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A small dinghy of sanity in a roaring sea of legislative excess

Steve BucksteinFrom the 1840s through the 1860s more than 80,000 pioneers walked beside their covered wagons along the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon. They came for progress. They came for opportunity. They came for freedom. The journey was long and dangerous. Some never made it, dying along the way.

Now, some legislators have mixed up preserving the physical path they followed with preserving the ideals which propelled them to make their harrowing journeys.

By a 23 to 6 vote, the Oregon Senate passed SB 823 A that would stop ALL development, including remodeling or changing the use of existing structures, along the 300-mile Oregon Trail from the Idaho border to The Dalles, Oregon. Apparently, no one realized during the Senate debates that there were serious unintended consequences of such a feel-good bill.

By the time the House heard the bill for the first time yesterday in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, even its sponsors admitted that it would need major amendments. NO ONE testified in support of the bill as written. Property owners showed up to explain how this bill would prohibit them from even remodeling their own living rooms because their homes sat on a trail used by their ancestors 150 years ago. Others testified how the bill would devastate their farming operations, even on stretches of the Trail where there were no remaining physical signs of the covered wagons that traveled there long ago.

Even the committee Chair, Rep. Roblan (D), talked about how, when he was teaching his own daughter about the Oregon Trail, she understood that the Trail was more an idea than a physical path. As I and a number of property owners testified, it became clear that the bill was going nowhere in this committee. Chair Roblan was willing to set up an interim taskforce to consider amendments, but there would be no vote on the bill this session.

Stalling the bill yesterday elicited the vision of a small dinghy of sanity in a roaring sea of legislative excess. It also represented a small victory for property rights and the ideals represented by the Oregon Trail. The pioneers would be proud.

You can listen to the entire hearing.
My testimony begins at 1:03:13.

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