Inside Salem: Legislator’s Letter: An Update from Rep. Jeff Helfrich
September 1, 2023
Earlier this summer, Governor Kotek issued several vetoes of proposals that the Legislature passed in June. I was pleasantly surprised by her decision to veto hundreds of thousands of tax dollars planned to be spent on a study legalizing prostitution in Oregon.
As a former Portland Police officer, I saw many examples of human trafficking. Many of those were in some way linked to prostitution. Of course, we never would want to criminalize someone who is a victim of such a horrible crime. Our local prosecutors do a good job of ensuring that doesn’t happen. Current laws give law enforcement the tools to go after traffickers and those abusing women. Legalizing prostitution would make it harder for law enforcement to catch true criminals. I opposed the state funding this study, and I’m glad Governor Kotek agreed.
As kids head back to school, I have spoken to many parents who are losing faith in our public school system. Just in the last few weeks, reports have emerged that Oregon’s test scores are not rebounding post-pandemic. Data shows that only 40% of the state’s third graders scored as proficient in reading and math this spring. That’s down from 47% proficiency in English and 46% in math pre-pandemic in 2019. Among eighth graders, only 44% achieved proficiency in reading and 26% in math. Since 2019, that’s down from 53% and 38% respectively.
In a recent study of 40 states, Oregon had the fourth worse rate of absenteeism among students. Over 36% of Oregon students miss 10% or more of their school year.
These stats are unacceptable. We can and must do better to prepare our students for future success. I believe that includes giving parents more power to choose an educational environment that best fits their child’s needs. I want to set our kids up to be their best, and we must do more as a Legislature to empower parents and students.
Now that session is over, my staff and I spend less of our time on policy and more on constituent casework. This means that we are helping residents navigate the state agencies, departments, and bureaucracies.
This work can take many forms. My office recently helped constituents with trouble navigating state websites to pay registration fees and those who had issues receiving licenses or certifications.
Between the fires in Oregon and the devastation in Lahaina, Hawaii, I’ve had numerous constituents reach out with concerns about bridges or roads that are in disrepair. They are asking about emergency plans if there is a need to evacuate but roads are closed or otherwise inaccessible. I’ve been working with county and state transportation officials to receive updates on road conditions and learn what needs to be done to move forward with improvements.
Speaking of fires, now is the time of year that we have to be much more aware of the fire risk. I encourage you to visit wildfire.oregon.gov. You can view a map of Oregon’s current fires, learn how to prevent wildfires and sign up for emergency evacuation notices. For county-specific information, visit clackamas.us/dm.
Sometimes, we receive requests for help for issues outside my office’s jurisdiction. This would be any federal issues – such as the VA, immigration, or passport assistance. In these circumstances, we make sure those requests get put in the hands of your Congressional office which can best assist.
If you’re having any struggles with a government agency, please reach out to see if my office can help! You can email me at Rep.JeffHelfrich@oregonlegislature.gov or call at 503-986-1452.