June 25th Update from SD 23

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Michael Dembrow

June 25, 2022

Dear Neighbors and Friends,

I hope that you and your loved ones are doing well, staying healthy, and looking out for your neighbors and friends during this past week. 

With the Supreme Court’s session drawing to a close, we’re seeing the final rulings on a number of consequential issues.  Sadly, it’s demonstrating the full extent to which this Court is willing to push a conservative agenda, abandoning the prudence in jurisprudence that calls for cautious, incrementalist change.  Instead, we’re increasingly seeing decisions that are way out of line with earlier rulings and out of line with broader public sentiment. 

The most glaring example, of course, is the Dobbs v Jackson decision announced on Friday that overturns the precedent of Roe v. Wade.  Despite assurances to senators during their confirmation process that they would not allow their personal anti-choice philosophy to abandon judicial precedent, the recent Trump appointees did just that.  And even more troubling, it looks as if we can expect reversals of Court precedent on same-sex marriage and a number of other issues in the coming sessions.

Friday’s ruling came as no surprise, of course, thanks to the ruling having been leaked to the public last month.  Still, it is profoundly sad for our country. 

The future of reproductive health policy is now in the hands of the individual states.  We in Oregon don’t need to worry about reproductive rights and access to safe health care thanks to our longstanding, bipartisan support for Choice, but that’s not the case for Americans in many other states. In many of these states, existing “trigger laws” had previously been passed, all but prohibiting access to legal abortion if Roe was overturned.  I’m proud that the governors of the Western states immediately issued messages of support to them, assuring them that we will be there to help them however we can.  Here’s more on that announcement.

I’m also proud that the Legislature has already allocated funds to help with this effort.  You can see more on that further down in the newsletter.

As a result of the current and potential rulings from the Supreme Court, you may well see the Legislature preemptively taking action next session to protect reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, and other important freedoms. The Legislature’s attorneys are already looking at the implications of these Court decisions on Oregon law and practice.   In some cases this may require enshrining these rights in our state constitution, which would require the Legislature to refer the question to the voters.  If so, I’m confident that they will vote to uphold these rights. I promise to keep you informed on these potential efforts.

On the COVID front, you’ll see more proof that the various Omicron variants are stubbornly contagious.  The “cresting” of the current Omicron surge predicted in the models is not giving us the rapid declines that we saw in earlier surges. On the contrary, all the COVID metrics are showing increases this week, though we remain well below earlier levels, particular with respect to severity of the disease.

Nevertheless, some areas of the state are at high risk for transmission—in this week’s report nine counties (up from 3) are considered High Risk for COVID:    Coos, Douglas, Hood River, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Sherman, and Wasco. The CDC is recommending particular caution in those areas. Let's hope they come off the list soon.

As expected, we’re starting to see the infant vaccines starting to come into the state.  You can read much more about that in the various links in the newsletter.

Until the next newsletter, please stay healthy and safe.  And let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about anything in tonight’s newsletter.


Next Constituent Coffee July 9th

Saturday, July 9th, is the SECOND Saturday in July, but we're breaking with tradition next month because of the July 4th weekend.  

So, July 9th will be our second in-person gathering, with coffee and cookies, back at the Hollywood Senior Center, 1820 NE 40th Avenue (from 9 am to 10:30 am). 

I received a request from a constituent who must limit her in-person contact to include a zoom component to the meeting, and I of course respect her situation.  I’ve found that such hybrid meetings are tough for those who aren’t in the room, but I’ll try to figure out a way to do that as effectively as possible.  I’ll let you know more in the next newsletter and provide the Zoom link to sign up.

In general, we'll continue to alternate between in-person and zoom, so the August meeting will be entirely on Zoom.

Hope to see you soon!


Reducing Employment Barriers to Occupational Licenses

At a time when we need to get more people into the workforce and onto pathways to better jobs, too many people remain blocked by overly-cumbersome licensing processes and bureaucracies.  The prevalence of these barriers for people in our state has frustrated me for some time—whether we’re talking about immigrants and refugees with credentials from their home countries, people with prior convictions who have done their time and been demonstrably rehabilitated, or experienced teachers from other states who move here and want and need to get back into the classroom quickly.  We need them all, so we need to make progress in removing these barriers.

We’re not alone.

Last week I attended a two-day conference sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislators and the Council of State Governments that focused on ways to streamline licensure, provide quicker and easier access for qualified individuals, and reduce the difficulty of moving one’s license from one state to another.  Conference participants included more than 200 legislators, advocates, academics, and regulators from nearly every state.

We were able to compare notes and examine different models that are working in other states to reduce these barriers.  There are a number of efforts to create multi-state compacts that would allow practitioners to move easily from one state to another.  There are more nuanced ways of looking at an individual’s criminal record and making sure that the person really poses a risk.  There are ways to reach out and proactively assess the skill level of immigrants and refugees who find themselves unable to practice in this country without redoing their education.  There are ways to introduce apprenticeship models into a variety of professions to create career pathways to supplement (and in some cases replace) traditional licensure.

These are all areas I intend to work on as we prepare for the 2023 legislative session.  I’ll be bringing back SB 1512 to reform the way we handle prior criminal records.  I’ll be partnering with Senator Jama and the new Office of Immigrant/Refugee Advancement to continue the work on eliminating “Brainwaste” among our new Americans. I’ll be promoting our entry into the interstate compact for teachers.  I’ll be exploring apprenticeship models for new teachers that put Educational Assistants onto career ladders that lead to their becoming licensed classroom teachers.  And I’ll be encouraging similar models for health care.

I will say that it’s challenging for us in Oregon to make broad changes to our licensing process because unlike many other states Oregon does not have an overarching regulatory agency to oversee the work of professional boards and commissions.  Instead, we have dozens of autonomous professional licensing boards.  They’re generally doing good and important work, voluntarily lending their expertise to assess professional quality and help address instances of professional misconduct.  However, this week’s conference exposed me to different models that I think could be more effective and efficient and help address statewide workforce needs.  I’m thinking about pursuing legislation that would initiate a process of considering a change to our system.

More to come on this work.


Oregon’s Record on Reproductive Health Care

Unlike many other states, even when we had Republican leadership in the Legislature, Oregon has preserved the values of reproductive health and choice.  And in recent years, Oregon has long been a national leader in expanding reproductive health care and defending the right to choose.  


  • In 2017, the Legislature took a big step for reproductive rights by passing the Oregon Reproductive Health Equity Act, which expands coverage for folks in need of abortion services, including our undocumented neighbors. 
  • Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act codified the right to an abortion into Oregon state law. 
  • During the 2022 Legislative Session, we passed $15 million to support the Reproductive Health Equity Fund. The resources in this fund will be used to build reproductive care infrastructure and workforce in the state to shrink access deserts. This funding is a vital first step towards fulfilling Oregon’s commitment to protecting the right to choose in these troubled times and helping to expand services in our rural communities. Here's more about that funding.


Multnomah County Is Observing “Heat Week”

It’s been a year since our region experienced the terrible “Heat Dome Event” last year.  This tragedy resulted in a number of deaths among farmworkers and other residents; it resulted in a new set of state rules protecting workers, a new city and state program getting cooling equipment to low-income residents; and in general it led to a new awareness and appreciation of the increasing risks that we face as a result of global climate change. 

Multnomah County has planned a series of events for the coming week to recognize those we lost and raise awareness of future dangers.  You’ll find details of the week’s events  here.  On Sunday the County will also be releasing a final report on the causes and effects of the event.  Among its findings: The people most vulnerable during that event were people who lived alone and in multifamily buildings, people who lived in warmer parts of Multnomah County or people who were experiencing homelessness or living in unstable housing. Fewer than 10% of those who died had air conditioning.

This weekend will also be exceptionally hot, but not in the same league as last year.  The high temperatures aren’t projected to be high enough, or for as long, to trigger the opening of cooling shelters.  However, several county libraries will be open for longer hours to help those needing relief from the heat.  You can read about that in this Oregonian story.


Signing Up for Gun Violence Prevention

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court issued its expected ruling that overturns the statutory requirements in New York and a few other states that allow individuals to obtain concealed weapons permits and carry firearms outside their homes only when they can show they are at risk or need to do so because of their occupations. Oregon doesn’t have such a restriction, so the ruling doesn’t affect us directly.  However, the language of the ruling suggests that we can expect more such rulings in the future.

That’s of course not a reason to stop reducing gun violence, something the public is demanding. On the positive side, even as the Court was ruling one way, Congress was acting to pass long-awaited legislation.  The bipartisan gun safety bill survived last week’s controversies and made it through Congress on Friday.  President Biden has said that he will sign it.  It includes some features that are long overdue, and for parts of the country with very weak gun-violence protections, it will make a difference.  The additional funding for mental health treatment that it includes will also benefit states like Oregon, which have already enacted most of the provisions in the package. 

Other states have continued to step up and enacted additional legislation to promote further responsible gun ownership.  They appear to be—for now at least—consistent with the boundaries set by the Supreme Court. We should join them.

Let me take the opportunity again to remind you of the signature-gathering that is occurring to get an important initiative onto the ballot.  It’s Initiative Petition 17—The Reduction of Gun Violence Act, an effort organized by a coalition of faith leaders. It would do two important things: limit the ammunition capacity of firearms magazines and require a permit to purchase a firearm. Both of these strategies have been shown to be very effective in limiting gun violence.

Here’s info about the initiative and the effort behind it, lifteveryvoiceoregon.com

As a result of the recent, tragic instances of gun violence, the effort has been gaining steam day by day.  What once seemed like a long shot now seems within reach—if the effort continues to build.  But the deadline (July 8) is fast approaching.

Thanks to changes recently made by the Legislature, you can now download, print out, sign, and mail in a petition directly from your home.  Here’s how. https://www.lifteveryvoiceoregon.com/sign-from-home

Getting this passed will send a clear message to the Legislature that Oregonians want real change right away and will also send a strong signal to the nation as a whole. However, this is not a well-funded campaign, and getting a measure onto the ballot is not easy. Please do what you can to help, starting with your own signature.



Weekly Data Report:

OHA is releasing a biweekly data report every other week.  The next one will come out next week.  In the meantime I have information about the last week, based on the daily numbers that we get from the agency.

Overall, we’re unfortunately seeing slight statewide increases in all the key COVID metrics.

  • The number of reported increases is rising again, bringing us back to where we were two weeks ago. OHA reported 10,793 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of June 17-23 (vs. 9,757 the week before), a 7-day average of 1,394 per day (vs 1,542 the previous week).  The number of new cases is again likely an undercount, as many people are using home tests to determine their infection status but are not reporting those results.
  • Average test positivity for the last week was 13.5%, a sizeable increase from the previous week’s 11.9%. Again, this number skews high because it likely reflects a higher proportion of people showing COVID symptoms (and thus going in for a test, rather than self-testing).
  • On Thursday there were 331 COVID-19-related hospitalizations, vs. 303 last Thursday. This is higher than was forecast in last week’s OHSU report. Again, many of these hospitalizations are not in and of themselves due to COVID—they include those who tested positive after having been admitted for other reasons.  
  • The number of COVID patients in Oregon’s ICUs was 45 on Thursday, an increase from last week’s 36. These are the most serious COVID infections. Though this number remains very low, relative to earlier in the pandemic, it’s not clear why it is rising again. 
  • There were 43 reported COVID-19-related deaths during the last week, vs. 34 last week. Again, many of these are late-reports from earlier weeks.


Weekly County Report: Nine Now at High Risk, 18 at Medium Risk

OHA is no longer providing a weekly county report each Monday, but there are still ways to track this data.  According to the CDC Daily Counter (updated each Thursday), Curry County has moved from High Risk to Medium Risk, but an additional seven counties have joined Hood River and Coos in the category of High Risk of COVID Transmission: Wasco, Sherman, Lane, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, and Lake. The CDC recommends that people wear masks in public indoor settings in those counties.

Lane County’s presence in the High Risk Category is particularly concerning, given that the USA Track & Field Championships are taking place in Eugene right now.

Nineteen Oregon counties (down from 22) have reported infection rates that place them in the Medium Risk category:  Baker, Benton, Clackamas, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Gilliam, Jefferson, Josephine, Linn, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Union, Wallowa, and Washington.  The remaining 9 Oregon counties remain at Low Risk.

Again, we must remember that these are only the tests results that have been reported.  With the prevalence of home tests, there are certainly many more positive cases out there that have not been reported.

Here’s what the CDC recommends for this category:  Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. Get tested if you have symptoms. Wear a mask if you have symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19. Wear a mask on public transportation. You may choose to wear a mask at any time as an additional precaution to protect yourself and others. If you are at high risk for severe illness, consider wearing a mask indoors in public and taking additional precautions.

We can also track the test positivity rates for each county and the state as a whole at this dashboard. The test positivity rates reported this week show continued increases.

Among the reported cases, the statewide infection rate has gone up from 11.9% last week to 13.5% this week.

At 13.8%, Multnomah County is back to showing an increase, up from last week’s 12.9%..



This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report Shows Stability

With testing reports giving us just a fraction of infections out there, wastewater monitoring has become a more reliable indicator of the amount of virus in cities around the state.  That report is updated each week.

OPB has a newly-released story on wastewater analysis in Oregon, showing how it reveals far more virus than we see in testing. 

This week’s report shows overall stability in the wastewater readings.  The following 3 cities (same as last week) are showing sustained increases: Astoria, Cottage Grove, and Grants Pass. I’m happy to report that the great majority of cities have plateaued or decreased in their level of virus.  That bodes well for next week’s infection report.


Additional COVID Updates and Links                                                                           




Here again are some COVID resources that you will find useful:

If the above links are not providing you with answers to your questions or directing you to the help that you need, please consider me and my office to be a resource.  We’ll do our best to assist you or steer you in the right direction.


Want to See Past Newsletters?

If there was COVID-related information in a past newsletter that you want to go back to, but find you’ve deleted it, you can always go to my legislative website (senatordembrow.com), click on “News and Information,” and you’ll find them all there.  Also, if someone forwarded you this newsletter and you’d like to get it directly, you can sign up for it there.


dembrow signature

Senator Michael Dembrow
District 23

email: Sen.MichaelDembrow@oregonlegislature.gov
web: www.senatordembrow.com
phone: 503-281-0608
mail: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR, 97301