December 31st Update from SD 23

Michael Dembrow

December 31, 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. 

As I write this, we are in the waning hours of 2022.  Interestingly, this will be the last time I’m writing to you as the Senator for the district in which I live.  Redistricting takes effect with the new year, and our house has been redistricted in SD 22 (represented by my good friend Senator Lew Frederick).  Though I don’t live in it, I’ll continue to represent SD 23 for the remainder of my tenure.  I resolve to do my very best!

Most of the non-COVID content of this last newsletter of 2022 is devoted to the upcoming legislative session that begins in a little over a week.  You’ll find the newly-announced membership of the various committees, along with the committee schedule for the session.  You’ll find info about the first, “organizing” week.  You’ll find a list of some of the bills and issues that I’ll be leading on. You’ll find a link to the list of new laws that go into effect tomorrow.  You’ll find background about yesterday’s decision by the Oregon Supreme Court to make the prohibition on non-unanimous jury decisions retroactive.

And you’ll find info about the first SD 23 constituent coffee of ‘23.

On the COVID front, we continue to see reason for caution.  While reported COVID infections continue their projected decline (but remember, these are only the REPORTED cases), the number of people in the hospital for COVID has risen.  That may be the after-effect of the jump in cases that occurred at the beginning of the month (perhaps provoked by Thanksgiving gatherings).  If so, that should come down.  On the other hand, we may well see another increase in cases as a result of this current round of holidays.  Yesterday’s wastewater report shows some increases, which may be a harbinger of further increases in the coming weeks.  As you’ll see below, the CDC believes that nearly all of Oregon remains at Low Risk for COVID (as opposed to parts of the Northeast, which are showing a return to High Risk).  But that may change. We’ll know soon enough.

You'll find more details about all of this in the graphs, summaries, and linked articles below. 

So, as 2022 comes to an end, we do have much to be grateful for on the COVID front compared to a year ago—remember, just a year ago we were still experiencing the highly-dangerous Delta variant and were just beginning to experience the first of the highly-transmissible Omicron variants.  Death rates have declined dramatically as a result of the vaccines and boosters, and COVID hospitalizations are a third of what they were in January.  People aare traveling and gathering more, and more of us are returning to in-person work.  Seeing what is happening right now in China as a result of their abrupt shift from lockdown, it makes me grateful for the way that the pandemic was handled here in Oregon under Governor Brown’s leadership.  It wasn’t perfect and there were many bumps in the road, but many, many lives were saved relative to what we saw in other states and countries.

However, as I said last week, it’s very clear that we are by no means out of the woods for this winter.  COVID is still very much with us.  Long COVID wasn’t talked about much a year ago, but it is clearly a serious ongoing problem.  Although COVID hospitalizations are way down, hospital beds remain at a premium because the other respiratory viruses (flu and RSV) that were kept in abeyance during much of the pandemic as a result of COVID protocols have returned in force.  We had hoped that the situation in our hospitals and care centers would have returned to normal by now, but as 2023 begins, hospitals, nursing homes, and care centers remain stressed by an ongoing shortage of workforce.  With booster vaccinations for both COVID and flu remaining relatively low in this country, too many of our seniors (but not just our seniors) continue to face serious illness and death in the new year. 

So, with the turning of the calendar, we need to be appreciative but remain careful and considerate.

Until next week, please do your best to stay happy, healthy and safe.  And on this New Year’s Eve, let’s all resolve to do what we can in 2023 to make our families, our communities, our state, our nation, and our planet happier, healthier, and safer. 

And do let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about anything in this week’s newsletter.


Next Constituent Coffee January 7

Saturday, January 7th, is the first Saturday in January (and in the new year!), and that means time for another constituent coffee.  

We’ll be back (with coffee and cookies) at the Hollywood Senior Center, 1820 NE 40th Avenue (from 9 am to 10:30 am). 

This will be an opportunity for me to preview what I know about the upcoming session just a couple of days before the Legislature convenes on January 9th.  I can share some of my priorities with you, hear your ideas for additional issues that need attention, and answer any questions that you might have.

We’ll also have a zoom option for the meeting to accommodate those who cannot be there in person.  You can register in advance for the constituent coffee here.

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


2023 Session Committee Assignments Announced

I mentioned in last week’s newsletter that Senate President-Designee (Rob Wagner) and Speaker of the House (Dan Rayfield) were likely to announce committee assignments for the 2023 legislative session sometime this week.  They did so on Wednesday.

Here are the Senate assignments.

And the House assignments.

Here is the current committee schedule committee schedule for the 2023 session.

You’ll see that my assignments are mainly the same as the last couple of sessions, with one big exception. Here they are:

Chair, Senate Education

Member, Senate Judiciary

Member, Full Joint Ways and Means (the budget committee)

Member, Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education

The big change is that I won’t be serving on the Energy and Environment Committee this session.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t stay very focused on environmental issues this session—I am chief-sponsoring some key environmental bills and remain a leader of the Environmental Caucus and a member of the Oregon Global Warming Commission. 

But this will be a particularly challenging budget year, particularly given the need for key investments in education and housing, and the Senate President felt that I needed to be on the full Ways and Means Committee instead.  

You’ll notice that the House has brought back the Committee on Higher Education (a committee that used to exist in the House, and which I chaired) and that Senate Education has been expanded to seven members (and includes the Senate President). Both are signs of our sense that Post-Secondary Education and Workforce Development need close attention this year.  We need to make higher education more accessible and affordable, and we need to be creating barrier-free pathways to good jobs.

One final note of caution: assignments and schedule are not written in stone.  Sometimes changes are necessary for various reasons.  For example, we currently have a vacancy for SD 1, due to the resignation of Senator Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg).  You’ll find committee positions reserved for his replacement, but his replacement may bring a different skill set that might lead to some moving around.  And there may be other reasons for changes.  Stay tuned.


Session Coming

With the coming of the new year comes the 82nd Legislative Assembly for the state of Oregon.  (Each Assembly is the set of legislators elected in November of the even-numbered years.)  This new Assembly will convene and organize on the morning of January 9th

It’s a day full of ceremony.  Those members newly-elected or reelected in November will be sworn in, and then each chamber (Senate and House) will adopt its rules.  The committees for the 2023 session will be formally announced.  All the bills that had been filed in advance of the December 21st deadline will then be “first-read” (i.e., formally introduced) by number and title. 

That afternoon Tina Kotek will be sworn in as Oregon’s next Governor in a joint session of the Senate and House.  She will then deliver her inaugural address to the Legislature.

The rest of that week will be devoted to various trainings and meetings.  Behind the scenes, staff of the Senate President and Speaker of the House will be busy examining all the bills that were introduced on Monday and assigning them to committees.

Committees begin meeting for informational sessions and public hearings on Tuesday, January 17.

In future newsletters I’ll be writing in detail about the bills on which I’ll be taking the lead. Here’s an initial list (including the bill numbers if I know them):


  • Improving our financial aid system to make post-secondary education and training more affordable and accessible to more Oregonians.
  • Continuing funding for summer learning and after-school programs (credit recovery, tutoring, camps, and other programs). (SB 531)
  • Overcoming educator workforce shortages (with a particular focus on Special Education, rural educators, increasing the number of diverse teachers, and improving pathways to licensure).
  • Increasing the Education Department’s authority to monitor and ensure student success.
  • Improving ventilation and indoor air quality in Oregon’s schools, with help from corporate kicker funds. (SB 414)
  • Improving schools’ Integrated Pest Management programs for student/worker safety. (SB 426)
  • Preventing colleges and universities from withholding transcripts needed for education and work as a means of debt collection. (SB 424)
  • Requiring registered apprentices on all education construction projects. (SB 518)


  • Natural Climate Solutions (SB 530): Enhancing Oregon’s climate action and building rural economies with natural carbon sequestration/storage projects in our natural and working lands.
  • Modernizing the mission and capacity of Oregon’s Global Warming Commission, henceforth to be called the Oregon Climate Action Commission, and increasing Oregon’s emissions-reduction targets. (SB 522)
  • Compassionate Medical Release (SB 520): Streamlining and professionalizing the process for compassionate release for adults in custody who are in hospice or otherwise seriously incapacitated.
  • “Juvenile Expunction 2.0” (SB 519): Builds on the success of SB 575 (2021), which created a process for automatic expungement of records for eligible juveniles. Expands the process to those with eligible misdemeanors.
  • Removing unnecessary and inappropriate barriers to licensure for those with criminal records. (SB 517)
  • Lifting the current age-discrimination prohibition that prevents businesses from refusing to sell firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition to anyone under the age of 21. (SB 527)
  • Motorcycle Lane Filtering (SB 422): Another attempt at SB 574 (2021), which passed the Legislature but was vetoed by the Governor. Allows motorcycles to go between cars when traffic is stopped or coming to a stop.

There are additional initiatives and amendments in the works.  Please let us know if you have any questions about any of these. 


A Further Repudiation of Oregon’s Legacy of Nonunanimous Jury Decisions

We received word yesterday that the Oregon Supreme Court has taken a further step in reversing Oregon’s long-standing law allowing individuals to be convicted of felonies without the unanimous consent of a jury.  Oregon and Louisiana were the last two states in the nation to allow such decisions when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April 2020 (Ramos v Louisiana) that it was unconstitutional.  As a result of the Ramos ruling, Oregon was prohibited from deciding cases with non-unanimous juries going forward (i.e., new cases or cases already under appeal).  However, it was left up to the states in question to decide (either through legislative action or through state courts) whether or not the ruling applied retroactively.  

You may remember that earlier this year our Legislature’s Judiciary Committee did put forth a committee bill, SB 1511, which would have created a process for retroactive reconsideration of such sentences.  I was a strong supporter of this effort for reasons of fairness and equity.  In an effort to build bipartisan support for it, some compromises were made that limited the pool of those who would be eligible for retroactivity.  Nevertheless, I did ultimately vote for it in committee.  Despite the compromises, however, it only passed on a party-line vote.  It then went to Ways and Means because of the potential costs of retrying some of the cases.  

At the same time, a judicial process was underway challenging the inequity of the decision not being applied retroactively.

SB 1511 ultimately died in Ways and Means at the end of the 2022 session, along with several other justice-reform bills. It was high on the Republican “Kill List,” and there was sentiment that rather than further divide the parties during the short session, we wait and see what happened to it when it eventually made it to the Oregon Supreme Court.

And now we have seen. 

You can read about the decision and Justice Dick Baldwin’s powerful opinion decrying the racist origins of the non-unanimous jury practice in these articles from OPB and  from the Oregonian.


New Laws Take Effect Tomorrow

When the Legislature passes laws, some of them go into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signing (under “Emergency Clauses”), while others go into effect 90 days after signature.  However, most of them go into effect with the new year.  That means that starting tomorrow, the state will be operating under a number of newly-enacted laws.  You can find descriptions of a number of them here in this article from the East Oregonian.



Weekly Data Report:

OHA now updates and reports COVID metrics once a week, on Wednesdays.  Here are the last set of weekly results, for this past week from 12/22/22 through 12/28/22.

As you’ll see, this week’s report shows increases in all the metrics other than number of new reported infections.  However, other than the jump in reported positivity rate, the increases are relatively small.

  • The 7-day average for new infections went down again last week, very slightly, from 485 the previous week to 472 reported infections per day this last 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 jumped back up during the last week, to 10.4% vs. the previous week’s 7.6%. Again, this number skews high because it likely reflects a higher proportion of people showing COVID symptoms (and thus reporting or going in for a test, rather than self-testing and never reporting).
  • On Wednesday there were 346 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide, a sizeable increase from 314 last Wednesday. Hospitalizations are now our best indicator of disease spread. Again, however, most of these hospitalizations are not in and of themselves due to COVID—more than half are those who tested positive after having been admitted for other reasons.
  • The number of COVID patients in Oregon’s ICUs on Wednesday went back up again a little, from 29 to 32. These are the most serious COVID infections.
  • There were just 14 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, only slightly above the previous week’s 13. Again, some of every week’s reported deaths actually occurred in earlier weeks but were just reported to the state, and others that likely occurred have yet to be reported. The newsletter’s final graph shows when the deaths actually occurred, and you’ll see that the number of COVID deaths each day continues to remain low.


Weekly County ReportMore Counties Move to Low Risk, But Test Positivity Rates Up in the Metro Region

The CDC assigns risk levels based on a combination of the number of new COVID cases and the number of people in hospital for COVID.

According to the CDC Daily Counter (updated each Thursday), all Oregon counties are at either Low or Medium Risk, as has been the case for ten out of the last eleven weeks.  And more counties have been moved to Low Risk this week.

Four Oregon counties (down from 16 last week) have reported infection rates that place them in the Medium Risk category: Coos, Curry, Douglas, and Lane.

The remaining 36 Oregon counties (up from 25 last week) are at Low Risk.

We can also track the cases, deaths, and test positivity rates for each county at this website.

After a week of declines, the positivity rates for all three Portland-area counties went back up last week.  Clackamas County is again the region’s highest, 14.5%, from last week’s 10.6%. Washington County is now at 12.9%, up from 8.0%. Multnomah County is at 8.9%, up from the previous week’s 6.8%.

Remember that these are all based on reported test results, and so are more likely to be a little higher than the total percent positivity (i.e., if one were to include all tests taken).


This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report:A Shift to Increases

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.

This week’s report, updated yesterday, sees more cities showing increases.  As you’ll see, 15% showed an increase or a sustained increase (up from 6% the previous week). Only 3% of the cities observed showed decreases or sustained decreases last week (vs. the previous week’s 21%).  Eighty-one percent showed no change (up from 72%).

Ontario and Sunriver are the cities showing sustained increases last week.


COVID Q & A from OHA (from OHA weekly newsletter)

Dr. Paul Cieslak, OHA senior health advisor and medical director, Communicable Diseases and Immunizations answered this week’s questions.

Q: Was a vaccine against RSV part of my influenza shot or third (updated) Pfizer booster shot I got in October? – Michael, Portland

A: “No. Currently, there is no vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The best way to keep yourself safe from RSV is to wear a mask indoors, disinfect high-touch surfaces (such as doorknobs or your cell phone), stay away from crowds and wash your hands frequently. These are common prevention methods for all three respiratory viruses circulating the most right now (COVID-19, flu and RSV).”

Q: Considering which N95 mask to purchase from what company is confusing. Can you help? – James, Beaverton

A: “There are many different types of masks, but N95 respirator masks are the best option for protecting yourself and others from respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, flu and RSV. N95 masks are tested and approved by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Legitimate NIOSH-approved masks will have:

  • Tamper-free, sealed packaging. Be wary of masks that are packaged in a bag with a twist tie or zip-lock close.
  • Packaging clearly marked with a legitimate website, physical address, the manufacturing location and an expiration date.
  • Proper official language. For example, if an N95 mask is labeled ‘FDA approved,’ that is a red flag. N95s are approved by NIOSH, not the FDA. Counterfeit masks may come with a ‘certificate of approval,’ but NIOSH does not issue such approvals.
  • A company name or logo imprinted directly on the mask material.
  • Effective quality control. Masks that are damaged or have issues that compromise the fit, such as elastic bands that are too loose or a broken nose-bridge, shouldn’t be trusted.

Check out this blog post for more information about how to find an effective mask.”


Additional COVID Updates and Links


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hospital graph


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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 (, 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

mail: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR, 97301