Joint committees can help pave way to progress in the capitol

I am writing this article while waiting for a business round table meeting to start at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay.

For the last several months myself and some of my colleagues have traveled the state as part of the Joint Committee on Student Success.

This is an example of the occasional, special committee assignments that occur in the Legislature.  Committees typically meet during regular session and then again during interim committee days.

They almost always meet at the Capitol.

Many of you remember that a couple years ago there was a special transportation committee that was put together and subsequently traveled the state visiting areas with transportation issues.

This committee spent months listening to concerns, looking at vehicle accident data, and checking out bridges and roads.  During the 2017 session that committee brought forth a bill designed to meet many of the infrastructure needs of the state.  The bill also included tax and fee increases.

I was not a part of that committee.

The Joint Committee on Student Success is made up of Democrats and Republicans from both the House and the Senate.

The theory behind joining the two chambers together is to create buy-in by everyone involved.

Unfortunately, many times in the Legislature it isn’t just Democrats and Republicans who disagree.  I have seen times when the entire House chamber is unified, yet our mutual opposition is the Senate.  Not all issues are partisan.

A “joint” committee includes members from both chambers and both parties.

I am one of three House Republicans whom the Speaker of the House asked to serve on this committee.   Although education is one of my two primary policy areas, I was reluctant to say yes.

In the 10 years I have been in the Legislature, I have seen many changes in education policy and, frankly, I question whether the changes have impacted students in a positive way.

I think the state makes too many changes and makes them too frequently.  It’s hard to see what is working when the rules change every couple years.  I have become frustrated with the constant barrage of “good ideas.”

I eventually agreed to serve on the committee for one simple reason. I’m not comfortable sitting on the sidelines, frustrated.

So once again, I am traveling this great state.  We have been to Baker City, Arlington, Portland, Hermiston, Bend, Tumalo, Beaverton, Medford, and just this week, Coos Bay, Coquille, Reedsport, and a few other spots.

I don’t know what the result of this work will ultimately be; we are working in smaller subcommittees tackling different areas of education and will report out next month.

There will be legislation in the 2019 session.  I am certain there will be some policy ideas I like and I’m certain there will be some I don’t.  Even though the work is challenging, there are few things I enjoy more than visiting the far reaches of this state and hanging out with kids.

That makes it all worthwhile.

– Sherrie Sprenger represents most of Linn County, including Lebanon, as part of her 17th District of the Oregon House of Representatives, where she has served since 2008.  Prior to her service in the legislature, she chaired the Lebanon School Board.