by Deborah Steele Hazen
A legislator who stands true to what she believes, consistent with the wishes of the majority of her constituents, and in favor of what she thinks is best for the state, is someone to be praised and supported.
Especially if she has the courage to hold to her principles in spite of partisan political pressure.
Instead, State Senator Betsy Johnson, a Democrat from Scappoose who represents Columbia, Clatsop, and portions of Tillamook, Washington and Multnomah counties, is being targeted by the national Democratic party – or, at least, it’s chairman emeritus Howard Dean – for not supporting certain legislation with which she doesn’t agree.
In a July 9th “tweet” to a liberal blog attacking Senator Johnson for her vote against House Bill 3521, which would have used information from the Department of Motor Vehicles to automatically register people to vote, Dean called for a new senator for District 16.
We appreciate the former Vermont governor and failed presidential candidate’s concern, but we think the people of Northwest Oregon can make their own decisions.
It is plenty easy to register to vote in Oregon. One can do so on-line, at any county elections office, any DMV office, and a number of other public places. Anyone who wants to help others register to vote can download forms from the Internet, and pass them out. It’s the idea of automatically being registered to vote, whether the person being registered cares about voting or not, that is against our principles.
In regard to her no vote on SB 3521, Johnson says: “I cast a vote based on a deeply held personal conviction inculcated by my mother and grandmother. It is already so easy to register in Oregon. It’s not unduly burdensome to ask people to register before exercising the great privilege of voting.”
What annoyed the party bosses is that our senator’s no vote created a 15-15 split in the Senate (which has 16 Democrats and 14 Republicans), and that caused the automatic voter registration bill – which was predicted to significantly increase the Democrat party’s advantage in Oregon – to fail.
Our state senator also stood up for Second Amendment rights, and against the renewal of a complex low-carbon fuel standard that, according to The Oregonian, not only takes aim at the gases released by fuel combustion, fuel production and transportation, but also involves lots of tracking, paperwork and “a credit scheme that would likely force those who use conventional motor fuels to subsidize alternative-fuel transportation.”
She also drew the ire of some in her party for opposing a ban on people smoking in vehicles when children are present – not because she thinks it’s good to smoke around children, but because this “nanny state” bill simply adds to the pile of unenforceable laws which already over-burden our police officers, our courts and our jails.
Despite Senator Johnson’s opposition, that legislation passed – thanks to the support of a few Republicans who crossed over the party-line to join their Democratic colleagues.
We don’t always agree with Senator Johnson, but we think that she reflects the majority of her constituents most of the time.
Despite her refusal to bow to partisan pressure in several key votes in the recently-ended legislative session, Johnson votes with the Democratic caucus at a rate of over 90 percent. But we’ve always appreciated her willingness to work with Republican legislators to try to find solutions palatable to the majority of Oregonians.
Bi-partisanship and elected leaders who have the independence to buck the party-bosses when their consciences and their constituents require that they do so, have traditionally been sources of pride for Oregonians.
Mark Hatfield, Wayne Morse and Tom McCall were all criticized for occasionally stepping across the aisle.
One day in 1953, Morse literally moved his chair into the center aisle of the U.S. Senate as a visual testimony to his independence
“He said what he thought, he had a sharp intelligence, and he never minced words,” the weekly news magazine The Nation wrote about Oregon’s “maverick” Senator Morse.
The editors of this newspaper frequently didn’t agree with Wayne Morse, but we appreciated his feisty, independent spirit.
Betsy Johnson says what she thinks, she’s very smart, and she doesn’t mince words.She may not be Howard Dean’s favorite Oregon state senator, but she is ours.