Do What You Can Do 11/27/19

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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 the November edition of Do What You Can Do.

First a thank-you. Because I spend most of my time talking with folks close to the I-5 corridor, I’m really glad that the Applegate community, at the far western edge of District 3, invited me out for a Town Hall conversation last month. It gave me a clear picture of that community’s concerns around rural services, wildfire & smoke, and forest management (breaking news: not everyone there agreed on everything). Thanks to the Applegaters for inviting me out to get smarter on issues they care about. If anyone in other communities would like to put together an informal gathering in the coming weeks, please get in touch. Hearing from people face-to-face helps me do this job better.

What's Up

Last week was Leg (pronounced “ledge”) Days in Salem, one of three times during the interim when we go back to the Capitol for committee meetings and a grab-bag of meetings designed to prepare our bills for the 2020 session. This is especially important in advance of the 4-5 week long “short session”; if your bill isn’t fully developed and chewed over by the time the opening gavel bangs on February 3, it’s not likely to become law. I’m mostly concentrating on three issues:


My new Senate Wildfire Prevention and Recovery Committee had its second meeting during Leg Days. It’s all on video here for anyone with a strong focused interest.

In the last newsletter, I laid out the thicket of issues we’ll have to work our way through. The toughest among them include proposed increases in harvest levels (both green trees and salvage) on state lands; where, when and if some wildfires should be allowed to burn; imposing new land use restrictions and requirements on property owners to reduce risk; and finding the revenue to fund forest restoration on the scale we need.

Much of that was laid out in the report that the Governor’s Wildfire Council just released after nearly a year of intensive work. The Governor is framing up a broad bill with many of its recommendations. I’ve introduced three more highly targeted bills. One would create pilot projects to restore forest health on three high-risk sites across the state (not yet selected), in order to test-drive some of the big recommendations. This is an effort to balance the need for long-term planning on how agencies will organize and coordinate going forward, how we’ll fund this massive effort, etc, with some effective boots-on-the-ground fuel reduction work this year. I’ve heard skepticism about the Governor’s Wildfire Council approach, wondering if yet another report is headed for the bookshelf to gather dust. We won’t let that happen, and their work had to be done. But it’s also true that we’re well over a year out from the hellacious 2018 fires. We have to start grounding these plans in the coming months, not years.

A second bill would increase funding for the Oregon Department of Forestry, our lead agency for wildfire response, and change some of the ways it does business. The third would fund an initiative to create a Wildfire Workforce Foundation to receive funds from corporations, philanthropic foundations and anyone else ready to support the twin goals of reducing wildfire risk and training young people in reforestation work that can readily lead to high-quality careers, a revival of the Youth Conservation Corps model.  

Milepost 97 Fire 2

Smoke plume through the trees Milepost 97 Fire; July 29, 2019; Courtesy ODOT


Campaign Finance Reform

The Senate Campaign Finance Committee also met last week, video here. I took time to lay out the Principles of Campaign Finance Reform I developed last session, and put forward a specific proposal reflecting those principles.

I know that my early-entry version won’t be the same as the bill that finally passes; that never happens with fiercely contested issues. Based on initial reactions, some citizens want lower dollar limits while some legislative leaders want them higher, and there will be lots of push-back on the idea that small donor committees should only be able to support one candidate, and shouldn’t continue operating over multiple elections. Most of the big players haven’t weighed in yet. They definitely will once the session opens.  The odds for getting a strong bill, one that seriously reduces the clout of big checks on our politics? Too early to say, but I’ll keep you posted. If some of you who’ve told me how important this reform is to you want to weigh in with letters to the editor, to other legislators, to the Governor, January would be a great month to do that.

Medford CFR

Senator Golden and Representative Rayfield at the Medford Campaign Finance Reform Disucssion Session


Climate Action

As I write there’s no shortage of reporting and speculation in the press about whether a a climate bill will come forth in the short session, and, if it does, how closely it will resemble the one that crashed in the 2019 session. It’s clear that we won’t pass that exact bill. Conversations are continuing to find ways to thread a difficult needle: addressing some of the biggest concerns from last session while maintaining a structure that reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the rapid pace that climate scientists say is necessary. 

I hear some Republican colleagues saying that the short session is supposed to be just for budget adjustments, NOT major policy bills that deserve plenty of deliberation, and that they may walk out again if we try to, “shove this thing down our throats.” My view is that we’ve deliberated strong steps to move away from fossil fuels for a couple of decades too long already, that we compromised with several of their concerns last session, and that more delay  is more contempt for the well-being of coming generations. I’ll support strong climate action in the 2020 session, doing what’s I can to get it the vote on the floor that it was denied in 2019.

Young climate activists

Young climate activists from across the state visit the Oregon Capitol.


Having my say

Early this month the Mail Tribune Opinion Page gave me enough space to air my thoughts on a fundamental dilemma that’s in the way of the solutions we need. Here’s what I wrote

If you find this newsletter interesting or useful, I hope you’ll forward it to friends and invite them to subscribe.  Anyone can sign up for it at never share personal contact information with anyone.

My 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