Vale’s freshman lawmaker shares account of first days at Legislature

Oregon District 60 representative Lynn Findley answered questions and talked about his first stint in the Oregon Legislature during a Town Hall meeting recently in Vale. (The Enterprise/John L. Braese).

VALE – “I am the other time zone guy.”

Sitting before old friends at his initial local town hall, freshman state Rep. Lynn Findley reported on his first legislative session last Thursday in Vale.

“That is how I am known,” Findley explained, referring to the time comment. “I am the guy in the other time zone in Oregon. People in Salem forget for me to get home is a seven-hour drive, not an hour or two.”

Like Findley himself, the town hall was informal. Seated in a back room at Chabelitas, a few attending grabbed a beer before settling into the meeting room.

For those not wanting a beer, water pitchers sat on the table and a waiter offered a quick meal.

Jeans and cowboy hats were the style of the night, unlike the legislative session where Findley routinely encountered suits, ties, and high heels.

Findley said the biggest surprise of representing the area was the help from everyone.

“I was surprised how many people, from both sides of the aisle, offered to help me get up to speed and continued to ask if there was anything they could do to help,” said Findley. “Legislators, support staff, everyone wanted the best for me.”

Findley, dressed casually, treated the night more like a conversation between friends than a formal government event. Those attending were urged to jump in with questions and voice their concerns whenever they felt the urge.

There was no signing up with prewritten questions, no staff monitoring the action, no decorum.

A few expletives were even blurted out from the crowd on the topic of range fire suppression.

Findley spoke of his first day in Salem.

“I walked in and there was this huge book on my desk containing the 23 bills that were to be discussed that day,” he said. “It was humbling.”

It was also the first day Findley saw the difference between Portland and Vale.

“The urban-rural divide is alive and well,” Findley said. “Salem has no idea of the unintended consequences of some the stuff that is done. I am there hoping to add some common sense in things.”

A member of the minority party, the Republicans, in the Legislature, Findley said good things were accomplished.

Oregon formerly was the lone state without tuition incentives for those in the National Guard. With declining numbers, armories are closing around the state.

“We did pass a tuition program for those in the Guard,” Findley said. “It may not be the complete answer, but it is a step in the right direction.”

With a few in the audience wearing hats belying hunting interests, the issue of gun control did come up.

Findley advised those in the room a ballot initiative criminalizing assault weapons or large-capacity weapons most likely will be on the ballot in November, but a growing number of those opposing the measure is being heard.

As a retiree from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and now a representative of a district containing a large amount of federal land, Findley is a member of the Fire Caucus, a group looking at range fires.

Findley said he advocates the “good neighbor” philosophy, one where whoever has forces available fights the blaze, no matter the land owner.

As for new taxes or additional income for the state, Findley said the answer to money is easy.

“We need to grow ourselves out of problems, not new taxes,” he said.