Rep. Sprenger vows to fight for wood industry

The Oregon Legislature considered some “ridiculous” bills, state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger told a crowd of about 15 district residents during a town hall meeting Thursday, March 18, at the Sweet Home Police Department.

Sprenger, a Republican who represents District 17, which includes most of the Sweet Home School Disrict, said she worked on jobs while the opportunity was there and will continue to work on it next session.

She said she opposed and voted against tax Measures 66 and 67, approved by voters in January.

“We’re in a tough economy, and businesses are struggling to begin with,” she said.

Had the election gone her way, a special session would have been a true emergency, which is the reason the sessions are held in even-numbered years in Oregon.

The legislature and governor approved a budget built on those tax measures passing, Sprenger said, which would have required budget adjustments.

But that didn’t happen, she said. What did happen, with 11-percent unemployment, is the legislature declared the month of May “Maternal Mental Awareness Month.” The legislature voted on 100 of 200 bills introduced.

“That is not what I believe the special session is about,” Sprenger said. Rather than talking about ridiculous bills, she wanted rather to tell people, about 15 attending, about the good things that were accomplished.

For example, she cited a biomass bill to help create jobs.

HB 3608 would establish a tax credit for the transportation of woody biomass from forests to biofuels producers, a tax credit for biomass electrical generation and a tax credit for the purchase of equipment to collect or process waste materials. The bill also would direct the Oregon Department of Energy to conduct a study of biomass facility sites in Oregon.

While the bill wasn’t passed, it will be back, Sprenger said. Local timber firms are telling her they cannot afford to run trucks because of increased PUC and DMV fees.

“My concern is we already have a struggling timber industry,” she said. The workforce isn’t being replenished in timber either. When the industry rebounds, although probably never to 1980s levels, Oregon needs a workforce able to go to work in the industry. This would keep people working in the industry.

For 2009, the tax credit would have reached an estimated $14 million, she said.

She also is committed to helping revive the industry, she said. “It’s not about three-log loads. It’s about a renewable resource in our state, and we’re not using it.”

Talking about environmentalism, she suggested talking about how much carbon dioxide is released in rotting wood or burning forests.

That’s bringing some of the more reasonable environmental groups to say that perhaps what’s going on now isn’t working, Sprenger said.

Another bill is related directly to Sprenger’s son’s best friend’s older brother, who was deployed to Iraq. On leave after six months there, he was 12 hours from shipping out back to Iraq when he was arrested for punching someone.

“Something’s going on in his head that told him for the first time in his life that was OK,” Sprenger said. It’s not like him, and the legislature passed a bill to allow a diversion process for soldiers attempting to integrate back into regular society.

Coming up, she wants to improve the number of hunter safety courses being offered, she said. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to encourage more youths to take up hunting, but access to the required class is limited.

With the ODFW, she would like to look at creative ways to have more hunter safety classes, Sprenger said. It would improve marketing and draw more people into hunting.

“It’s the one opportunity at that age we have a captive audience to teach people how to handle firearms,” she said. “Guns are a not inherently evil.

“It’s a culture thing. We need to look around at our culture and deal with it appropriately.”