SALEM — Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, has been picked to replace ousted lawmaker Rep. Matt Wingard as the powerful co-chair of the House Education Committee.
Early in the 2011 session, the education committee came to an impasse with the two co-chairs unable to agree on new legislation. The result, some said, was legislation able to make it through the committee was not properly vetted by lawmakers or the public.
Other education proposals simply stalled and eventually died.
Huffman, who was already a member of the committee but not in a leadership position, said at times it was impossible to move “policy agendas forward, regardless of whose agenda it was.”
Everything, he said, became politicized.
Now, he said, that will change.
Huffman said he has a good working relationship with his Democratic counterpart on the committee, co-chair Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis.
The two will work together to prepare for the 2013 session, when presumably one party will take control and the committees will no longer be evenly split.
Huffman plans to meet with Gelser next week to discuss possible legislation, and the two have upcoming meetings with education advocates across the state.
“I think we’ll be just fine, as it should be,” he said. “Sometimes you lock up and you have to leave the room, but most of the time that’s not the case. You can come together and compromise and find what’s best for Oregonians.”
“(Huffman) is someone I frequently go to with new ideas and I trust to give constructive feedback,” she said. “I know he’s someone willing to compromise and find a path through the middle.”
The co-chairs said they are focusing on how to ensure small, rural schools in Oregon can keep their doors open.
With the governor’s education overhaul, the committee will also discuss how to implement some of his proposed changes that will likely affect how schools are funded.
“This is a critical time, especially with the governor’s education agenda,” Gelser said. “It’s an important time for the Legislature to remain engaged.”
Wingard lost his spot on the House Education Committee and his role as deputy Republican leader after a younger aide accused him of pressuring her into having sex with him.
After the accusations were made, Wingard announced he would not seek re-election.
Wingard denied the charges of pressuring the aide into having sex and furnishing alcohol to minors, but did admit to having a sexual relationship with her.
He plans to serve out the rest of his term. He continues to serve on the House Rules Committee.