Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem.

SALEM — A veteran Republican senator absent for a month from the Capitol said Wednesday that her health is improving and that she is “working hard” to return to the 2019 Legislature.

State Sen. Jackie Winters of Salem issued a statement through the Senate Republican caucus office after she was provided written questions about her absence by the Oregon Capital Bureau.

“My health and strength are improving every day,” Winters said. “I am working hard to return to the Capitol and am continuing to stay engaged. I am thankful to everyone for the well wishes and prayers through this process.”

She is a key legislative budget writer and advocate for criminal justice reform, and one of only 12 Republicans among the Senate’s 30 members.

Winters, 82, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017.

In a statement on April 23, Winters said that the cancer “is currently in remission, and I continue to have proactive treatment to keep it that way.”

She said at the time that she was “having side effects from the treatment and I am being treated for those side effects.” She added that she was “taking a couple of days away from the Capitol.”

Winters, who led the Republican caucus in the Senate from November 2017 until December 2018, is vice chair of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, the legislature’s powerful budget writing committee. She co-chairs a subcommittee handling budgets for the state’s public safety agencies.

Winters was elected to the Senate in 2002, after two terms in the House.

Her last vote in the Senate this session was April 18, two days after she carried a significant criminal justice reform bill.

The bill, which passed 20-10, would mean the state would stop automatically treating juveniles 15 and older who are charged with violent crimes as adults in court.

Reporter Claire Withycombe: [email protected] or 971-304-4148. Withycombe is a reporter for the East Oregonian working for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

Reporter Aubrey Wieber: [email protected] or 503-575-1251. Wieber is a reporter for Salem Reporter who works for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, the Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.