Do What You Can Do 12/10/2020

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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

wagner butte

This photo of the view from Wagner Butte was provided by Sarah Settimo. We want your beautiful Southern Oregon photo for this newsletter! Send it to with the subject “Photo Reminder.” We’d love to feature them.

Special Session


Photo from ODOT

There are existential questions with which humankind has wrestled for time immemorial.  What exists beyond the edges of the universe? What, ultimately, is the meaning of life? Will the Oregon Legislature convene for a third special session to keep working on 2020’s disasters?

I can’t answer any of them. Here’s the current state of play on the endless special session dilemma. With the next regular legislative session drawing near—we’re slated to gather at the Capitol to organize the 2021 session on January 11—you well might wonder why it makes sense to rush into special session now. The main answer is deadlines. The federal program to supplement unemployment benefits ends the day after Christmas, and January 1 marks the end of the moratorium on evicting tenants for non-payment of rent, which has probably kept tens of thousands of Oregonians from joining the ranks of the homeless. We’ve been developing a plan that would extend the moratorium for six more months and start reimbursing landlords who haven’t received their rental income for too many months now; I had a chance to toss in my two cents at the end of OPB’s most recent article.

That’s one of the two most pressing reasons for a special session. The other is to allocate money to the E-Board, the joint committee of select Senators and Representatives authorized to spend tax dollars in between sessions of the Legislature. This week’s E-Board meeting is something like its twelfth since the pandemic came to Oregon. It’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and its cupboard—the Emergency Fund—is bare. Meeting the next few weeks’ pressing needs—additional PPE and healthcare support, vaccine distribution, starting to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by wildfire—will take more money, and the Legislature has to meet to provide it.

This puzzle’s complicated, but it’s not unsolvable. I’m pretty sure we’d have met in Oregon’s first-ever online session as laid out in the OPB article if public trust in government generally hadn’t reached new lows this month. Our inboxes are full of form-written emails from people outraged by the notion that we’d even think of making law online, where we could hide who-knows-what trickery and deception. That sentiment’s been fed by the two special sessions earlier this year, when COVID rules kept the general public locked out of the Capitol Building.  And it’s carefully nurtured by legislators on the other side of the aisle, one of whose weekly newsletters just came to my inbox. In it he writes:

Socialist corporate media reports this week that Governor Brown
and Speaker Kotek are negotiating to call a catastrophe or emergency
special session to pass a list of bills they have shared with corporate
lobbyists. Special interests at work.

Two things stand out in newsletters and press releases from Republican colleagues this year. One is how often they pull “socialism” out of the verbal tool box when they talk about our legislative ideas and most media coverage. I used to think that the S-word had lost its destructive power, but that might not be right. When I read or hear it from legislators, what I usually think is “What if we talked about the proposal first, offer it up for full discussion, try to understand how it would work in the real world and then, if you feel the need, you go ahead and paste a political label on it?”

The second thing shows up in the “corporate lobbyists” reference above. In the last few years, legislators from across the aisle—possibly inspired by candidate Trump’s promises to fix the “rigged system”—have tried to grab the mantle of defenders of working Americans against the greed and privilege of Democrat-coddled corporations. I understand in part how we’ve come to this—worth more reflection, perhaps, in a future newsletter—but it still has to be one of the most stunning acts of political jiu jitsu on record.

A New Job Description

Last summer I reported on getting the call to wrap up the work of my Senate Wildfire Committee and take the Chair of the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee, which would absorb wildfire issues as part of its portfolio. Then along came the Labor Day fires and the matrix of recovery and policy issues they pose. The Senate President decided that made for a bigger workload than one committee could competently handle (he’s right) and has asked me yesterday to chair a new Senate Wildfire & Natural Resources Committee. As I understand it I’ll deal with wildfire, forestry, water, wildlife and agricultural issues, and a separate Energy & Environment Committee will cover clean energy and environmental protection: pesticide/herbicide restrictions, plastics and solid waste reduction. I expect to keep a hand in those issues, but most of my time will focus on forests, water and ag resources.

There’s so much in flux in this awkward to-meet-or-not-to-meet moment, and as we submit our first drafts for 2021 bills. I’ll report on the unfolding of COVID response, wildfire recovery, school protocols, campaign finance regulation and forest-related reform in the next few issues. Until then, stay safe and considerate.


Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3


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COVID resources

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  • The Governor's COVID website has been updated to reflect the new framework for counties. 

  • OHA's website has information on COVID-19 with links to the latest announcements, guidance, etc. 

  • If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, click here to locate a testing site near you.

  • Have questions about COVID-19 in Jackson County? Visit the Jackson County Public Health website or you can call Jackson County Health and Human services with questions at 541-774-8200.

  • If you are in need to food assistance, The Oregon Food Bank has created this page where you can search for a food pantry or pick-up site near you.

  • Jackson County Library Services has started a program called Rogue Reads to encourage Jackson County residents to read the same book. Click here for more information.

Wildfire resources

  • The Governor's wildfire website has county specific and statewide information.

  • Click here for Southern Oregon specific wildfire information.

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