By Cheri Helt

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When I ran for the Legislature, I pledged to be an inclusive and independent voice for Bend. As a working mom, small-business owner and longtime school board member, I believe in pragmatic ideas and leading with moderation and common sense. During these partisan and polarized times, governing as a fiscally responsible, socially inclusive and environmentally conscious moderate can be a challenge. But I believe that’s what the people of Bend want and expect — leaders willing to reject ideological extremes and lead from the center.

While much has been reported about partisan controversies associated with the recently adjourned legislative session, what’s remarkable is that 92% of all the bills passed by the Oregon House included bipartisan support. I am proud of my role in helping to make that happen.

The following are some of the accomplishments from my first six months serving you in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Stronger funding for K-12 schools

I supported the largest budget for K-12 education in Oregon history — an 8% increase. With stronger funding, local school districts must continue to innovate and reform to boost student achievement and improve lagging graduation rates.

Providing family and medical leave

I co-sponsored a plan to provide every Oregon worker 12 weeks of paid leave to welcome a new child, manage an illness or care for a loved one.

Protecting clean air and water

I broke with many in my party to reduce toxic air pollution by requiring truck owners to replace older diesel engines with newer, cleaner models by 2025. I also supported requiring new safety plans for oil trains and voted to ban single-use plastic bags.

Respecting family budgets and jobs

I voted against a new $2-plus billion tax on consumer sales that will raise prices on everyday household items. I also opposed the controversial $1.4 billion carbon tax plan that would’ve immediately increased gas prices by 22 cents per gallon and dramatically raised natural gas costs while, according to state experts, having an “imperceptible” impact on curbing carbon emissions.

Strengthening public health and Medicaid

With the goal of protecting children from dangerous, preventable diseases, I sponsored a science-based law to eliminate nonmedical exemptions for vaccinations for children attending Oregon schools. The bill passed the Oregon House, but was stopped in the Senate. I also joined a bipartisan coalition to support continued state funding of Medicaid, including referring an increase in tobacco taxes to voters next year.

Promoting housing affordability

I wrote and passed a new law boosting housing supply and choice in Bend by encouraging revitalization of underutilized areas near public transit. I also broke with many in my party to support a new law requiring cities to include more affordable multifamily neighborhood housing options.

Advancing gun safety

Building upon earlier efforts to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” I was one of seven Republicans to join Democrats in passing a tougher law to help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.

I want to thank you for allowing me to serve Bend in the Oregon House of Representatives; it is the honor and responsibility of a lifetime. I am grateful for all the passionate voices I hear from each day who care about Bend and Oregon.

I appreciate the people who take the time to call, email, write and attend town hall meetings to make your views and feelings known. I am listening. I am also grateful for the love of my husband and three kids who support my public service and often make the sacrifice of sharing their spouse and mom with a community and state that we all love.

— Cheri Helt is the representative for Oregon House District 54.

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