An audience of about 30 people at a recent town hall meeting was sharply divided on what the state legislature should do next on climate change.
State Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, told his Nov. 25 town hall audience at Redmond City Hall that at least five different climate bills are being worked on for the 2020 legislative session. Knopp was one of 11 Republican senators who left the state to deny the Democratic majority a quorum for a bill intended to cap carbon emissions.
Knopp showed the audience a chart with carbon emissions remaining relatively stable in the United States between 1965 and 2017, while they skyrocketed in China. At the bottom of the chart were emissions for Oregon, well below the other numbers.
“This chart isn’t designed to say we shouldn’t do anything,” Knopp said. “This chart is designed to say, Oregon does pretty good, and we can do other things, but we are not a significant part of the problem. It’s a worldwide problem; it needs a world solution.”
A woman responded that Oregon has higher levels of carbon emissions than 116 countries.
Knopp said the bill would have increased gas taxes by 20 cents a gallon initially, and the number would grow over time. He also said an effort needs to be made to improve forest health and prevent large wildfires.
A woman responded to that statement by saying the bill had “nothing but benefits” for forestry and agriculture, and a man then told her “Do your homework lady before you open your mouth.”
Knopp, who appeared on shows like Fox and Friends and HBO’s Vice News while hiding out in Idaho, hopes a group of legislators now meeting will come up with a bipartisan bill, which he said they did not get in the 2019 session.
“I am hopeful that the people who are now talking will reach a better solution than was reached last session,” he said. “I can tell you that we’ve worked very hard to try to amend that bill without success, and we were, in the end, dismissed.”
Johnny Corbin, who served on the Redmond School Board from 2015 until earlier this year, told the audience that most people “have not studied geological history.”
“Climate change has taken place throughout time; the main culprit of change is the sun and the solar system,” he said to applause from a portion of the audience. “To say that man is affecting climate change, they’re really barking up the wrong tree.”
Scientific consensus disagrees — 97 % of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change, according to NASA.
While the 2019 session was largely remembered for the disagreement on the climate bill, Knopp pointed out his support on bills involving equal pay, paid family leave, workplace harassment and on Kaylee’s Law.
The law, which Knopp sponsored, was named for Kaylee Sawyer, a Central Oregon Community College student who was murdered by a campus security guard.
The bill, which passed unanimously, requires non-police campus security forces to avoid having uniforms, vehicles and equipment that resemble police issued items.
“What we don’t want to have happen is to have colleges that have campus security operations that are acting like police, and that’s what was happening here,” Knopp said.
Knopp was also a vocal opponent of a bill that would make vaccines mandatory for school children. A slowdown in the legislature killed the bill.
Knopp showed a chart that claimed there were four deaths and other injuries and disabilities caused by vaccines in Oregon last year.
“I believe that where there’s risk there has to be choice,” he said. “So for me, this issue was not about vaccines, it was about medical freedom...I just think this is an issue for parents and their doctors, not for the state of Oregon.”
An attendee disputed Knopp’s figures, saying some of the numbers on a chart he showed used numbers from a passive recording system, and that the reported incidents are not verified to have been caused by vaccines.
She added that other children not being vaccinated puts people undergoing chemotherapy at risk of contagious disease.
Knopp touted a bill he and Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, sponsored that allowed a second affordable workforce housing project to be built east of Redmond, along with one already approved near Bend.
The Redmond project will include 475 housing units, about half of them affordable, said Mayor George Endicott.
One attendee said that voters should be able to decide where workforce housing projects like that are located, because she thinks the projects could impact property values for existing residents.
Knopp, who is executive vice president of the Central Oregon Builders Association in Bend, explained that rules state the projects must be in certain locations, including adjacent to the urban growth boundary.
“Redmond picked a spot, and they’ve got projects that they’re gonna get up and running here, pretty quick, and Bend does too,” Knopp said, telling the woman she has the option to start an initiative.
Another woman responded that she lives in Bend’s Northwest Crossing neighborhood, which includes a mix of upscale and workforce housing, saying the mixture hasn’t impacted her quality of life “at all.”
The 2020 session
Among Knopp’s priorities for the 2020 session, which begins Feb. 3, is a new judge for Deschutes County.
“We haven’t had a new judge added for a very long time,” he said. “Deschutes County is growing very rapidly. I think we have a really good chance to secure that funding this coming session.”
Knopp also said he is working on a bill that would freeze property tax rates for low-income seniors.
Several attendees wore shirts representing the Moms Demand Action gun control organization. One asked Knopp to commit to supporting a law requiring “secure storage” of guns if it comes up in the next session.
Knopp responded that it depends on what the bill says., saying it is important for people accused of wrongdoing to get a hearing.
“My concerns is what kind of mandates are in there, what kind of penalties in terms of preventing somebody from defending themselves should they need to use their firearms,” he said.
The town hall included a couple of head-scratching moments. One woman questioned why the children of people who rent housing get to go to school for free. It was then explained to her that renters pay income tax, and their rent goes toward the landlord’s property tax payments.
“That is a state and community decision that’s been made, that we are going to offer free K-12 education to any child who presents themselves in Oregon,” Knopp said.
The woman (who also brought up voting on affordable housing project locations) replied, “I disagree with that.”
When Knopp mentioned working with Democratic legislators on the workplace harassment bill, another woman declared, “You’re not representing half of Oregon.” She then stormed out of the building, just seven minutes into Knopp’s opening remarks.