Do What You Can Do 4/14/2021

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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

Main image at the top of the newsletter

This photo of the Cascade foothills was taken by Jack Leishman. We want your beautiful Southern Oregon photo for this newsletter! Send it to with the subject “Photo Reminder.” We’d love to feature them.

Passing a milestone, and a good wildfire bill...

The roster of proposed 2021 legislation got a lot shorter this week as we passed “first chamber deadline,” the date by which a policy committee in either the House or Senate has to approve a bill to keep it alive (a few primary committees, principally Rules and Ways & Means, are exempt from the deadline, which sometimes leads to last minute re-routing of favored bills that can’t reach completion on time).

The day before the deadline we passed SB 762 through my Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee on a rare bipartisan vote of 4-0. This $150 million Omnibus Bill to reduce and respond effectively to wildfires, and to protect communities like ours, is the product of literally thousands of hours of work from hundreds of people over recent years. Here’s what it does.

This bill’s long journey through complex conversations and negotiation isn’t over. It now moves to the Ways and Means Committee, which will receive a competing bill that pushes for more advisory and consultation processes before critical building code, “defensible space” and zoning rules are adopted. My strong belief is that after a solid decade of devastating megafires, and a succession of advisory committees issuing countless recommendations and reports, it’s past time for bold action on the ground to back up all the talk. I’ll be pushing as strongly as I can for implementation on a faster timeline than some interest groups want to see. Stay tuned.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a pre-May sneak preview for Senate District 3 newsletter readers only. You read it here first!

Proclamation from the Governor's office


It’s a shameful fact that we Americans spend far and away more money per capita on health care—twice as much as any other nation—and have some of the worst broad-based outcomes among affluent countries. How big a piece of that puzzle are the prices and profits of the pharmaceutical industry?

A couple of current bills probe that question. Senator Deb Patterson, an intrepid first-termer from Salem, has introduced SB 763 and SB 764 to start shining light on the reasons many prescription drugs have become staggeringly expensive. She’s using a powerful slideshow, well worth a few minutes of your time, to make the case. The two slides that left me speechless are the fifth, “Marketing to patient drives demand for higher priced drugs,” and ninth, “But isn’t the high price to cover research?”

A measure of how egregious this problem’s become is that these bills, even in Salem’s current climate, have bipartisan support. Beyond the modest steps they take in the right direction, they’re helping people understand that it’s way past time to reform our prescription drug system.

Photo of a handshake

Tenants and landlords reach a deal

This morning, Wednesday, the Senate passed SB 282 by a vote of 25-5. It first came to the Housing Committee early in the session with a hefty list of landlord-tenant law revisions, the kind of bill sure to send us into battle. I asked for a work group of tenant and landlord representatives to pare it down, and that’s what yielded today’s strong bipartisan endorsement.

The centerpiece is an extension into 2022 for tenants to pay back any past rent that accumulated during the eviction moratorium in place since March 2020. Many people would have been looking at total amounts they couldn’t possibly have repaid. The most recent federal COVID funding package has funds for tenant and landlord relief that can solve the problem, but most of that money won’t reach Oregon for months. That makes extending the grace period for back rental payments the obvious way to minimize damage to tenants and landlords alike. 

What struck me was flexibility of both groups in negotiations. Example: the original bill allowed a tenant to invite unlimited numbers of people to come live with them during emergency times, no matter what the landlord wanted. That was a non-starter for landlords, but they acknowledged that the massive displacement from COVID and the wildfires have forced people to move in with family or friends, at least temporarily. The final compromise created a permissive houseguest policy until March of next year, and lets landlords demand background or reference checks for any guests staying longer than fifteen days. It leaves in place any local, state or federal occupancy limits.

It was good to see good pragmatic sense win out on this one. Here’s the announcement of today’s vote.

Daytime running lights

This week’s odd Salem moment

...was about headlights. Plain old car headlights. SB 166 was introduced on the Senate Floor as a “simple bill,” just a minor improvement to improve road safety. It mandated that “Motor vehicle headlights, other than headlights on motorcycles or mopeds or vehicles equipped with daytime running lights, shall be lighted at all times when a vehicle is being driven upon a highway,” and designated fines up to $1000 for violations.

Hearing about this kind of bill for the first time on the Senate floor almost never happens. Usually the sponsor will flag it for the Majority Office and Democrats will meet ahead of time for discussion and a vote count. As the carrier started explaining the bill I saw more than a couple of Senators looking as surprised as I felt. A few Republicans rose to blast the bill as a nanny-state swipe at personal liberty. Often that argument ignores what I hold as a key element of a healthy community: finding the right balance between the rights we cherish and the responsibilities we have to others in an ongoing social contract. Here, though, I struggled to see enough social need to justify turning a generally harmless mental lapse into an expensive violation. Add to that the risk of creating another tool for racial profiling, akin to broken tail light violations, and we had a bill I couldn’t support.

I wasn’t alone. When the vote was called SB 166 unexpectedly went down 16-13. The sponsor explained he’d introduced the bill for a constituent worried about the dark river canyon highway he often travelled with big rigs speeding in both directions. It sounded dangerous enough to warrant a headlights-required stretch of highway—not an entire headlights-required state.

Since mandatory headlight laws reportedly reduce accidents by an average of 5-10% across various conditions, I can easily see voting the other way.  That’s how it is for most significant bills that come to the floor: you’re pulling out the mental balancing scales more often than you’re casting an indisputably correct vote.

Take good care as confusing COVID times continue. I hope the resources below are helpful.

Jeff (Signature)

Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3

Find Track TestifyCOVID vaccine rates in Jackson County

COVID resources

How do I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. Check if you're eligible here.

  2. If you are eligible, go to the Jackson County COVID-19 vaccine page for contact information to schedule your appointment.

  3. If you would prefer to have assistance scheduling your appointment, the 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. 

  4. Looking for more information? Check out the Oregon Health Authority's COVID-19 page.

COVID announcements

  • Jackson County has been selected as a FEMA based vaccination center. The vaccine center will be located at the Jackson County expo. Click here for more information.

  • There will be a vaccine clinic on April 24th, with priority to the Latino community and agricultural workers/fire survivors. For more information see the image below. The Pfizer vaccine will be administered, not the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Farm workers COVID vaccination event

Wildfire resources

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