Do What You Can Do 2/27/21

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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

Town hall March 4

I hope you’ll join the conversation next week...

Zoom link:

COVID updates

Just a few COVID updates before getting into this week’s tough political developments.

Based on the declining curve of COVID infections, the state has just moved Jackson County from extreme to high-risk status. Here are the changes you can expect to see

  • Long term care facilities can have indoor visitation.
  • Indoor entertainment now has a maximum capacity of 25% occupancy or 50 people total, whichever is smaller. The closing time requirement is 11pm.
  • Faith-based institutions now have a maximum indoor capacity of 25% occupancy or 150 people total, whichever is smaller. The maximum outdoor capacity is 200 people.
  • Working from home instead of gathering in offices is still advised, but not required.

Landlords who’ve lost rental income during the COVID-caused moratorium on evictions can now apply for compensation. You’ll find details and application forms here. Applications for this first round of funding must be submitted by 4:00pm March 5th.

There’s also a program coming up to relieve the rent burden on businesses with fewer than 100 full-time employees. Business Oregon will disperse the funds geographically according to population size. I’ll provide more details when applications open.

Photo of the Almeda fire destruction

Photo from ODOT

The wildfire town halls

This week wrapped up a series of three 4-hour virtual Town Halls for my Senate Wildfire Recovery Committee and its counterpart in the House to hear from survivors of the 2020 Labor Day wildfires.  More than a few had never spoken in that kind of venue before; their stories were vivid, honest and heart-breaking.

Wildfire town hall

We have a dozen or more communities and thousands of Oregonians in desperate need of our help to bring them back to bearable lives. Finding resources equal to the task is a daunting challenge. I submitted one possible solution today to Legislative Counsel to draft into a bill, and will describe it at this Thursday evening’s Town Hall to find out what you think.

This marks three straight sessions...

Thursday morning, February 25, I got to the Capitol early to prepare for the few minutes we’ve been spending on the Floor each week to keep the legislative process flowing by hearing the first and second readings of introduced bills (the rest of the week is filled with Zoom-like committee meetings to flesh out the details of pending legislation). The Senate President had already announced that we’d soon be meeting on the floor two days a week in order to start voting on these bills, and I was enjoying the feeling that the 2021 session finally seems to be getting off the ground...until this. 

Here. We go. Again. What concerns me is not that the Governor’s COVID decisions are drawing fire. While I generally support them, there’s plenty of room for honest and informed disagreement, particularly on the pace of school re-opening. I’ve had doubts of my own, and have been exploring with the Governor’s Office what’s needed to resume outdoor sports more quickly. Some of the challenges I’ve heard to state policy are reasonable and well (if sometimes heatedly) argued.

What doesn’t work for Oregon, and our chances for a peaceful and livable future, is the normalization of quorum-denying walkouts to block policy that the minority party doesn’t like. Their leaders say they’re forced into this drastic step by extraordinarily damaging threats they can’t otherwise counter, mostly pointing to the two recent climate action bills that, in the words of one Republican Senator, “would burn our communities to the ground.” But what’s true is that this makes the sixth walkout from the two chambers over the course of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 sessions. The first was to prevent a vote on the Student Success Act to create a new tax for strategic investment in our schools. One, in the House of Representatives, protested the Speaker’s decision to hold night-time sessions. Then came the climate bill walk-outs, and now this one to broadcast their unhappiness with public health policies.

Republican walkout 2021

The electronic vote board on the Senate floor, February 25: 18 green Democratic names, 11 Republicans and one Independent in white

So the extraordinary becomes ordinary. When you consider that most of these issues were debated in election campaigns, and that a substantial majority of Oregonians sent us to Salem to implement policies we advocated, it’s hard not to worry about the health of democracy in our state. In some ways state government is currently in the grip of Minority Rule. We have critical work to do that we’re not doing.

This week’s walk-out will increase interest in already-filed bills to shake up this landscape. One would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would reduce the quorum requirement from 2/3 of members to a simple majority, which is the prevailing rule in almost every other state.

Gun safety

One other element has turned up the heat in Salem. On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee passed and sent to the full senate SB 554, would return to local jurisdictions the authority they had before 1995 to impose gun regulations in public buildings. It would mean that the Ashland, Phoenix-Talent and Medford school boards could ban firearms on their school campuses. City and county governments could vote to do the same in their public buildings: libraries, city halls, county courthouses, various agency offices (guns are already banned in state court buildings).

I have a mountain of email from around the state on this bill, most of it opposed and much of it identically worded. Some of it is furious, demanding the immediate resignation of any legislator who supports the bill, thereby “absolutely” violating their oaths to uphold the U.S. and Oregon Constitutions. For many this is THE “slippery slope” issue, with an underlying belief that any gun safety measure is a serious step down a path towards wholesale firearm confiscation and subjugation to governmental abuse. I haven’t found entry points to worthwhile conversation with people who hold that fear.

I flatly don’t agree that the Second Amendment is absolutely clear and doesn’t allow for conflicting interpretations, because conflicting interpretations from smart constitutional scholars have surrounded it from the beginning. I’m impressed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision written by Justice Scalia—that would be Justice Antonin Scalia. In it he writes that the Second Amendment does not grant the “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever for whatever purpose.” That would be news to the angriest people who’ve warned me to turn thumbs down to this bill.

Other bill opponents have an argument that makes more sense to me.  It links to the notion that the only effective answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. If local jurisdictions start designating gun-free zones, they say, they’ll be marking places where dangerous people can wreak havoc with no danger of being shot. They offer data backing that idea, but there seems to be at least as many studies indicating that more people get shot in areas where more people are packing. I don’t know that I can sort that one out, but intuition tells me the proliferation of lethal firearms in schools and other public buildings is not a formula for public safety.

I don’t believe SB 554 violates the first amendment, and I think local elected officials are the best ones to make the call on an issue that plays out so differently in different communities. It’s also clear to me that the huge margin by which we exceed all other nations in gun violence calls for a change in business as usual. While understanding the fierce objection of some constituents, I plan to vote for this bill.

That does it for this week. Plenty of issues and policy puzzles to come.  Join us for this Thursday’s Town Hall if you can, and best until then.

Signature of Senator Golden

Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3

How to testify


COVID-19 vaccine: where to get information and make an appointment

  • The Jackson County Health and Human Services page has the most up to date information about where to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Jackson County, 
  • Aging and Disabilities Resource Connection (ADRC) is available to help seniors navigate the process and access the COVID-19 vaccine in Jackson and Josephine Counties. Call ADRC at 541-618-7572.     
  • 211 Information is also available to answer questions about vaccine eligibility and access through phone, text, and email. Wait times vary.
    • Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155 from 6 am – 7 pm daily, including holidays
    • Text ORCOVID to 898211 to get text/SMS updates (English and Spanish only) 
    • Email (All languages) 

General vaccine information:

COVID 19 eligibility

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