Sen. Dallas Heard says Republican walkout was worth it
State Sen. Dallas Heard of Winston was one of 11 Republican senators who joined a walkout from the state Capitol last week.
The protest started with Republican objections to a business tax meant to fund education. It ended when they returned to the Capitol on Monday, giving the Senate the quorum required for voting.
While Democrats are in the majority, they do not have enough senators to make a quorum without some Republicans turning up. Following a week of negotiations, the Republicans agreed to return and allow the education funding bill to pass if two others — a gun control bill and a vaccination mandate — were killed.
He said he believes the Republicans got their message across.
“It’s the beginning of showing them we’re not just going to roll over and die,” Heard said.
Heard said he spent the week of the walkout back home in his district making phone calls. He worked with the caucus and individual citizens on the issues that drove the Republicans out to start with. And he faced a threat issued by Democrats that if the Republicans didn’t return this week they’d each be fined $500 a day for a job that only earns $2,600 a month.
He’s particularly pleased to see the vaccine bill go down. It would have mandated school kids get vaccinated in order to attend public or private school and daycare facilities. Proponents said the bill would protect kids from deadly diseases and prevent outbreaks; opponents said parents should have the right to opt out for religious or philosophical reasons. Heard said the bill represented a government overreach.
“It’s the same old human species character flaw. When we get too much control, too much power for too long, we almost all are subject to inherently becoming something other than what we started out as. And that something is arrogant, self righteous, overly confident and dismissive of what other people’s beliefs, values or circumstances are. And we just start running people over,” Heard said.
Heard said he was amazed at the commitment of the ordinary citizens who sent emails, made phone calls and wrote letters in an effort to prevent the vaccination bill’s passage. Ninety-five percent of them were women, he said. Heard said he was disturbed how few men were willing to invest in the political process.
“I am so proud of the women for showing all this courage, devotion, commitment that was unyielding in the pursuit to protect their children from what they believe is an overreach of government. These women through their efforts have renewed my hope that freedom and liberty will live on. I don’t feel alone anymore,” he said.
He said some of the women told him they changed their party affiliation as a result.
“The Republicans were the party that stood for their rights and their freedoms, and we fought valiantly in my opinion and my caucus’ opinion. Without this caucus collectively standing together that bill would be on the governor’s desk going into law,” he said.
As for the gross receipts tax that passed Monday, Heard still thinks it’s unfair to businesses, since it doesn’t account for whether the business made a profit or loss. He also said the Democrats can’t prove the money will be used for education, and that it may instead be used for the public employee retirement system.
The Democrats, on the other hand, viewed it as a major accomplishment — one that would raise $1 billion a year to fund Oregon’s education system. It passed on a strict 18-11 party line vote.
Heard said if no deal had been reached by Monday, he’d have paid the $500 a day fine. He also said since he wasn’t in the Capitol last week, he’ll be donating his payment for those days to the Douglas High School athletics program.