Do What You Can Do 4/29/2021

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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

Town Hall

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A new roadblock

Yesterday morning, Republican Senators announced they would no longer consent to suspend the constitutional rule that requires a complete audible reading of bill before we can vote on it; details are here. Both parties almost always agree to that suspension, if only to keep the session from grinding to a halt as legislators sit glassy-eyed to the sound of dozens (sometimes more than a hundred) pages of statutory language read out loud by a clerk—or, for the first time this year, a computer.

The decision to make us “read the bills” isn’t exactly the nuclear option—that would probably be yet another walkout to deny a quorum for legislative business—but it’s pretty explosive. Like walkouts, it has the effect of running down the clock against the set deadline for the legislature to adjourn in late June, reducing the flow of legislation to a trickle. 

This edition of the slowdown seems to stem from a mix of intense opposition to a pending gun safety bill, deep unhappiness with renewed closures and regulations responding to the COVID spike, and ongoing protest of the closing of the Capitol to the general public. It’s also possible that, after a couple weeks of full bill readings that Republicans forced in the House of Representatives, a base of their voters are insisting that Senators get as “tough” with Democrats as House Republicans did. Whatever the reason, Oregon governance has a decided flavor of minority rule right now.

Senate Floor

A roadblock removed?

The read-the-bill slowdown in the House ended last week when Democratic leadership made two concessions. The first was to add a Republican to the House Redistricting Committee so that it now has equal membership, and a Co-Chair, from both parties. Some saw this as forfeiting the majority party’s power to draw new legislative maps to its liking—a big deal. 

I don’t agree. Republicans know that if they hunker down and cause the committee to deadlock, redistricting authority goes to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who they see as more fiercely partisan than Democrats they’ll be working with on the committee. That will tend to make them considerably more flexible than they’d otherwise be.

(A small aside: the fact that we legislators are empowered to draw these maps in the first place is almost bizarre. It’s a glaring conflict of interest. I agree with a tagline you may have seen in recent years: “Voters should pick their representatives, not the other way around.” An initiative to create an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission didn’t quite make the ballot in 2020. When it does, possibly soon, I’ll work for its passage.)

A bigger deal to me is that concessions were made at all. It reinforces a steady pattern since I came to Salem in 2019. Through a series of walkouts and periodic bill-reading requirements, Republicans have learned they can exact a ransom of some kind just by allowing legislative business to proceed. I have to wonder what that means for a republic, where policy decisions are supposed to be made by representatives of a majority of voters, and just where this road will lead.

90 micro Ways & Means Committees

Oh, and the second concession: like every other Senator, I’ve just been given authority to direct $4 million of state spending in my District. Each member of the House will make funding decisions amounting to $2 million. This quirky experiment apparently comes from the minority party’s belief that the normal Ways & Means budget process leaves them with too little clout to take care of their districts. Budgets during my short tenure don’t reflect that fear, but there it is.

How well will this work? Nobody knows. Some welcome it as a novel way to get public dollars where they’ll have more direct impact than in the past. Others think that losing the strategic element of a central budgeting process will make for a lot of wasted dollars. It looks like we’ll find out.

I have about ten days to submit $4 million of requests for Senate District 3. I already know about more great Rogue Valley endeavors than that amount can fund, but if you have a great can’t-miss proposal on behalf of a non-profit organization, send us an email at by Friday, 4/30 at noon, with “Grant Idea” in the subject line. We’ll send you back a very short form to be filled out and returned to us by Monday.  

Covid cases in Oregon

Oregon's COVID cases by day

Another spike

Bad news on the COVID front. National reports this week cite Oregon as the state with the fastest current acceleration of new cases, with a 54% increase in the last two weeks compared to a 20% decrease nationwide. Fifteen counties, including Jackson, Josephine and Klamath, will bump up to the extreme risk level tomorrow, Friday; here’s an idea of what that means.

Public health authorities aren’t sure why this is happening. A majority of new cases seem to be from the UK variant of the virus, which may bypass immunity more than the original strain. Oregon’s relatively low infection rate through most of the pandemic also means lower general levels of immunity. The one thing that’s clear is that sliding back towards restrictions on indoor dining and other activities when we’re way past exhausted with COVID-world is going to be rough. If you haven’t had your vaccinations, I hope you will; see the COVID link beneath my signature for more information.

Burned forest

Photo from ODOT

Too much cutting?

If you’ve followed recent coverage, or if you’ve happened to drive through any of the forests north of us ravaged by the 2020 wildfires, you might know there’s a growing sense that ODOT’s ongoing “hazard tree removal” program has rampaged past its intended purpose. My Natural Resources Committee held a fact-finding hearing yesterday that raised eyebrows. The Oregonian’s coverage of it is here, and video of the meeting is here; the serious drama begins about 53:00 in. Watching it will leave you with wildly different versions of what’s happening.

We need to find out which is closest to the truth. The state should push the pause button on this project long enough for a good on-the-ground investigation. I will do what I can to make that happen.

I don’t know if things will settle down a little before I write you again. I don’t think I’d mind.                  

Take care for now...

Jeff (Signature)

Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3

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COVID resources

How do I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. Go to the Jackson County COVID-19 vaccine page to find the nearest vaccination location to you. The Jackson County Expo has a walk-up and drive-up clinic that is free. See the flyers below this section for more information.

  2. 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. 

  3. Looking for more information? Check out the Oregon Health Authority's COVID-19 page.
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Capitol Phone: 503-986-1703
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-421, Salem, OR, 97301 
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