Rep. David Gomberg talks to the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce during the organization’s monthly luncheon on Oct. 19. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Oregon Legislature plans to convene early next year and Rep. David Gomberg, who represents Philomath as part of his district, said he’s allowed to introduce two bills during the 35-day short session.

Speaking in front of a crowd of about 50 people at the Oct. 19 Philomath Area Chamber Commerce luncheon, Gomberg (D-Otis) responded to a question about what he expects to be focusing on during the session, which is scheduled to run from Feb. 5 to March 10.

“It’s kind of a fine-tuning session where we might tweak the budget a little bit and instead of being able to introduce as many bills as I want, I’m limited to only two bills,” Gomberg said. “In the short session, there’s not as much money and there’s certainly not as much time.”

Gomberg’s bills will be connected to a rural water package and an animal welfare issue.

Joining with the Oregon Water Caucus, Gomberg said much of the committee’s work has focused on drought and agriculture issues in Eastern Oregon. Although he says those are important, the state lawmaker said “I’m also all about infrastructure and small communities that need help that can’t afford the necessary repairs.”

This month, a team of legislators will reportedly visit Gomberg’s House District 10 “to take a look at a group of different water projects that we have either funded or need funding so they can get a better sense of how things work … or need to work better.”

Local efforts to replace an aging water treatment plant received a major boost in 2021 when Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) had Philomath in his district with news that the city would receive $12 million in funding through an appropriations bill. This year, Gomberg helped bring $1.3 million to Monroe for needed water infrastructure upgrades.

On the other issue, animal welfare, Gomberg shared views on some of the things that he says have been going on at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, which is operated by Oregon Health and Science University.

“Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not medical research on animals is ethical or scientifically valid or appropriate but I think we have to say here in Oregon, we’re not doing a very good job of it,” Gomberg said. “Because there have been more mistakes made at the Oregon institution than any other institution like it in the country.”

The legislator provided specific examples.

“A year and a half ago, a technician got a bunch of cages to wheel them into a cleaning system and didn’t notice there were still monkeys in two of the cages,” Gomberg said, “and wheeled them into this like giant ‘dishwasher’ and scalded them to death.”

He had an example of a more recent incident.

“They were trying to remove a baby from a cage and its mother got agitated, big surprise,” he said. “They slammed the door shut and the baby got caught in the door. Mistakes after mistakes after mistakes.”

In this year’s legislative session, Gomberg introduced five animal welfare bills that in addition to exposing abuses at the Primate Research Center took on sales of puppy mill puppies in pet shops, the testing of cosmetics on animals and challenged the Oregon Racing Commission to review online betting, animal welfare and greyhound racing. Bills also designated shelter-rescued animals as the state pet and secured $1 million to shelters to help with the costs of accommodating pets.

The animal welfare bill that he plans to introduce next year involves — and he says “take a deep breath” — animal crush videos.

“These are people that make videos and sell videos of animals being tortured,” Gomberg said. “Horrible, horrible stuff. It’s against the federal law but it’s not against Oregon law and I want to make sure it is.”

Also during the Oct. 19 talk, Gomberg spent several minutes going over highlights from this year’s legislative session with housing and homelessness, education, rural infrastructure and higher-than-forecasted revenue and the kicker refund among his talking points.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.