Rep. Owens Calls on Budget Committee to Leave Warner Creek Correctional Facility Open

Oregon State Representative Mark Owens
House District 60

Rep. Owens Calls on Budget Committee to Leave Warner Creek Correctional Facility Open

SALEM—Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) called on the Joint Ways & Means legislative committee to find another way to balance than budget in the public safety sector, instead of closing the Warner Creek Correctional Facility in Lakeview.  The various Ways & Means subcommittees will be meeting this week via video conference to discuss budget cuts and filling Oregon’s budget deficit.

Rep. Owens said, “This facility is critical to the survival of the town of Lakeview and the surrounding areas.  Closing it would mean the loss of over one hundred local family-wage jobs.  Make no mistake, Lake County cannot sustain this type of a  hit, especially during some of the worst economic times our communities have seen in decades.”

“It is also my understanding there is not enough capacity in Oregon’s other prisons to transition the almost 500 inmates to other locations.  Warner Creek is one of the newest prisons in Oregon—it would be a shame to close a newer facility in favor of keeping older ones open that are more expensive to operate.”

“I urge the Committee to reconsider this closure, and to find the necessary budgetary reductions elsewhere,” added Rep. Owens.

House District 60 encompasses parts of Lake County, as well as all of Baker, Grant, Harney and Malheur Counties.

Public comment regarding the proposed closure of the Warner Creek facility can be submitted through the Joint Ways & Means Public Safety Subcommittee at:

Rural Legislators Call on Legislature to Protect Schools & Businesses from COVID Lawsuits

SALEM—As Legislators meet this week in Salem for a special session, Senator Lynn Findley (R-Vale) and Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) are urging Oregon’s legislative leadership to protect Oregon schools, public entities, medical professionals, and private businesses from COVID-related lawsuits.

Perhaps the biggest glaring issue Oregon faces as the fallout of the Coronavirus epidemic continues came with an announcement from PACE insurance, which covers a majority of school districts in the state, that they will no longer provide liability insurance for Oregon schools against lawsuits related to COVID as of June 30th.

This means any student, staff member, parent, or private citizen who contracts COVID on school property or at a school event would be able to sue the school district. Without liability insurance to cover schools, many have said they will not be able to reopen because it would leave them exposed to frivolous and opportunistic lawsuits which could bankrupt or financially cripple our schools for years to come.

“We still have the opportunity to address the liability for schools. This needs to happen. It is not too late,” said Rep. Owens, who also is School Board Chair of Crane School District. “We are already in Salem for the special session, which was designed to fix urgent problems of this nature.”
Sen. Findley added, “This should be the top priority during this special session. Now is the time. Schools, students, and staff need the reassurance that they are covered from liability in order to reopen.”

Several groups have suggested that Oregon institute a “Good Neighbor Policy” for public and private entities, meaning if the rules and regulations set forth by the state are being followed by the entity and people get sick, those individuals cannot sue the school/business. Eight states have passed similar legislation.

Senator Findley and Rep. Owens encourage everyone concerned with the liability insurance issue to contact the legislative leadership team to voice your concerns and ask them to include a “Good Neighbor Policy” in the legislation being considered during this special session.


Sen. Findley and Rep. Owens share concerns with Governor Brown over early release

Honorable Governor Brown,

We write with collective concern over your recent decision to approve early release for adults in custody who are serving their time in state prisons, due to possible susceptibility to the Coronavirus.  Like you, our hope is that all Oregonians are safe, healthy and well during this unique and challenging time. However, early release of adults in custody will not prevent this exposure; the chance of contracting the virus in public is just as great.

Of particular concern is your statement that “In no case may an adult in custody be released if they present an unacceptable safety, security, or compliance risk to the community.”  Any adult in custody being granted early release poses a risk to the community because of the drastic underfunding of community corrections and support services.  Adults in custody will need housing, medical care, parole supervision, mental health services, job training and support, etc.  Our community services are already overwhelmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the incredible number of people who are out of work. What’s more, adults in custody would already have these services provided by the Oregon Department of Corrections while serving out their sentences in prison.

Our already-overloaded vital community services with be further strained by this decision.  Furthermore, releasing adults in custody during a pandemic increases the possibility of losing track of those individuals who would need to be monitored upon release.

Our legislative districts include both the largest and smallest prisons in the state, including the Snake River Correctional Facility (Ontario), Powder River Correctional Facility (Baker City), Deer Ridge Correctional Institution (Madras), and Warner Creek Correctional Facility (Lakeview).  Granting early release for even a few adults in custody from any of these facilities would be detrimental to the surrounding communities and support services.

We urge you reconsider your decision to allow an early release of adults in custody.  Our communities cannot provide the tools necessary for these individuals to succeed upon release at this time.

Lynn Findley
State Senator, Oregon Senate District 30

Mark Owens
State Representative, House District 60

Cc: Director Colette Peters, ODOC

Let Them Play!

From the Offices of Senator Lynn Findley
& Representative Mark Owens

Honorable Governor Kate Brown
C/o: Nik Blosser
900 Court St. NE, Room 254
Salem, OR 97301

June 9, 2020

Honorable Gov. Brown,

We write to you today to voice the concerns of thousands of our constituents who have contacted us with overwhelming support for the “Let Them Play” initiative regarding Oregon’s high school sports and extracurricular activities.

It is our understanding that the restrictions contained in the Phase 2 reopening guidelines prohibit any sport that involves participants coming into bodily contact. These restrictions seem onerous and inequitable, especially considering exemptions are being crafted for collegiate and professional sports teams. These rules should apply to all athletics equally or should not be applied at all. Of course, we are requesting you to consider the former of these circumstances and not the latter. The argument could also logically be made that the “contact” within these contact sports is not similar in any nature to the contact-distancing we are adhering to in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

In border towns like Ontario, teams are traveling across the state line to Idaho to hold practices, play games, and participate in tournaments.  If it is safe enough for Idaho athletes to participate in all sports, why is it somehow unsafe for those in Oregon, less than 10 minutes away?

We urge you to reconsider the restrictions on high school sports and activities.  These sports and activities allow for opportunities for personal growth, comradery, and positive effects on children’s physical and mental health.  This prohibition will negatively affect tens of thousands of Oregon’s youth at a time when their world has already been turned upside down. It may also place many students’ college scholarships in jeopardy and could result in missed opportunities and the dream of a college education out of reach for many.

Please reconsider these limitations.  We look forward to discussing this with you further.


Senator Lynn Findley
Senate District 30

Representative Mark Owens
House District 60

Lawmakers talk about pandemic’s effect on business, health care

Larry Meyer | Argus Observer | April 10

ONTARIO — State Senate District 30 and House Districts 59 and 60 held a joint virtual town hall Thursday, primarily discussing the issue that is keeping everyone apart, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy and health care.

The session hosted by Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, and Reps. Mark Owens, R-Crane, and Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, was held via video and phone conference with invited participants.
Leading off in answering a question about the impact on business, Findley noted that “small business is the back bone of our economy,” and the need to is put people back to work.

The pandemic could bring a change in how we do business, he said, emphasizing, “we have to protect our people.”

Commenting that unemployment insurance applicants now number 88,000, Findley said people need to get a check for people to live on. He also said, the officials need to protect markets for what people are producing.

“You have to figure out how to keep people in their houses,” he said. “You have to figure how to keep commerce going.”

One of the things needed to move business forward, according to Owens, is to draw down the regulations which have been put in place because of the virus. Bonham said the Republican lawmakers are drafting a series of letters to Gov. Kate Brown, including one as for support of rural hospitals.

“We need to have a healthy, functioning health care apparatus,” he said. Bonham says he is appalled state leaders have not taken more action to protect the health-care providers.
On education, he said students would be ready to transition to the next level next year and the state the should be improving the technology to help learning.

Owens expressed concerns about rural hospitals, saying hospitals are bleeding cash. “If we lose any of the hospitals, we will lose the community,” he said. More testing is needed to track the virus and a vaccine is needed to control it, Owens said.

Bonham said a special session to address budget issues the costs of dealing with the pandemic will probably not happen until the next revenue forecast in May, pushing a session toward the end of May and possibly into June.

Findley said among things the three lawmakers are doing is keeping in contact with the county commissioners about county needs.