The first few weeks of any newly convened legislative session involve a lot of learning. For freshmen lawmakers, the learning process can resemble drinking from a fire hydrant.
Freshman Rep. Rich Vial, a Republican who represents Sherwood and the surrounding area in Washington County, told constituents in his first newsletter since the session convened that his legislative work left him “sobered.” Thousands of bills have been introduced and hundreds of voices clamor to talk about those bills with lawmakers like him everyday.
“As an attorney, my role is to advocate for either a client or a cause,” Vial told his constituents. “As a legislator, my clients are the people of House District 26. My job is to make the best decision I can to help the people I represent.”
“Making an informed decision on any topic involves collecting information from a variety of sources, including constituents, interested groups and state agencies,” Vial says. “Given the amount of information that is presented to members of the legislature each day, I find that sorting through it all in order to make a good decision is an exciting challenge. There is much to learn and much more to do, and I am humbled by the awesome responsibility of serving as your State Representative.”
His newsletter also affirms what it means to be a citizen legislator. “On Sunday night – in the middle of the Super Bowl – my family and I were called away to retrieve a newly born calf and her mother from the middle of a muddy field that had been flooded with historic amounts of rain. In honor of the [New England] Patriots'
Win, we named the new little heifer Patty.”
Vial’s communication to his district is typical for most legislators who use newsletters to stay in touch back home after they head to Salem.
In his February 8 newsletter, Vial features legislation he cosponsored along with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward of Beaverton to raise the legal age to use tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age. He cites statistics indicating one of every three young smokers will die of a smoking-related illness, which has an impact on the state’s Medicaid budget and worker productivity. He predicted Tobacco 21 legislation, if enacted, would cut tobacco usage 12 percent.
As the legislative session wears on and lawmakers begin to confront more challenging issues, lawmakers like Vial will keep learning and sharing what he learns and thinks with his constituents. Before long, Vial and his colleagues will be explaining to their constituents how they think Oregon should address its $1.8 billion budget hole and what the impacts would be on schools, hospitals and public safety, as well as Oregon taxpayers. Those are newsletters bound to attract a lot of readership.
Vial founded a law firm in 1986 that now employs 100 people and represents clients in six states. He has been active in Washington County on a variety of community boards. He and his wife Paula have six children and have welcomed dozens of children into their home, including seven children who lived with them permanently as refugees from Vietnam.