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Support keeping legislators on the job

I strongly support efforts being made to keep state lawmakers on the job and working. (Oregon Democrats seek to end GOP Legislature boycotts).

In teaching, we have a saying — “what is best for kids” — and even though we are not always in agreement, we march forward for the kids. It is sad to think we have to ask our leaders to put what is best for Oregon’s people above what is best for their party.

Legislative walkouts are being used more frequently and are lasting longer than ever before, with lawmakers running away out of state to fishing cabins and other locations just because they don’t want to take a vote on a bill. Due to last year’s walkout, the session ended without passage of wildfire prevention funding, and over $110 million in money for affordable housing and increased shelter capacity didn’t go through when we needed it to.

This is infuriating to those of us who were deeply impacted by the recent and terrifying wildfires. I will never forget the moment that I drove away from my home with my partner and my dogs with flames chasing us as we left our driveway. We spent months in motels and at no point did we walk away from my responsibilities to our students. We worked every single day. We continued to educate them virtually, and check in on how they were doing. During this immensely challenging time in our life, We still took our responsibilities seriously.

Not only did I keep teaching, but I was also negotiating with my district as a union leader on how we would manage through COVID. Even though we didn’t always see eye to eye in those district discussions and our tempers were elevated, we never walked out of the challenging debate. All of us at the table knew that others depended on us to do the hard work and come to an agreement; it’s the professional thing to do.

During this difficult year, educators, first responders, health care workers, front-line workers have all shown up. We did not walk out on our community in a time of need. I believe we all can agree on the professional and right thing to do for the people of Oregon. And lawmakers have an even greater responsibility. When lawmakers take the oath of office, they swear to uphold the constitution and do their duty.

This is not a partisan issue — 76% of Republicans and 84% of Oregonians of all parties agree that if lawmakers don’t show up for work 10 days within a session, they shouldn’t be able to run for re-election. There must be serious repercussions for legislators who refuse to show up and do the work that Oregonians sent them to Salem to do. The proposals on the table hold lawmakers accountable when they refuse to show up to work.

If elected officials don’t like a bill, they should show up and work to improve the bill or simply vote against it. They should make their voices heard rather than shut down the government. It’s time for all our lawmakers to get to work.

Rich Hobbins of Talent is a Jackson County educator.