Boomer Wright stepped into the Oregon capitol earlier this year as a rookie, and he ended his first legislative session as a veteran.
OK, maybe not a veteran, but certainly more prepared to fight for his district that includes much of Coos and Douglas counties.
“This has definitely been a learning year,” Wright said last week. “It was like drinking from a fire hose. It’s not a learning curve, it’s a learning incline.”
Despite that steep incline, Wright said he was pleased with how the session turned out. As a Republican in a state dominated politically by Democrats, Wright said he was pleased to get half of the bills he submitted passed.
“I submitted four bills and I got two,” he said. “I’m pleased with that, and I’m learning the process.”
Wright was assigned to committees overseeing issues for veterans, wildfire management and behavioral health. He said being involved gave him a far greater understanding of the issues impacting Oregon.
Wright said being in the minority at the Legislature was frustrating at times, especially when Republicans had little input on the biggest bills.
“I had one day I got pretty frustrated and I called one of my colleagues and asked, ‘how do you do this,’” Wright said. “COVID made it harder because half the people weren’t there.”
Wright said his style is to meet people face to face so they can discuss differences, but with half the members working from home that style didn’t work too well.
“The Democrats had the votes,” Wright said. “They could do anything they wanted, any time and they did not need us.”
But despite the frustrations, Wright said the work done in the Legislature is not what the media makes it out to be. In fact, most legislation was broadly supported by both parties.
“I would go as far as 85 percent and maybe 90 percent of bills are bipartisan,” Wright said. “They are reasonable bills that we agree on. But there are philosophical differences between the two parties.”
Despite being in the minority, Wright said he was happy with what he was able to accomplish for House District 9. He played a key role in helping North Bend get a grant to operate it’s pool this summer, got $14 million for the city of Lakeside to upgrade its water treatment plant, $1 million for the water system in Mapleton and $600,000 for the Little Theater on the Bay in North Bend.
He is hoping to get financing to improve fire training capabilities at Southwestern Oregon Community College and money to repair the levees in Reedsport.
Wright said he is eager for the future, with the Legislature getting back together later this year for redistricting and meeting next year for its 2022 session.
“By the end of the session, I was feeling pretty comfortable,” he said.
Redistricting will be key in 2021 because Oregon picked up another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. While the Democrats hold majority, the state House will have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats working on redistricting.
“A balanced Redistricting Committee means political office boundaries can be redrawn without political gerrymandering, giving the people better representation and more fair and balanced elections,” Wright said. “I encourage the public to take an active role in the process.”
With the Legislature no longer in session, Wright has found himself busy meeting with local officials and going to special occasions like the reopening of the North Bend Municipal Pool.
“Now it’s getting to the part I really enjoy,” he said. “I can talk to people one on one and say, ‘what do you need?’ I need to sit down with the mayors, commissioners and city councils and see where they want to go. I’m looking forward to meeting the people.”