Reps Mark Owens, Greg Smith return to tour Barlow High

The Gresham Outlook | November 13, 2023

Once a Barlow Bruin, always a Barlow Bruin.

Two honored guests went back to their alma mater Thursday, Nov. 9, to see their old high school, meet with administrators, and chat with students. Rep Mark Owens, R-Crane, and Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, toured Barlow with Gresham-Barlow Superintendent James Hiu.

The Eastern Oregon reps are both graduates — Smith was the Class of 1987 and Owens Class of 1989.

“I want to thank Superintendent Hiu for the tour today,” Representative Owens said. “Sam Barlow High School has changed a lot since I last walked the halls. I was impressed with the remarkable Career and Technical Education programs offered to the students and how well the funds were being used.”

The pair agreed strolling the corridors evoked memories of youth and ties to their community growing up. Gresham has undergone rapid expansion since they both relocated to Eastern Oregon, but were struck by how the traditions and unity remains steadfast.

“There is often a disconnect between the East and West sides of the state,” said Representative Smith. “It was so nice to return to my roots and see that no matter where you are in Oregon, communities come together to support the education of our youth.”

Findley, Owens meet with local residents at Baker City town hall

By Ian Crawford | Baker City Herald | September 27, 2023

Baker County’s two state legislators — Sen. Lynn Findley and Rep. Mark Owens — met with local residents during a town hall Monday afternoon, Sept. 25 at the OTEC office in Baker City.

Findley, a Republican from Vale, talked about the legislative session that ended in June.

“I’m happy to say that, in the six sessions I’ve been in the legislature, this was the most contentious,” Findley said. “We took the supermajority away so they couldn’t pass tax increases, but they made a run at everything else you can think of.”

Democrats were one position short of a supermajority in both the Senate and the House.

Findley, who has represented Baker County since 2020, also talked about the decision he and several other Republican senators made to stay away from the Capitol late in the session to deprive the Democrats of a quorum to conduct business.

Oregon voters passed Measure 113 in the November 2022 election which states that legislators who accrue 10 or more unexcused absences are not eligible to run for reelection in the next election.

Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade concluded that the senators, including Findley, are prohibited from seeking another term due to Measure 113.

Findley and four other senators have challenged Griffin-Valade’s decision in court, and the matter is pending.

“When I denied quorum, I knew very well that Measure 113 as it went through at the last general election said if you deny quorum over 10 times you’re ineligible to run for the next time,” Findley said. “Well, my oath of office is more important to me than being a state senator.”

Findley told the Baker City audience Monday that he participated in the walkout because many bills failed to meet a readability score, equivalent to an eighth grade reading level, as required by an obscure state law.

“When I was made aware of that we said ‘well, let’s find out what these measures add up to,’” Findley said.

He said five bills failed the test.

“Me and five of my colleagues said that’s not good enough, the law says it’s supposed to be readable, they’re gonna be readable or we’re not going to listen to them,” Findley said. “So we denied quorum for 53 days, just because all they had to do was fix the readability scale. I didn’t like the bills, I was always going to vote against the bills, and I did.”

Owens, a Republican from Crane, said during Monday’s town hall that “denying quorum isn’t a strategy, it’s a tactic, that tactic gets you into the conversation in order to modify the bills that come in, so I’m thankful senator Findley did that.”

Republicans in the House didn’t participate in the walkout.

Ultimately, Findley said Republicans negotiated changes to a controversial bill, House Bill 2002, that protects providers who perform abortions or gender-affirming health care from prosecution or civil liability, and to House Bill 2005, which adopts the federal definition of so-called ghost guns made with untraceable parts.

Findley also touted his work on Senate Bill 498, which doubled property inheritance exemptions and is intended to make it easier for family farms and ranches to remain in family ownership. The bill allows up to $15 million of farm, fishing and forest property to be excluded from the value of estates that pay the estate tax. Findley also promoted Senate Bill 955, which is intended to reduce the rate of rural suicide, particularly among farmers and ranchers.

He and Owens also expressed support for state school funding, which was increased for the current biennium.

“Fully funded education to the tune of 10.3 billion dollars, huge amount of money,” Owens said. “That’s good, one thing with education, in my mind, is we got to figure out how to make education better in Oregon, figure out how to get a little competition in education.”

Findley and Owens told the Baker City audience that they will resist efforts to divert money from Oregon’s income tax “kicker” refunds away from taxpayers.

Hearing from citizens

People attending Monday’s town hall posed several questions to Findley and Owens.

Interest in trains took two angles, with the first discussion revolving around the quiet zone projects and a parent expressing concern about harm to young children due the noise from horns.

A local group has sought to get a quiet zone designated in Baker City, in which freight trains, about 24 per day, would sound their horns only in emergencies at the discretion of the engineer and conductor.

Findley said he applauded the efforts, but noted that the process is through the Federal Railroad Administration.

In terms of potentially returning passenger rail service to Baker County for the first time since 1997, Findley said he supports those efforts.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality was discussed at some length, and in particular the agency’s current project to write a plan designed to reduce the amount of E. coli bacteria in streams in the Powder Basin, which encompasses most of Baker County.

Local residents, including Doni Bruland, the county’s natural resources director, have contested the DEQ’s claim that farms and ranches are responsible for 90% of the bacteria.

Findley and Owens said they’ve meet with the DEQ director recently regarding the local concerns about the project, known as Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

Owens noted that 13 state agencies deal with water issues.

“We’ve been working to get them to coordinate there among themselves at the state level.”

In response to concerns about highway maintenance, including snowplowing and painting fog lines, Findley, who is a member of the legislature’s transportation committee, said some of the work the state promised through a funding bill in 2017 hasn’t happened.

A new bill is being proposed for 2025, he said.

“I will tell you the theme of that one’s going to be, how do we keep the lights on at ODOT,” Findley said.

The lawmakers also discussed the controversial fire risk maps the Oregon Department of Forestry released in the summer of 2022, then withdrew after complaints that the maps were inaccurate.

Findley said the next draft of the map is due in about two weeks.

“They drew lines out there that should never have been drawn,” Findley said. “We need that map, in the urban interface to assess wildfire risk, to allocate resources appropriately. We need that tool, what they gave us is not that tool.”

Oregon House Republicans elect Mark Owens as deputy leader

Committed to ‘all sides of the aisle’
Argus Observer | September 27, 2023

SALEM — Oregon Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, has been elected by his colleagues to serve as House Republican Deputy Leader. Owens has represented House District 60 in the Oregon Legislature since January 2020.

“It is an honor to have the trust of my colleagues to serve in this leadership role, and it is a responsibility I take very seriously,’ said Owens in an email on Wednesday. “There is a lot of work to do to find common ground and consensus, but I know it can be done. By working together and prioritizing strong, smart policy over partisan, divisive politics, we can move our state forward towards a better future. I am committed to working with my colleagues on all sides of the aisle and in both chambers to ensure Oregonians have a voice in their legislature.”

During the interim, Owens is serving on several committees.

Owens is an alfalfa farmer, small business owner, Crane School Board Member, and former Harney County Commissioner. House District 60 includes all of Baker, Grant, Harney, Lake and Malheur counties, and a portion of Deschutes County.

Representative Mark Owens Elected as Oregon House Republican Deputy Leader


REPRESENTATIVE MARK OWENS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2023

CONTACT
Rep. Mark Owens (541) 589-2379

Representative Mark Owens Elected as
Oregon House Republican Deputy Leader

SALEM—Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) has been elected by his colleagues to serve as House Republican Deputy Leader. Owens has represented House District 60 in the Oregon Legislature since January 2020.

“It is an honor to have the trust of my colleagues to serve in this leadership role, and it is a responsibility I take very seriously,’ said Representative Owens. “There is a lot of work to do to find common ground and consensus, but I know it can be done. By working together and prioritizing strong, smart policy over partisan, divisive politics, we can move our state forward towards a better future. I am committed to working with my colleagues on all sides of the aisle and in both chambers to ensure Oregonians have a voice in their legislature.”

During the interim, Rep. Owens is Vice-Chair of the House Interim Committee On Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources, and Water. He also serves on the Joint Interim Committee On Ways and Means, Joint Interim Committee On Ways and Means Subcommittee On Natural Resources, Joint Emergency Board, House Interim Committee On Business and Labor, and on the House Interim Committee On Climate, Energy, and Environment, and as an alternate on the House Interim Committee on Conduct and the Joint Committee On Conduct.

Rep. Owens is an alfalfa farmer, small business owner, Crane School Board Member, and former Harney County Commissioner. House District 60 includes all of Baker, Grant, Harney, Lake and Malheur Counties, and a portion of Deschutes County.

##

Learn more about Rep. Owens here.
A photograph of Rep. Owens can be found here. 

Rep. Owens Explores Denmark’s Approach to Renewable Energy and Community Engagement

By | Elkhorn Media | Thursday, September 21st, 2023

COPENHAGEN — A delegation of Oregon and Washington lawmakers, including Rep. Bobby Levy (R-Cove), Rep. Mark Owens (R-Crane) and Sen. Lynn Findley (R-Vale) recently returned from a tour of Denmark to learn how the small Scandinavian nation has become a world leader in renewable, green energy.

The group was invited on the tour by NW Natural Gas, a major natural gas distributor based in Portland. Oregon has been at the forefront of the green energy movement, aiming to eliminate coal-fired electricity by 2028 and transition to nearly 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2035. However, the path to achieving these ambitious goals is fraught with challenges. Some in Oregon advocate for an all-encompassing approach, including the complete removal of natural gas, which Rep. Owens believes may not provide the necessary balance.

Northwest Natural has championed green energy but also recognizes the significance of natural gas in the transition. Owens says the company has considered converting pipelines to renewable hydrogen and maintaining natural gas as a backup for grid emergencies, yet faces opposition from certain quarters.

Denmark also has a goal of becoming completely green by 2050. What intrigued Rep. Owens was Denmark’s realization that natural gas could still have a role in this transition. They explored options like converting it to biogas or hydrogen. He says Denmark didn’t abandon existing energy sources; instead, they incorporated them into their strategy.

Owens says what left an impression was their publicly owned electrical grid eliminated disputes over power sources and allowed for creative energy sourcing. Biogas, derived from organic materials like cow manure and food waste, comprised a significant portion of their gas supply, and they planned to scale it up to replace much of their natural gas. Denmark also harnessed local renewable energy sources and actively involved the community in ownership, which Owens says fosters a symbiotic relationship.

Denmark also turns waste products from one industry into resources for another, building community ownership and support in the process. Owens says that in Oregon, the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) attitude often hinders green initiatives, but Denmark shows that community involvement could change perceptions.

So why hasn’t Oregon adopted such innovative approaches? Rep. Owens pointed to the regulatory structure and the influence of private energy companies like PG&E and Pacific Corp. He says while these companies are essential, they haven’t engaged the community as Denmark had.

Rep. Owens acknowledged the Pacific Northwest’s abundance of renewable energy resources, particularly hydroelectric power. Still, he says he recognizes that rural Oregon faces challenges in meeting the state’s ambitious sustainability goals. Sacrifices would be necessary, including potential increases in electricity rates, but the question remains: How could communities benefit from these changes?