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: jwmps.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov.

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.

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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.

Sincerely,


Senator Lynn Findley
Senate District 30

Representative Mark Owens
House District 60

We need to flatten the curve, not the economy

By Senator Lynn Findley, Representative Mark Owens and Representative Daniel Bonham

Oregonians are experiencing unprecedented times and unforeseen challenges. The global pandemic is affecting each of us in different ways, but it is an equally confusing, scary, frustrating, and emotional time.

Even just a few weeks in, though, there is good news—Oregonians are staying home and staying healthy. The most recent modeling numbers from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) indicate that our combined efforts to abide by social distancing guidelines locally and across the state are working. It was reported on April 2 that the positive case numbers are down 50% to 70% from the earlier predictions.

One of our objectives, and the reason for such stringent measures, has been to “flatten the curve” and the Oregon Health Authority stated they will be able to tell us by the week of April 13 when we will reach this objective. This will be a key moment in our state. The restrictions are working, but the economic price we’re paying is becoming staggering. With each day that passes during this time, our local, regional and state economies are losing exponentially. Before we get to April 13 (or any other date certain), we must also understand what will be needed to get Oregonians back to work and doors open for business which will re-start our economy.

Despite much-needed and appreciated revenue and relief packages from our federal and state partners, no amount of stimulus can replace what Oregon’s economy can produce from inside the lines. The GDP of Oregon in 2018 was 213 billion. The Federal Stimulus package, or CARES Act, for Oregon appears to be 1.63 billion which means the federal funding is only three-days-worth of what Oregon’s economy can churn when it’s firing on all cylinders. Don’t get us wrong: this funding is absolutely necessary and will support us as an immediate and temporary means, but it will not and cannot solve the impacts felt by these drastic short-term measures, regardless of how necessary and helpful they have been.

We must get our economy working again by getting Oregonians working again, and this must happen as soon as possible. In order to do this safely, but quickly, there are a few things that must take place:

1. We need wide-scale testing so all Oregonians can be tested and once tested negative, start a system for allowing them to return to the workforce.
2. Ensure there is enough PPE in the state for our health care workers and first responders, particularly in eastern and rural Oregon.
3. A plan to protect our vulnerable populations as we re-enter the workforce and become a functional society again.
We can and must start addressing these issues immediately in parallel with following the measures to flatten the curve, prevent the spread of the virus and save lives. State leadership, of which we are a part of, needs to start this conversation today and open the table to regional leaders and other economic experts so we can find a way to invest money and resources to make these things happen.

Much like the Governor’s swift and necessary actions to stop the spread and flatten the curve in anticipation of the unknown, we need to take swift and necessary actions to prepare for what we do know. The longer Oregon’s economy has to keep it doors shut, the longer the recovery will take and the sharper the economic recovery curve will become.

Millions of Oregonians are relying on us to make sure they can recapture their livelihoods, protect their families and pay their bills. Oregon can’t wait any longer to start addressing these issues and getting back to work, while we all continue working together to flatten the curve and save lives.

Statement on Social Distancing Executive Order

I support the current social distancing measures in the effort to slow and eventually stop the spread of the Coronavirus.  We must pay special attention to our senior, disabled, and vulnerable members of our communities to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of all Oregonians.

With that being said, I support these measures for short-term use for which they are intended for the next several weeks.  We cannot continue these types of restrictions for the long run if we hope to avoid a full-blown depression in Oregon.  Our small businesses and those that are currently out of work must be helped in any way we can.

The best way to end these restrictions is to abide by them.  If we each, right now, take responsibility for our role in stopping the spread and practicing the necessary social distancing behaviors, soon the disease will have faded, and we can get back to work.

The question has been posed by several of my constituents about whether Governor Brown has the authority to issue an Executive Order mandating that Oregon residents “shelter-in-place” and stay home.  I had my staff reach out to the Legislative Counsel, a group of attorneys who work for the Oregon Legislature, to get an opinion on where the Governor’s authority is outlined in the Oregon statutes.  Below is the response we received from the Legislative Counsel:

“On March 8, 2020, the Governor declared a statewide state of emergency pursuant to ORS 401.165. A copy of the executive order declaring the state of emergency can be found here. The declaration provides the Governor with additional powers which, in pertinent part, can be found in ORS 401.168, 401.175 and 401.188. The powers described in these statutes are quite broad. For example, ORS 401.168 (1) states that during a state of emergency, the Governor has “the right to exercise…all police powers vested in the state by the Oregon Constitution in order to effectuate the purposes of this chapter.” ORS 401.188 authorizes the Governor to “[p]rescribe and direct activities in connection with use, conservation, salvage and prevention of waste of materials, services and facilities, including, but not limited to, production, transportation, power and communication facilities training, and supply of labor, utilization of industrial plants, health and medical care, nutrition, housing, rehabilitation, education, welfare, child care, recreation, consumer protection and other essential civil needs.”

In addition, ORS 433.441 (4) authorizes the Governor, after declaring a state of emergency, to take any action authorized during a state of public health emergency (ORS 433.441 to 433.452), which includes the power to “[c]lose, order the evacuation of or the decontamination of any facility the Governor has reasonable cause to believe may endanger the public health,” “[r]egulate or restrict by any means necessary the use, sale or distribution of food, fuel, medical supplies, medicines or other goods and services,” and “[t]ake any other action that may be necessary for the management of resources, or to protect the public during a public health emergency.” See ORS 433.441 (3)(a), (b) and (f).

On March 12, 2020, the Governor issued an executive order prohibiting gatherings of 250 or more persons (copy of the order here), and on March 16, 2020, the Governor issued an executive order further restricting gatherings to under 25 persons and prohibiting dine-in food service (copy of the order here). Your constituent has asked how this executive order can have the force of law with a criminal penalty. ORS 401.192 (1) provides that “[a]ll rules and orders issued under authority conferred by ORS 401.165 to 401.236 shall have the full force and effect of law both during and after the declaration of a state of emergency.” The penalty for violating a state of emergency executive order is described in ORS 401.990, which states that “[a]ny person knowingly violating any provision of this chapter, or any of the rules, regulations or orders adopted and promulgated under this chapter, shall, upon conviction thereof, be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.”

Although the Governor cited ORS 433.441 as one of the statutes authorizing her executive orders, which would not be included in the reference to ORS 401.165 to 401.236 in ORS 401.192, or the reference to chapter 401 in ORS 401.990, we think a court would find that the broad powers described in ORS 401.165 to 401.236 also authorize these executive orders. The orders therefore have the force of law and are subject to the penalties described in ORS 401.990. We also should note that we are in somewhat unchartered territory here, since the current circumstances in this state are quite unusual, there is no case law on any of these statutes and it is unclear if they have ever been challenged.

Finally, a Class C misdemeanor is in fact a crime since a jail sentence may be imposed. See ORS 161.515. A Class C misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 30 days’ jail and a $1,250 fine. See ORS 161.615 and 161.635.”

If you have specific questions about your business, the Executive Orders, or anything regarding these measures, please contact my office so that we can help find you answers.  My office can be reached at 541-889-8866 or via email.

I ask again that we each do our part to slow the spread of this virus. Stay home, stay healthy and be safe.

Rep. Mark Owens voices opposition to cap & trade policy, urges legislature to refer bill to voters

PRESS RELEASE:
February 25, 2020

CONTACT:
Andrea Dominguez, 541-889-8866

SALEM—Mark Owens (R-Crane) voiced his opposition today to House Bill 4167 and Senate Bill 1530, the cap and trade legislation that has been introduced in both House and Senate Chambers, by denying the probability for the legislation to be pushed through the House without a commitment to refer the bills to the voters.

“As the state representative for House District 60, my number one job is to represent the citizens in my district and my number one priority is to be their voice in Salem,” said Rep. Owens, who was appointed to the position in January. “The voters have spoken—they have strongly and consistently opposed this cap and trade policy and I stand by them without question.”

Owens represents all of Baker, Grant, Harney and Malheur Counties and parts of Lake County. The five counties issued proclamations and/or signed on to the Eastern Oregon Counties Association proclamation last week in opposition to the cap and trade legislation, joining a total of 26 counties across Oregon who did the same.

“The short session was designed to fix budget tweaks and make policy fixes, not to play politics with people and pass legislation that would assuredly negatively impact the livelihood of every Oregonians,” Owens continued. “I have said from the start that this issue needs to be referred to the voters who have the right to make the final determination on something as significant as this bill. I will continue to advocate for that process and until that happens, I will not allow for this abuse of power to take place.”

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