guessed that I would be on hours and hours of daily conference calls. But such is life in a pandemic.
One of my high priorities and policy focus has been keeping our rural health care facilities functioning. Decrees from Salem, while probably good for the most part, have had serious impacts on rural hospitals and health care. I have made phone calls, I have worked with my colleagues, I have both authored and signed on to letters to the governor and other officials about the dire straits rural health care is facing. I believe funding, both state and federal, is beginning to be available, but it hasn’t been without its drama.
The politics is the most frustrating. Why can’t we come together across the aisle to do what is best for the citizens of Oregon? The COVID-19 virus is not a Republican or Democrat nor does it pick and choose its victims by party affiliation. This pandemic has made for strange bedfellows at times. From my perspective, the Senate Republican Caucus has been more aligned with Gov. Kate Brown much of the time than the other caucuses including her own.
But at the end of the day, this pandemic battle would be a whole lot easier and more effective if we could leave politics out of the game plan both on the national and state level. However, until that time comes, it will be part of what I need to do, to make sure rural Oregon does not get the short end of the stick. The stakes are too high.
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In the meantime, stay safe, be smart, and mask up in public.