State Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell came to the Seaside Library on Saturday to present a legislative update at her first Seaside town hall.
While housing, health care, education and the environment were at the top of her legislative agenda, it was her vote for a cap-and-trade bill that drew many of the 50 or so in the audience to hear the Astoria Democrat.
House Bill 2020, which would have placed a cap on greenhouse gas emissions to help counter climate change, passed the state House but died in the Senate after a Republican walkout and doubts about Democratic support.
“After the election of 2018, we realized we had the opportunity to do some amazing things, and I think we’ve done that,” said Mitchell, who is in her first two-year term.
She cited a drug take-back program for safe disposal, a $2 billion state school fund that helps career-oriented education, a plastic bag ban and limits on rent increases, among other legislative items.
People in the audience said passage of HB 2020 would have cost jobs and could have led to the loss of local industry if companies moved out of the state as a result of tougher climate policies.
“The closure of Wauna Mill would compound in the community,” Frank Stuhr, a Warrenton resident, said. “We would end up paying significantly more than what the bill requires.”
Georgia-Pacific, which employs 750 at the paper mill, did not say it would leave the state if the bill became law. But the union that represents mill workers warned about the potential for job losses and a closure.
Mitchell defended her support of the bill. “I don’t think we should be arguing whether this multimillion-dollar company will be seriously impacted by an extra $500,000,” she said. “Oregon can’t let one company, that is one of the largest polluters in the state, regulate our decision-making.”
One person in the audience urged her to “listen to Clatsop County, not to Portland,” to applause.
Others questioned her votes for a plastic bag ban and housing protections for renters, including limits on rent hikes and evictions.
“If I campaigned on those things and was elected on those positions, I think it stands to reason that the vast majority of the constituency support the things we’ve done,” Mitchell responded.
Bob Shortman, the chairman of Clatsop County Republicans, saw the town hall as a way to build enthusiasm for the party’s base.
“I would really like to thank you, because our membership is increasing amazingly,” Shortman said. “We’re having standing-room meetings. We’re very looking forward to next year for a candidate, and spirited debates.”
On that, at least, the two divergent sides could agree.
“Spirited is a great term,” Mitchell said after the town hall. “After the lightning rod (HB) 2020 session, I think it’s a good thing to bring out people with different opinions. Polling shows there is a divide. The tenor of the discussion would make you think the divide is much larger than it actually is.”