Girod says rural interests top his Senate agenda

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Fred Girod wants to make sure Senate District Nine gets equal treatment at the state level where the Eugene and Portland metro areas rule; and he’s working on some 40 to 50 bills for the 2009 legislative session to address a wide range of issues.

Girod, a Republican, is facing Democrat challenger Bob McDonald for the state Senate District 9 seat. Ballots will be mailed on Oct. 17 for the Nov. 4 election.

“I think our district doesn’t get a fair shake from Portland and Eugene,” Girod said. The district has been hard hit with the slowdown in the timber industry.

As a result of the divide between those cities and the rest of Oregon, cougar populations are up, and salmon populations are down, he said. “Agriculture deserves a fair shake, less rules and regulations.”

And with child labor laws where they are now, “we’re really missing the boat by not letting kids work out in the field,” he said.

“Since my background’s in health care, I think we could do a lot better with health care,” said Girod, a dentist. “We need to get lawyers out of health care. Lawyers just eat up such a huge chunk of health care dollars.”

To that end, Girod advocates tort reform, limiting pain and suffering awards to $1 million, he said. Lawsuits put health care under tremendous pressure, and the dollar amounts awarded are unreasonable, reaching $20 to $50 million for pain and suffering. Oregon Health Sciences University recently paid $38 million in six cases.

Plaintiffs should be able to cover actual economic damages, he said, but pain and suffering should be held down to a million.

The massive awards aren’t limited just to health care, he said. A 30-year-old sued the Catholic Church looking for $30 million.

“Nonprofits, charities and church groups need protection, otherwise they just get wiped out,” Girod said. “OHSU can’t afford to stay in operation.”

The claims sound legitimate, with obvious negligence, he said. And while he doesn’t condone what happened in some parts of the Catholic Church, it’s all but bankrupted the church.

“If people knew what the lawyers were making, they’d be appalled,” he said.

Among his priorities as he prepares his bills for the next legislative session is salmon recovery, he said. He has a five-point plan, including eliminating gill netting on the Columbia, to increase runs in the Santiam.

On both forks of the Santiam, winter steelhead and salmon runs are all getting low, he said. As an avid sports fisherman, he advocates for sports fishermen, not gill netters.

“I have a bill that would have the state back the Western Oregon Plan Review,” Girod said. This bill would increase timber production in Oregon from 200 million to 700 million board feet per year by opening up more harvesting on U.S. Bureau of Land Management and O&C forests. At its height, Oregon produced 3 billion board feet.

“It’s backed by the timber industry big time,” he said.

The salmon recovery and expansion of timber production both mean jobs in Oregon, he said. Salmon recovery would drive billions of dollars in rod manufacturing, motor repairs and all of the cottage industries associated with fishing.

Cougar populations have increased from 400 to 5,000, and Oregon needs to get the cats under control, he said. The population is behind declining deer populations.

Oregon is split over much of this, he said.

“It’s the rural legislators against Portland or Eugene,” Girod said. “I’d rather have a Democrat from this district than a Republican from the Portland or Eugene (in office).”

People from this area know what’s best for the area, he said, but the metro areas vote against them.

It’s shown up with cougars, he said. And it’s shown up in fishing, with inadequate stocking of fish and separating every run into its own species. Years ago, the spotted owl cost billions of dollars and lost jobs.

The urban approach to forest management has led to bigger forest fires, producing the annual equivalent of 11 million cars in the emission of greenhouse gases, he said. Harvesting the forests would improve the environment and help reduce greenhouse gases.

Among the bills Girod has on tap is one that would require medical marijuana users to be under the care of a physician and use an alternative to marijuana if it exists, he said. When the statewide petition to permit medical marijuana use was approved by Oregon voters, It was meant to severely regulate its use to perhaps 500 people.

One doctor wrote more than 8,000 prescriptions and has since lost his license and retired, Girod said. Now, some workers are saying it’s OK to operate heavy machinery if they have their medical marijuana card.

While he doesn’t think he will introduce all of the bills he is working on, they address a variety of issues, Girod said.

For more information, visit fredgirod.com on the web.

Gun Control

Fred Girod holds an “A-Plus” with the National Rifle Association and supports individual gun rights, he said. He favors rolling back gun control laws.

Abortion

“I’m pro-life,” he said, without exceptions.

Illegal Immigration

He supported the bill to require proof of citizenship to obtain a driver’s license, he said. “I think that has been extremely successful. Driver’s licenses for Hispanics is down about 75 percent,” although “it’s kind of a little extreme.”

He has heard the stories of laminated Social Security cards being turned down, he said, and other difficulties for citizens to obtain their licenses.

“We need to go back and make it so it’s a lot more workable,” he said. “This (Oregon) was a stepping-off state for illegal immigrants to get a license.”

They used that license to get different state-funded services, like Oregon Health Plan, he said.

At the same time, he would like to offer Mexicans the opportunity to work, he said. “I think we need to have an adequate workforce.”

If the state needs 5,000, for example, he is in favor of allowing them to come as guest workers.

“If they’re illegal, they shouldn’t be able to work,” he said, and if they can’t get on social programs because they don’t have a license, they aren’t going to come here illegally. Rather the migrant workers can come here legally in a guest worker program.

He is considering a bill, although unsure it will get out, requiring proof of citizenship for registering to vote, he said. The idea of illegal immigrants voting bothers him.

Bailout

“The big positive, if there is a positive out of it, is the forest timber payments have been restored,” he said. Curry and Josephine counties are looking at bankruptcy, and the timber payments will help rural counties.

“It’s a lot of money,” he said. “I don’t have enough information to tell you how I’d vote.”

But $700 billion is a tremendous amount of money, he said. If the federal government got some of that back, he might be OK with it.

“I’m not sure it’s where I would’ve ended up,” he said. “They needed to do something, but I think it’s excessive.”

Drug Testing for Those Receiving Public Assistance

He would like to see drug testing on those who receive public assistance and also unemployment benefits, Girod said. Rep. Kevin Cameron, R-Salem, beat Girod to introducing a bill to do just that.

“I don’t think the government has an obligation to pay for their drug habits,” Girod said.

“Under God” in the Pledge

“I’m for it 100 percent,” he said.

Drilling Offshore

“I think we should encourage it,” he said. “If everybody says ‘not in my backyard,’ we have to get oil out of the Arab states, which is catastrophic for our economy.”

Iraq

“I think it’s cost an awful big chunk of money,” he said. “And I think it’s time they start paying their own way.”

Girod said he isn’t 100 percent in support of where things are now, but at the same time “you have to defend your” interests.

At the same time, no matter what, the nation needs to support the soldiers who have put their lives on the line, he said.

With the information available at the time, he would have supported the attack on Iraq, he said. “But they turned out to be wrong. (Given that) as a Monday night quarterback, I would’ve said probably not; but I don’t like being a Monday night quarterback.”

Education Standards and No Child Left Behind Act

He would like to see the No Child Left Behind Act gone, he said. “It sounds like a good thing, but the problem is that there’s no floor to that legislation.”

It means “no child,” he said. Districts spend upward of $200,000 to $300,000 on some students with little to no return, he said. In theory, it could cost districts infinite resources. He would like to see some kind of requirement lower than 100 percent of students meeting standards.

“Put a floor in it or do away with the legislation,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with putting standards in there.”

He voted to increase education funding by 18 percent, he said. “I’m not sure we’re getting our money’s worth out of that deal.”

He would like to see “sideboards” attached to education funding, which means the legislature could direct the flow of money to certain areas, he said. A lot of the additional funding went to salary increases. While some got 1 or 2 percent in raises, others around the state were getting 6 and 8 percent.

The goal of increasing education funding was to reduce class sizes, he said.

“I also think we need to make some more virtual schools,” he said. “I’m happy with what they’re doing in Scio.”

Some students are not geared to the classroom and may excel through an Internet school with parents around to assist them, he said. He would like to see more opportunities for vocational training and apprenticeships too because not everyone is geared to go to college.

Economic Difficulties and Tax Revenue

Revenue projections are going down, he said. Right now, projections are $500 million less in the next budget, but the state spent $270 million on light rail in Portland in the last budget. Another $7 million was used to build a parking garage at the private Pacific University.

The state funded a number of other capital improvements that it can’t afford now, he said. All of those expenditures approach $500 million.

With that, “you say, what you got last time is what you get this time,” he said. That will cause a huge outcry, but the state absolutely cannot impose more taxes.

“You can’t tax yourself out of a depression,” he said. He expects attempts to pass new taxes, and he the governor is planning to reintroduce a proposed tobacco tax increase, one defeated by voters. On top of that, he expects an attempt to impose a 7.5-percent employment tax to reduce the number of people without health insurance in Oregon. For those who already have insurance, the tax will be 2 percent.

Girod opposes these taxes.

“It’s going to cost thousands of jobs in the state,” he said. “So you wonder why I run? And they refuse to weed out illegal immigrants from those benefits.”

Universal Health Care

At the federal level, he supports health insurance to cover catastrophic medical expenses, he said. “I think the government should step in.”

He supports the development of medical IRAs, allowing people to shop for health care and make their own decisions rather than government agencies, driving down and keeping down prices, he said. With 100 percent coverage, there is no reason to shop.

He also would support something like the Oregon Health Plan to supplement some medical IRAs, he said. It’s all part of a comprehensive plan he designed while in a special program at Harvard University in 1988.

Speed Limit

He may introduce a bill, and he would support an increase in the speed limit on freeways and highways, he said. However, the legislature may refer it to Oregon Department of Transportation.

Also, some will oppose higher speed limits because higher speeds use more fuel, he said.

Ducks or Beavers

Beavers.

Country or Rock ‘n’ Roll

“That’s tough,” he said: Rock music as a kid and country music as an adult.

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