Do What You Can Do 5/9/19

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Senator Jeff Golden

 *  “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
 —Helen Keller

Welcome to our May 9 edition of Do What You Can Do.

Have you checked out Capitolizing? It's the weekly podcast where Senator Shemia Fagan and I answer two questions every week: What do we do here in the Capitol, and Why the hell should you care?

Find Capitolizing on iTunes and other podcast networks.

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What's Up

Sarah Settimo

Last week I had the pleasure of extending Senate courtesies to Sarah Settimo, a constituent and student at OSU. It was a pleasure to meet her and we wish her all the best on her future endeavors.

Student Success/New Tax Revenue:

I'm writing at the end of a couple of days that will make the highlights reel for this legislative session. We went to the Senate floor two separate times on Tuesday and on Wednesday to debate and vote on HB 3427, which would launch the comprehensive Student Success plan and fund it with a $1 billion/year corporate activities tax. The House passed it last week in a five-hour session by a 37-21 margin, one vote more than the 60% majority required to raise taxes.

But on the Senate side, nothing happened. We need a 2/3 quorum on the Senate floor, twenty of the total thirty Senators, to do business. All twelve Republican Senators defied the "Call of the Senate," which legally requires them to come to the floor. Rumor has it they've crossed the river into Washington, out of reach of the Oregon State Police.

In their press releases Republican Senators insist they're taking the only steps they can to protect Oregonians, however temporarily, from unjust taxation. We say that's ignoring the real details in HB 3427 (featured in last week's newsletter). But some people see this shutdown their way more than ours. I just read this email from a woman from somewhere upstate:

"Here is what I sent to the Republicans, who are truly looking after the people of Oregon: How does one say thank you to true patriots? You are fighting for the freedom and liberty of the people of Oregon. I pledge to you my support and prayers. You have brought tears of joy and hope to my eyes.

Giant hugs to you all. Stay strong, the founding fathers would be so proud of you. Say what you will to impress the bias media, what the Democrats are doing to this state is an abomination."

An email earlier in the day from the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County wasn't that passionate, but leaned in the same direction. "These taxes will lead to a spike in your everyday items," they wrote to Chamber members, "and in turn lead to the downfall in Oregon's economy."

My letter back to them (you can read it here) was a chance to list the reasons why I'll be voting for this measure when (if?) the Republicans decide to return to the Capitol.

Absent Republicans

Photo courtesy of Senator Shemia Fagan (D-24)


One of the Republican's more grounded points is that the tax package should be accompanied (they would say preceded) by a plan for dealing with the Public Employees Retirement System debt. That's fair--as long as everyone recognizes that the Supreme Court's been clear that there's no legal way to shuck 80% (+/-) of that debt. We have to pay it.

We'll be looking hard at ways to do that, and to reduce the smaller portion of the liability where we do have some discretion. A plan from legislative leadership should be out very soon. It's a 100% safe bet that every step it proposes will set off howls of protest.



The vaccination debate continues. Opponents are politely picketing the entrance to the Capitol garage when we come in every morning and keep visiting the offices of any legislator who will talk to them. Your emails keep coming in with strong pleas pro and con.

HB 3063 would eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions from mandatory vaccination of students for mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, varicella (chicken pox), polio, and haemophilius influenza type B. After hours of impassioned floor arguments last week, it passed the House by a vote of 35-25 and is heading for the Senate. I can't support it in its current form because I think it misses the critical balance we have to strike between conflicting values. For now I'll leave it at that and keep pursuing ongoing conversations that offer a small possibility of making the final bill less sweeping.

What Do You Think?

In connection with current legislation that would shorten the list of crimes that qualify for the death penalty in Oregon, I asked last week for your thinking on capital punishment. Some of your responses:

  • "When we execute, we have given in to revenge."
  • "I support the death for the three instances listed in SB 1013 [...] At the same time, I have concerns about the disproportionate numbers of people of color in the prison system."
  • "I’ll close with a quotation from Warden Duffy’s book 88 Men and 2 Women, [...] 'Killing is as wrong for all as it is for the few. And it is as wrong for the state as it is for the individual. Who are the people of any state to say that a person, no matter how horrible his crime, deserves to die?'"

We didn't hear a single voice against the bill, and many of you called for a total end to capital punishment. Thank you for the thoughtful responses.

Capitol Building


This week, as we're ready to vote on a corporate activities tax (CAT) that some criticize as a thinly disguised sales tax, I'd like to know what you'd think of an actual, undisguised sales tax, somewhere between 2-4% on retail purchases that would avoid the complexities of a CAT. Oregonians have voted against a sales tax nine times, most recently by a 3-1 margin in 1993. That makes most people here think that it's not worth proposing. Are they right? 

Write with your thoughts.

The Last Word

I am very pleased to be co-hosting a town hall with Representative Kim Wallan at the Medford Library on May 25th. We hope to see you there!

Medford Town Hall Promo

Do you know other people in the Rogue Valley who might want to know about the issues we’ll be tackling this session, including climate, wildfires and smoke, affordable housing, education (pre-K through higher ed), health care, economic fairness and campaign finance reform?  Please invite them to sign up for this newsletter at We will not share contact information with anyone else for any reason.

Our best to you for now. Please remember to do what you can do.


Senator Jeff Golden
Chair, Campaign Finance Committee 
Senate District 3 (Rogue Valley)

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1703
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-421, Salem, OR, 97301
Podcast: Capitolizing