Do What You Can Do 1/8/2020

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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 “Let’s get it done this year!” edition of Do What You Can Do.

First, Happy New Year everyone, and thanks to those of you who followed this newsletter through 2019, my rookie Senate year, and sent words of appreciation to keep me focused and moving forward. Those messages help more than you probably think. As we look forward to a highly uncertain 2020 with a mix of hope and anxiety, I’ll do my best to keep you current on developments in Salem and how they impact Southern Oregon.

What's Up

Next week, January 13-15, brings the last “Legislative Days” of the 2019-20 interim. These are filled with all kinds of small-group and official committee meetings to prepare for the 2020 short session beginning February 3. I’m busy refining and building support for bills originating in my Wildfire Recovery (meeting 8-11am January 14) and Campaign Finance (meeting 1-3pm January 14) Committees. You can watch either or both online as they happen; Wildfire will be here and Campaign Finance will be here.


What are priorities for the short session?

Glad you asked. In preparation for an upcoming talk at the annual dinner of the Southern Oregon Rental Owners Association, I was asked to answer that very question in a 1-page summary for its members. Here it is. (For a deeper dive on any of the topics, write to me at

Campaign Finance Reform: This is the central issue. Oregon is one of four states with no limits and essentially no regulation on campaign financing. If we can’t reduce the influence of special-interest money on politics, we can’t make much progress on our major problems. In 2019 the legislature referred to voters a constitutional amendment (to approve or reject on the Nov. 2020 ballot) to clarify that we can constitutionally regulate campaign finances.  As Chair of the Senate Campaign Finance Committee, I’m introducing a bill that would set contribution limits and identify what groups can and can’t donate, to be activated if voters approve the constitutional amendment. The challenge here is that most Oregonians want less special-interest money in the system than most leaders of both parties seem to.

Medford CFR

A public meeting held this past fall in Medford on campaign finance reform.

Wildfire: As Chair of a new Senate Wildfire Prevention & Recovery Committee, I'm in charge of putting into law some of the 37 recommendations offered by the Governor’s Wildfire Response Council, which met throughout 2019. Three of the major challenges ahead are:

  • Finding sources of funding for what’s (conservatively) estimated to be $4 billion of forest restoration work.
  • Building consensus for how much commercial timber should be harvested to maximize forest health and fuel reduction work.
  • Building consensus for where and when wildfire should be left to burn, because total suppression tends to lead to the catastrophic buildup of fuels that is a major component of this crisis.

Climate: Completely intertwined with the wildfire issue, climate action remains on the agenda after the breakdown of the legislative process last session. I will work with others to pass a bill that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions while more clearly addressing the concerns that surfaced in 2019. I view inaction, or timid action, as an abandonment of our children and grandchildren to an essentially unlivable world. 

Milepost 97 Fire

The Milepost 97 Fire from this last summer. Photo courtesy of ODOT.

Mental Health: We continue to severely underfund mental health services, which seeds much greater costs in dealing with a variety of resulting problems down the line. We need to find new resources for this and other human services, and to rigorously examine current spending to find what we can do better and more cost-efficiently.

Higher Education: We took a major step towards adequate funding of pre-K through 12 public education in 2019. In 2020 we need to add what we left out: support for community colleges and universities, where rising tuition blocks out more and more Oregonians.  This, too, is an investment that can avert much greater costs down the line.

Southern Oregon University

Southern Oregon University. Photo courtesy of SOU.

Revenue: Several of the above points call for more revenue than we currently have. That in turn calls for more robust, transparent performance audits of state services to give citizens a better picture of how well their tax dollars are being spent, and measures for constant improvement on that front. Opportunities for more revenue do NOT lie in heavier burdens on lower-to-middle income Oregon families and businesses, but rather in reforms to change the tax code so that we are no longer near the bottom when it comes to total taxation of major corporations and the wealthiest individuals (a good source on this is  We’ve been one of the national leaders in the “Race to the Bottom” to attract corporate business. That has to change.

I have to admit that this list doesn’t accurately reflect the practical limits of the short (35-day) session, where so much legislation dies for lack of time and attention. We’ll get some of this done, but when it comes to the biggest issues, a lot of our 2020 work will be laying foundation for the 2021 session.

Senator Golden Swearing In

Photo courtesy of OPB.

One more word on the hope/anxiety mix for 2020 that I mentioned at the top of this letter.
Which is more justified? There’s no stone tablet anywhere that has the answer. I believe it’s in our collective hands. If we in Oregon and across the country ramp up our activist involvement, investing all the clarity, insistence and persistence we can possibly muster—if we join, financially support and volunteer for the organizations and candidates pushing for the Oregon and America we want to see—2020 can be a year we look back on with fierce pride and thanks. In this connection, as in so many others, I think about the words of Helen Keller that inspired the name of this newsletter:

“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.”

This could be a great year. My best to you for now. 


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

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