BEND, OR -- State Representative Cheri Helt (R-Bend) held her first town hall, Saturday, at St. Charles Bend, meeting with several dozen constituents. She focused on successes from her freshman session, but couldn't avoid questions about the walkout by Republican Senators, which has brought work in the State Senate to a stand-still. Helt was asked whether she supports the action taken by her fellow lawmakers. "This is a tool that has been used by both parties," she told the man. He responded, "They were both wrong." Helt went on to say, "I think this is something that you see when we're not coming to the center. And, I can tell you the center is a lonely place, because I live in it in the Capitol. I really believe that we need to encourage both parties to be compromising." She acknowledged the walkout has stalled progress on a number of House bills, including her legislation aimed at allowing more mixed-use housing in Bend, "We passed it almost unanimously, with one Republican voting against it. And so, now it sits on the Senate President's desk, waiting to be approved over on that side."
Helt also discussed why she voted against the Gross Receipts Tax, which funds schools, but supported other education-related bills; and, she listed the various environmental bills she helped pass. A woman, who said she is a longtime Bend resident, criticized Helt for supporting bans on plastic bags and straws in an effort to keep pollution out of the ocean. "I don't see why we're legislating common sense," she told the freshman lawmaker, "People should dispose of things properly; right?" Helt responded, "A lot of times I find myself legislating common sense. And I would say that's probably unfortunate because I agree with you that we should use our common sense so we don't have to legislate it."
Despite the uncertainty in Salem in the past week, Helt tells KBND News it was important to hold the meeting, "Now that we're through session, I think I can report out what I've done and the work that I have. But, I wanted to make sure to get it out before people were on their summer plans." She's hopeful Republicans and Democrats will come together in the Senate before the end of session, on Sunday, to vote on bills she and her colleagues in the House send them this week, "We're living in really polarizing times. And, I would urge everybody that's listening to think more towards 'how do we get more towards compromise and to the center?' because that, I think, is really where legislation should be."