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Get Ready for some Lawmaking! 

Central Oregon's conservative delegation preps for a left-leaning Salem

It's gonna be a good ol' time for the Dems this year as they now hold a majority in the Oregon House of Representatives and the Oregon Senate. And then there's that Democratic Governor, too! Yes, the next five months or so are sure to be interesting with such a liberal stronghold on the statehouse.

But the Republicans are keeping their chins up, encouraged by Governor John Kitzhaber's determination to take on PERS and focus on education.

In fact, our check in with Central Oregon's entirely conservative state delegation revealed that these guys are actually pretty chipper with high hopes for accomplishing real bi-partisan work this session.

Here's a snapshot of the priorities of both parties, the governor and the game plans of our regional leaders. Follow the Source as we keep you up to date on the twists and turns this session.

John Kitzhaber is determined to take on the largest issues facing the state in this term including underfunded education, overblown prison populations and PERS. Here's how he'll do it.

Kitzhaber wants to cut costs:

• PERS: Adjust out of state benefits and cap cost of living increases

• Health Care: Implement the health care reforms he's gotten passed in recent sessions to trim costs.

• Prisons: Invest in crime prevention and public safety reforms that defer people from entering the criminal justice system.

Then prioritize other programs:

•Investing in education is a top priority, including pre-K, more teachers, longer school years and more workforce training

• Spend over $1 billion in infrastructure projects that create jobs around the state

• The governor's budget also includes $16 million for expansion of OSU-Cascades

Tim Knopp

State Senator- 27th District (Bend)

Who is this guy?

Tim Knopp served in the state house of representatives from 1999 to 2005, some of that time as House Majority leader. He became the director of Central Oregon Builder's Association, but reprioritized last spring to challenge State Senator Chris Telfer.


"I just want to make progress on the issues and not worry about who gets the credit."

Bills introduced:

• Sunset of the senior tax deferral

• Lowering property taxes for small business owners on capital purchases

• Increasing penalties for human sex and labor trafficking

• Several PERS bills, including taking legislators out of PERS and eliminating a tax break for PERS recipients who no longer live in Oregon

Gene Whisnant

State Representative- 53rd District (Deschutes County besides Bend)

Who is this guy?

Gene Whisnant began serving in the state house of representatives in 2003 when he was appointed to fill Ben Westlund's seat who was in turn appointed to the Oregon Senate. Voters sent Whisnant back for a fourth term in 2010. He is the state chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that works closely with business lobbyists to craft legislation.


"I think I've learned to work across the aisle. It's going to be difficult to get too much done being in the minority, but I'm very optimistic and we'll work behind the scenes."

Bills introduced:

• Ensuring greater supervision of large tax refund checks

• Prohibit state agencies from changing fees because the Legislature now meets every year

• Prevent people from being rehired for state positions at higher pay rates, decreasing attempts to scam the government

Jason Conger

State Representative- 54th District (Bend)

Who is this guy?

Jason Conger is a Bend attorney who was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2010. Conger is solidly conservative but has focused less on divisive issues and more on economic development strategies than many of his counterparts. He has been a critical driver in the effort to make OSU-Cascades a four-year university.


"I am an optimistic person. So, I'm going in thinking about what we can accomplish versus what we cannot."

Bills introduced:

• Create appropriate penalties for sexting

• Streamline accessing capital for businesses in rural areas

• Create tax incentives for businesses that create jobs

• Eliminate the sunset on senior property tax deferral

• Continue to tweak recently passed health care legislation to address problems

Mike McLane

State Representative- 55th District (Crook County, S. Deschutes, N. Lake and N. Klamath Counties)

Who is this guy?

Mike McLane is an attorney with Bryant, Emerson & Fitch and was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2010. He will serve as the house minority leader this year. Interestingly, McLane formerly ran a publishing company that made educational books for children. He made a big splash in the 2012 session when he made progress on his bills despite the difficulties of getting legislation passed in the short session.

Bills introduced:

• Development of industrial land in La Pine

• Addressing a septic issue in Crescent

• Designating Prineville as the cowboy capitol of Oregon

• More diversion of water for agriculture and economic development

Democratic Priorities 2013

• Prioritizing education funding over other programs

• Creating jobs through providing more job training, access to land development and infrastructure investment

• Focusing on plans that help the middle class, including regulating insurance companies and banks, and offering affordable access to women's health care

• Focusing on plans that help seniors, the mentally ill, children and others of the state's most vulnerable populations

Republican Priorities 2013

• Authorize the governor to grant tax certainty to any company willing to make a $150 million or more investment in Oregon while creating 500 or more jobs

• Require that at least 15 percent of the state budget goes to K-12 education, 10 percent to higher education and 1.5 percent for community colleges.

• Reduce taxes on newly acquired business assets

• Lower export tax rates on Oregon companies that export products to global markets

• Defer more water from the Columbia River to farmers in Eastern Oregon spurring economic growth in that region


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