Do What You Can Do 7/18/2019

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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 the July 18 edition of Do What You Can Do.

First, I want to thank many of you for letting me know you found value in this newsletter during the session, including those of you who said that you're now following and caring about state politics for the first time. That's really satisfying to hear and makes me want to put even more of these in your mailboxes. The frequency will definitely drop from the pace of the session, but I'd still like to reach out occasionally to let you know about committee work and interesting developments as they unfold between now and the 2020 session in February. I hope that's good news.

What's Up

Climate Action

After thousands of news reports, you've probably heard enough (and possibly more) about the Republican walk-out that brought down HB2020 at the end of the session. I pulled my thoughts together on the whole drama in an op-ed column in Sunday's Mail Tribune

Without question, this was a setback. But among HB2020 supporters I found more disappointment than discouragement. I don't think anyone expected the endless flood of disinformation about the impending destruction of rural Oregon, and how effectively it would tap into the resentment, anxiety, and fears of people displaced from resource-based jobs, and the feeling that "Portland" (meaning I-5 urban and suburban people) doesn't much care that they've been left behind. It was especially hard listening to the doom-and-destruction speeches after working hard for months to make sure that HB2020 would boost rural economies and make fair accommodation for the high-mileage driving that's part of rural living.

The way forward has to include clearer, more consistent communication about why we have to change the economics of energy as rapidly as we can, and about the benefits that can come to rural and working-class Oregonians in the process. It's not easy; the complexities of a program like cap-and-trade make it especially vulnerable to the over-the-top distortions that the "Oregon 11," as the admirers of fleeing Republican Senators called them, were so eager to spread.

HB2020 Hearing 2

Senator Golden speaking at a HB2020 Public Hearing

Campaign Finance Reform

Part of the job is done. With the passage of SJR18, Oregonians will be voting next year on a constitutional amendment to authorize campaign finance regulation in Oregon. The Legislature also passed bills to identify the funders of campaign ads in clearer terms than "Oregonians for Everything Good."

My primary goal before next session is to draft a bill that specifies dollar limits on campaign contributions. I discovered during the session that the limits I want to see are a lot lower than many Salem insiders are comfortable with. People who want to get those really big checks out of Oregon politics will need to make themselves heard loud, clear and repeatedly when we go back into session next year.

Jeff on the Floor

Senator Golden at his desk on the Senate Floor


Last summer's ferocious fires and smoke earned us a lot of sympathy from legislators statewide, but not much else. The budget increases we need to reduce fuel loads and effectively fight multiple fires just didn't materialize. We'll be back making the case next session -- not, I hope, armed with another few months of unbreathable air to bolster the argument.

My Oregon Forest Corps concept is still on the table. It would bring together youth training programs on an AmeriCorps model, minimum-security inmates, and a private-public funding partnership to thin out forest fuels over a broader landscape than ever before. If we can't put thousands of trained people to work in our dry forests soon, an Oregon replay of Paradise, California disaster is a matter of when, not if. And from both a public health and economic health perspective, we can't accept the severity and persistence of smoke that filled our region last year.

ODOT 2018 Fire Season

Trees burning and smoke-filled air during the 2018 fire season

Jordan Cove

The 229-mile fracked gas pipeline wasn't really on the legislative radar this session. The State DEQ denied, at least for the time being, a Water Quality permit. Then, in a great moment for those of us opposing the project, a cluster of state agencies wrote a letter to the Federal Energy Regulator Commission (FERC) listing the wasy the project falls short of regulatory requirements. Oregon's Division of State Lands (DSL) is still probably a couple of months away from a decision on the removal-fill permit need to lay their 36" pipeline over and under some 500 waterways (!). After multiple quiet conversations in Salem, my strong--not certain--hunch is that the pipeline will never be laid.

But we did have a scary moment in the last week of the session, one that showcased the Capitol's darker side. HB2436 moved through the process as a bland, completely unremarkable bill to increase DSL's budget for the removal-fill program. At the last minute--too late for any public hearings--an amendment dropped out of the sky that would give the DSL Director more latitude to grant fill-removal permits for projects that fell short of the objective criteria in existing law. Nobody took credit for this last-minute "improvement," and there's no smoking-gun proof that the Jordan Cover boosters were behind it.

We made it clear that the fireworks would fly on the last day of session (which was already volatile to the point of meltdown) if the bill came to the Senate floor with that amendment. With just a few hours left to go until adjournment, the Speaker sent the bill back to committee to yank out the troubling amendment. It bounced back to the floor, where we passed it in its original, boring and harmless form.

This is how good policy gets made.

Senator Golden with climate activists

Senator Golden with climate activists visiting the Capitol

On The Road

This week, I'm on my way to Saskatchewan for a US/Canadian Energy Conference, followed by a trip to Nashville for back-to-back gatherings of America's lawmakers, the National Conference of Environmental Legislators and the National Conference of State Legislators. This comes under the heading of Don't Reinvent the Wheel. As I draft plans for campaign finance limits and wildfire reduction in Oregon, I'd like to avoid mistakes that others have made and draw from their best ideas and successes. And I want to find out how my peers across the country have been dealing with fossil-fuel project proposals like Jordan Cove. What can they teach us about dodging deadly bullets?

I'll tell you about any brilliant or weirdly interesting ideas I come across. Thanks for continuing to do what you can do.


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

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