March 5th Update from SD 23

Michael Dembrow

March 5, 2023

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.

In tonight’s newsletter you’ll find updates on the committees that I chair, along with some of the bills that are among my 2023 session priorities.  These are bills that should soon be coming out of committee or already have.

In yesterday’s constituent coffee someone asked what the tenor is like in the Senate these days, whether or not civility or incivility is prevailing.  I responded that it’s a very odd environment right now.  In my own experience with committees and the floor, there is a high degree of civility and even bipartisanship, lots of mutual respect and co-sponsorship.  Floor debates in the Senate are brief and cordial, and I don’t believe that a single bill has come down to a party-line vote. 

Yet at the same time, we continue to have to read bills on the Senate floor for no apparent reason other than the minority party’s insistence, a real waste of precious time.  I mentioned to the constituents that we had hoped to use one of the Education bills described below (SB 183) to include a request from the Department of Defense to recognize the new Space Force military branch in Oregon Statute, something that would normally do as a routine affair.  However, making those technical changes would have turned a 4-page bill into a 65-page bill—i.e., a 3-hour bill-read vs. a 10-minute bill read. So we’ll unfortunately not be able to do that this session. Ah well.

On the COVID front, last week saw a return to improvements in case numbers and hospitalizations, a welcome sign. We seem actually to be doing better than the most recent OHSU report had forecast.  Having said that, though, wastewater analysis still shows increases in virus all over the state, so it’s possible that we may well see the numbers rise again in the coming weeks.  However, the combination of vaccines and prior infections seems to be keeping Oregonians from being sick enough to need serious treatment.

In recognition of the overall improvements, OHA announced this week that the statewide requirement for masks to be worn in medical settings will be lifted on April 3.  Hospitals and medical offices will still be free to continue the requirement if they so choose, but if they do decide to lift it, they’ll have a month to prepare.

And, by the way, tomorrow is the last day that we are operating under Executive Order 22-24, which allowed hospitals greater flexibility in responding to COVID, RSV, and Flu.

Until next week, please do your best to stay happy, healthy and safe. And let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about anything in this week’s newsletter.


SB 279 Interstate Teacher Compact Bill Sails Through the Senate

I carried my first bill from Senate Education this session to the Senate floor this past week.  It’s SB 279, which authorizes Oregon to join the newly-created Interstate Compact on Teacher Mobility, which will remove barriers to licensure for teachers who are already licensed in other states. 

The compact will allow teachers who hold an eligible license from another compact state to immediately receive an initial Oregon professional teaching license after their background check has been completed. It will make it easier for those considering relocation to begin working right away.  It will be a small but important piece of solving Oregon’s educator workforce shortage problem.

You can read my “floor carry” here.

And here’s reporting from the Oregon Capital Chronicle.


Is This the Year for Motorcycle Lane Filtering? (I Say YES!)

You may remember that in 2021 a bill that I chief sponsored, SB 574 (2021), passed with overwhelming support—broad, bipartisan sponsorship and Aye votes from more than 2/3 of the members in each chamber.  Then Governor Brown vetoed the bill upon the advice of her advisors, who worried that motorcyclists might not follow the law and would abuse the provisions of the bill.

This was a concept that was originally brought to me by a couple of former students of mine, very responsible motorcyclists, who convinced me that it would improve safety and reduce congestion.  I was disappointed by the Governor’s veto, which came without warning or explanation to me.  So I’ve brought it back as SB 422, again with a broad array of sponsors.  It had a public hearing in Senate Judiciary on Thursday.

Here's what I had to say to the committee:

Colleagues, again, what SB 422 does is allow motorcyclists to move into another lane when traffic has come to a stop or has slowed to 10 miles per hour or less. It does NOT allow a motorcyclist to move into a lane occupied by a car traveling at higher speeds.  That would be a Class A violation under this bill, an increased level of violation that is the only change from the bill that passed in 2021. 

Colleagues, the purpose of SB 422 is to increase safety for motorcyclists, allowing them to avoid deadly situations in which they would be rear-ended or sandwiched. You’ll hear more about that from the people who follow me, as well as from the many, many pieces of written testimony on OLIS.  You’ll also hear about the other states that adopted this policy in recent years. 

Colleagues, I know there are people who are concerned that even under the narrow circumstances of SB 422, lane sharing could potentially make our roads more dangerous.  I would encourage them to look at the experience of those states that have enacted such policies, particularly Utah, which has had the most experience.  They will not see evidence of increased danger, and that’s why we’re bringing this bill back again.

You can read all about the bill, its background, and the bill in other states at

I look forward to its being voted out of committee sometime soon.


Time to Expand Automatic Juvenile Expunction

Also on Thursday I was able to present another of my priority bills for the session to Senate Judiciary: SB 519.

SB 519 continues the work on juvenile expunction that I’ve been engaged in for the last few years.  You may remember that in 2021 we passed SB 575, the product of a multi-year workgroup seeking to improve the process of juvenile expunction. Oregon’s court processes for getting criminal records expunged or sealed have been unduly and unnecessarily complicated, difficult to navigate, and expensive for both the state and the individual.  As a result, only 4 or 5% of eligible youth successfully apply for and make it through the system each year. 

This is continues to be a real problem for many juveniles.  The whole purpose of our separate juvenile justice system is to give youth offenders a second chance to learn their lessons, straighten out their heads, get their lives together, and contribute to society. However, when it comes time for them to apply for work, school, the military, even housing, their records all too often create unnecessary barriers.  SB 575 (2021) began the process of lifting those barriers, focusing on those who had arrests but never had to go to court.  SB 519 continues this work, focusing on those youth who were convicted of offenses that would be considered misdemeanors if they had been committed by adults.

You can read my testimony to the committee here.

I’m pleased to say that the bill has received universal support so far, including from the District Attorney Association.  I’m hoping this one too will be voted out of Senate Judiciary soon.  SB 519 will need to go to the Ways and Means Committee next, because we’ll need to appropriate the funds needed to allow the county juvenile departments and the courts to process the automatic expunctions.  Having said that, in the long run SB 519 will save the state money by eliminating lengthy and unnecessary petition processes.


Sensible Prison Reform Bill Passes the Senate

According to the Department of Corrections, 2/3 of all adults in custody enter with a substance use disorder, and half enter with a “severe” need for treatment. That’s more than four times the national average.

However, because of outdated statutes, drug treatment in our state prisons is limited to outdated methods and only available just before release.  That might have made sense at one time, but we now know there are better treatment options and that it’s better to get treatment to those with substance use disorders soon after they arrive, so that they get on the road to recovery right away and get years of recovery under their belts before they’re released.

SB 529 will change that.  It came to me at the request of the DOC.  It will allow AICs to begin to get treatment right away, which in the long run will benefit both them and the institutions. My partner on the bill is Representative Tawna Sanchez, who has a lot of direct professional experience with Native American AICs in need of these services.

I’m pleased to say that I was recently able to carry it to the Senate floor (here’s my floor speech), where it passed handily.  It’s now awaiting further action in the House Judiciary Committee.


The Week in Senate Education

It was a busy week in the Senate Education Committee, which I chair, with lengthy public testimony on bills both Tuesday and Thursday.  Here are topics we covered in public hearings this past week:

  • SB 421, which will create a statewide youth advisory collaborative to provide first-hand input and insights for school districts and the legislature.
  • SB 3, which will direct the State Board of Education to create a year-long course on Future Planning that will be required for high school graduation. It will cover a number of topics, helping students chart their future paths; apply for college, financial aid, or apprenticeship; and improve their financial literacy. This new requirement comes after strong recommendations from the Joint Task Force on Student Success for Underrepresented Students in Higher Education, the Department of Education’s review of high school graduation requirements mandated by SB 744 (2021), and a number of credit unions, banks, and financial literacy educators.
  • SB 285, which updates an important grant program for facilities improvements in local schools.
  • SB 518, which will require that any public education construction projects (school, college, or university) attempt to have 15% of its workforce be registered apprentices. In order to build up our construction workforce, especially in the rural parts of the states, we need to build up our apprentice pipeline.
  • SB 458, which updates appropriations for the OSU statewide extension services in agriculture and forestry.
  • SB 523, which will allow community colleges to offer “RN to BSN” programs, allowing students who’ve received their Associates degrees in Nursing at the colleges to remain at their local college and receive their Bachelor’s degrees there. It is being promoted as an important element in our statewide effort to increase the number of practicing nurses.

We passed a number of bills out of committee last week as well.  We held work sessions on the following bills (all of which passed unanimously):

  • SB 819,, which addresses the problem that too many school districts are excluding too many children with disabilities from school without their parents’ consent. The bill passed the Senate on Thursday, carried by Senator Gelser-Blouin, its chief sponsor and champion, and is now on its way to House Education.
  • SB 767,  which closes a loophole in Oregon’s charter school law that allows charters in one district to open branches in additional districts without needing to secure the approval or sponsorship of those districts. I’ll be carrying this one on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
  • SB 129, which puts an end to a well-intentioned tax credit for the Oregon Opportunity Grant program that is no longer working and needs to be replaced by a direct appropriation to the OOG, which provides Oregon’s need-based financial aid. The bill now goes to the Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures.
  • SB 281, which will modernize Oregon’s Quality Education Model, which lets us know how much money is needed to fully fund Oregon’s K-12 education. The update will incorporate the Student Success Act and other newer programs.  The bill, which will require some funding to do this work, next goes to Ways and Means.
  • SB 292, which will exempt very small school districts from the requirement that their Board members file annual statements of economic interest. We’ve heard reports that these small, rural districts, with fewer than 1,650 students in total, are having difficulty attracting people to serve on their boards and this new requirement is an impediment. The bill now heads to the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees such ethics issues.
  • SB 183, which will allow Oregon to join the national Purple Star School Program, which recognizes schools that provide a higher level support services to the children of active-duty military parents.
  • SB 423, which directs OHSU to add a faculty and staff member to its Board of Trustees. I'll be carrying this one on the Senate floor later this week.

Needless to say, next week's agendas will also be packed with interesting bills and votes. You can follow all the work of Senate Education at the  committee website, where you can also e-subscribe to be put on a mailing list for all the committee agendas.


And in the Natural Resources Subcommittee

I’m also the Senate Co-Chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources this session (along with my House counterpart Rep Khanh Pham, one of my two SD 23 partners). This last week we spent a day on the budget for the Oregon Marine Board budget for the Oregon Marine Board and three days on the Oregon Department of Forestry.

On Monday  we’ll be taking public testimony on the Department of Energy’s budget and the budget for the Land Use Board of Appeals.  Then, for the rest of the week, we’ll be hearing the budget on the Department of State Lands.

If you look at the Meeting Materials section of the days' agendas, you’ll find details on the agencies’ work and their budget proposals. 

You can follow all the work of the Natural Resources Sub at the Subcommittee's website, where you can also e-subscribe to be put on a mailing list for all the committee agendas.

Please let me know if you have any questions about these budget hearings.



Weekly Data Report:

OHA now updates and reports COVID metrics once a week, on Wednesdays.  Here are the most recent set of weekly results, for this past week from 2/16/23 through 2/22/23.

This week’s report shows improvements in the following COVID metrics here in Oregon.

  • The 7-day average for newly reported infections went down again last week, from 368 the previous week to 315 reported infections per day this last week. The number of new cases is likely an undercount, as many people are using home tests to determine their infection status but are not reporting those results.
  • Average test positivity also went down last week, from 10.0% to 9.6%. The number probably 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 232 COVID hospitalizations, down from the previous week’s 250 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide. It appears that the number of COVID hospitalizations peaked earlier, and at a lower level, than had been forecast in the most recent OHSU report from 2 weeks ago. Hospitalizations are now our best indicator of disease spread.  Again, however, most of these hospitalizations are not in and of themselves due to COVID—most are those who tested positive after having been admitted for other reasons.
  • The number of COVID patients in Oregon’s ICUs on Wednesday also went down last week, from 30 to 28 statewide. These are the most serious COVID infections.
  • There were 26 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, down from the previous week’s 39. However, it’s important to remember that many 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 relatively low.


Weekly County Report: Two Counties Now at Medium Risk, Others at Low Risk

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), two of Oregon’s counties are now at Medium Risk, and one is not showing anything (presumably a problem with their reporting data). The remaining 33 Oregon counties are at Low Risk.  

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

Positivity rates for the three Portland-area counties were mixed last week.  Clackamas County in now at 8.1% (down from 8.5% the previous week). Multnomah County has gone up to 8.1% (from 7.7%). Washington County has gone down to 10.2% (down from 11.1%).

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).

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This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report: Another Week of Big Increases Around the State

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 on Wednesday, showed a jump in increased viral detection, with the viral loads in a number of cities rising.  Nearly half of the cities studied (36%) saw increases and sustained increases (down from 46% the previous week).  Again, only 6% showed decreases and sustained decreases (same as last week).  The remaining 57% showed no change (up from last week’s 48%).

Astoria, Durham, Forest Grove, Grants Pass, Hermiston, Hillsboro, Medford, Newberg, Port Orford, and Sunriver were the cities showing sustained increases in last week’s report.


From OHA: Mask Mandate for Medical Settings To Be Lifted April 3rd

Starting April 3, workers, patients and visitors in Oregon health care settings will not be required to wear masks.

OHA is canceling some parts of the state rule that require workers in health care settings—such as hospitals, mobile clinics, ambulances, outpatient facilities, dental offices, urgent care centers, counseling offices, school-based health centers, complementary and alternative medicine locations—to wear masks. The requirement has been in effect since August 2021.

Note: some health care settings may decide to continue requiring masks even after the statewide requirement is lifted.

In addition, the executive order that gave hospitals needed flexibility to respond to a surge in respiratory infections will expire Monday, March 6.

The decision to end statewide health care setting mask requirements aligns with decisions in other states, including Washington.

Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA, said the lifting of Oregon’s health care setting mask requirement stems from data in recent weeks showing overall decreases in circulation of the three respiratory viruses that triggered a surge in visits to hospital emergency departments and intensive care units last fall. As of today, COVID-19 test positivity is at 10% and is expected to continue dropping; influenza test positivity is at 1.2%; and RSV test positivity is at 1.6% (antigen tests) and 3.5% (molecular tests).

The month-long lead-up to the ending of Oregon’s health care mask requirement gives the health care system, local public health authorities and other health partners time to prepare for the change, including adjusting policies, training and procedures to ensure continued patient safety and access. It also gives members of the public, particularly populations at increased risk of severe disease—communities of color, tribal communities, rural communities, lower-income communities, those with underlying medical conditions, seniors and parents of vulnerable infants—a chance to plan health care visits and protective measures.

Wearing a mask remains an effective way to reduce transmission of respiratory viruses. We encourage you to wear a mask in any setting, including health care settings, if you are sick, have a health condition that puts you at high risk for severe illness from a respiratory virus exposure (or you live with someone at high risk), or at any time wearing a mask makes you feel more comfortable.

In order to protect yourself and your family and community, we strongly encourage you to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. To find a vaccine or booster near you, go to, or call 211. If you’re not sure what vaccine or booster you should get, click here for a printable guide to all COVID-19 vaccines broken down by age, brand and immunocompromised status.

Here's reporting on the decision from the Oregonian, along with a video of Dr. Sidelinger’s press conference with the announcement. 


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

Dr. Paul Cieslak, OHA senior health advisor and medical director, Communicable Diseases and Immunizations, and Dr. Melissa Sutton, OHA medical director of respiratory viral pathogens, answered today’s questions.

Q: Have there been any studies done on the type of blood a person has related to how often they get COVID-19? I know several people with type O negative blood and none of them has had COVID-19 despite many around them having it. – Bill, Bend

A: “Several studies have found that persons with type O blood seem to have a lower risk of infection (perhaps 10%-20% lower), and that persons with type A may have a higher risk. Furthermore, when type O persons get COVID-19, they may be less likely to develop severe disease. Some investigators have also found that being Rhesus factor negative is also associated with lower risk of infection. A nice summary (published in 2021) of several studies may be found here.”

Q: Where has the COVID-19 wastewater data gone? It was the only way to assess community risk accurately! – Lyn, Eugene

A: “I’m sorry you’re having trouble finding OHA’s wastewater surveillance data, but we haven’t discontinued or moved it. It is available and updated weekly here, or by going to our COVID-19 data dashboard home page, scrolling down to the ‘Testing and Sequencing’ section and clicking on the ‘SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Monitoring’ thumbnail.

"A handful of Oregon’s wastewater sites are no longer participating in the COVID-19 wastewater monitoring program, and those sites are labeled ‘discontinued’ on the dashboard map. There are a number of other sites that are participating but send their data somewhat infrequently (ie: Salem), and sometimes they appear as ‘discontinued’ as well. But rest assured OHA’s wastewater monitoring efforts, including our partnership with Oregon State University to analyze the samples, have not ended. Additionally, Oregon participates in the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System, which we expect to continue for several years.”


Additional COVID Updates and Links



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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.

dembrow signature

Senator Michael Dembrow
District 23

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