Oregon House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Invest $10 Million in New Healthy Homes Repair Fund

For Immediate Release
June 24, 2012

House Bill 2842 creates a home repair grant program at the Oregon Health Authority aimed at low-income renters and homeowners to receive energy efficiency upgrades, smoke filtration and home hardening, and other critical housing fixes and upgrades.

SALEM, OR – Today the Oregon House voted to advance a bipartisan bill aimed at supporting low-income Oregonians across the state in receiving home repairs that will drive down energy costs, improve wildfire resilience, and protect the health of residents from mold, smoke, and polluted air.

House Bill 2842, known as the Healthy Homes bill, will seed a new Healthy Homes Repair Fund at the Oregon Health Authority with $10 million that will be granted out to housing authorities, local governments, Tribal Nations, coordinated care organizations, and nonprofit organizations to support home repairs that improve the health, safety, and energy efficiency of housing stock for low-income Oregonians.

“House Bill 2842 is focused on the intersection of housing and health care,” said Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Southern Jackson County), a chief sponsor of the bill. “Housing is a social determinant of health, as fire-displaced families seeking refuge in motels, cars, or substandard housing demonstrate. This bill will ensure that as we incentivize construction of new housing that our current housing stock is maintained and upgraded to provide safe, healthy and affordable housing for decades to come.”

“Everyone deserves a home that is healthy and safe, but too many Oregonians live in housing that is aging and energy inefficient, has structural problems, and contributes to health disparities,” said Rep. Mark Owens (R-Crane). “This is particularly problematic in our rural communities, and housing quality is one of the contributing factors to high energy burden in Eastern Oregon districts like mine. By passing this legislation, we are taking important steps to improve the quality of life for Oregonians.”

“Weatherizing our homes not only protects us from the elements, but also reduces our energy bills and creates jobs in home retrofitting,” said bill supporter Lisa Muñoz in Hood River, Program Director for Comunidades and a life-long resident of the Columbia River Gorge. “Our community members who have suffered due to contracting COVID-19 and those who are permanently affected by lung and breathing issues such as asthma should not have to worry about wildfire smoke in their homes. These home upgrades will help provide a refuge as wildfire smoke becomes a seasonal companion.”

House Bill 2842 establishes a grant program to provide funding for repair and rehabilitation of homes owned by low income households or to landlords seeking to repair rental units occupied by low income households. Repairs can include energy efficiency improvements, health and safety upgrades including radon, lead or mold abatement, installation of smoke filtration or air purification systems, structural improvements, seismic upgrades or other repairs.

The program will be administered by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) via grants issued to eligible entities such as local governments, housing authorities, nonprofit organizations, Tribes, and coordinated care organizations. The bill encourages OHA to gather data and refine the program over time, and establishes an Interagency Task Force on Healthy Homes to collect and review data on the program in coordination with other relevant state agencies.

HB 2842 passed 56-2, and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

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Rep Owens introduces bill to protect Oregonians’ right to privacy, ban implementation of discriminatory vaccine passports

For Immediate Release
Date: June 8, 2021
Contact: Stacy Cayce
Email: stacy.cayce@oregonlegislature.gov

Rep Owens introduces bill to protect Oregonians’ right to privacy,
ban implementation of discriminatory vaccine passports

SALEM, Ore. – On Monday, Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) introduced House Bill 3407 to ban the implementation of vaccine passports in Oregon and protect the privacy and rights of Oregonians.

“Requiring proof of vaccinations via a vaccine passport program is wrong and it opens the door to myriad problems,” said Rep. Owens. “It’s a violation of our privacy and our freedoms, it’s discriminatory, and it shows the Governor doesn’t believe Oregonians can be trusted.”

The legislation would prevent any public body – state, local or special government body – from issuing a requirement for proof of vaccination through a vaccine passport from COVID-19 or variants of COVID-19.

“Let me be clear—this is not an argument over COVID-19 or the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s about Oregonians’ rights. I believe the choice to get a vaccine is a personal, private medical decision that should be made between an individual and their medical provider, and that Oregonians should be free to make that choice for themselves,” said Owens.

In addition, in order to prevent discriminatory actions and repercussions, it would prohibit a person or public body from being able to legally require an individual to state or document vaccine status against COVID-19 to access credit, insurance, education, facilities, medical services, housing or accommodations, travel, entry into this state, employment or purchase goods or services.

It would also prohibit these entities from being legally able to require an individual to wear a face covering if the individual does not wish to disclose vaccine status. The bill applies only to the COVID-19 vaccinations and would not change any current laws with regards to immunizations for other restrictable diseases for schools and children’s facilities.

House Bill 3407 is requested in partnership with Eastern Oregon Counties Association and would go into effect immediately upon passage. At the time of press, the legislation has 12 Chief Co-Sponsors including House and Senate members and bipartisan support in the House.

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Republicans force vote to consider bill that gives Legislature oversight on Governor’s emergency powers

Date: May 4, 2021
Contact: Andrew Fromm

Republicans attempted to pull bill with Democrat and Republican sponsors out of committee to House floor

SALEM, Ore. – Today, Oregon House Legislators voted to consider a bill on the House floor that would give the Legislature oversight on Governor Kate Brown’s emergency powers and sole authority over the COVID-19 response.

Republicans moved to pull HB 2243 out of committee directly to the House floor for a vote.

The motion did not receive the required number of votes to pass. All Republican members voted in favor to make the Governor accountable to the Legislature. 28 Democrats voted against the motion, maintaining the Governor’s sole authority over COVID-19 and unchecked ability to shut down businesses.

The decision is in response to the Governor’s announcement last week to unilaterally extend her own emergency powers again, granting her the ability to issue shutdowns without involving another governing body.

County commissioners have repeatedly asked the Governor to be more targeted in her decisions. Currently, the statewide threshold for “extreme risk” designation disregards the fact that hospital cases of COVID-19 are decreasing in some counties where businesses must now close.

“The Legislature is in Session and we have a duty to engage,” House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) previously said. “Oregonians deserve a balance of power between their separate branches of government again.”

HB 2243 (chief sponsors Rep. Wilde, Lewis, regular sponsors Rep. Cate, Evans, Hayden, Leif, Levy, Moore-Green, Morgan, Owens, Post, Reschke, Wallan, Wright) – Requires that declarations and extensions of states of emergency under certain statutes be accompanied by written explanations.

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Republican proposal to reinstate Oregon’s Promise scholarship for college students gets full vote of Education Committee

Bill to renew scholarship funding comes after Rep. Owens and Rep. Bonham’s request that Governor Brown fulfill the program’s funding for kids and families

SALEM, Ore. – In 2020, students who relied on the Oregon Promise Scholarship to pay for college lost out on these critical funds due to budget cuts. Now an amendment from Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) would restore the promise of scholarship funding if the student requests it under certain guidelines.

The amendment follows a letter sent from Rep. Owens, Representative Daniel Bonham (R-Dalles) and Senator Lynn P. Findley (R-Vale) to the Governor, asking that Oregon keep the promise made to these kids and families by reinstating the scholarship.

In 2020, more than 2,000 students made plans based on this funding. 1,400 were listed as pending, while 1,070 were awarded the scholarship only to have it revoked. A -5 amendment would establish a special eligibility window for the 2,470 total students.

“Oregon made a promise to these students when we told them they could attend college with support,” said Rep. Owens. “When this promise was broken in 2020, it dashed the dreams of these families who were depending on the scholarship to give their child new opportunities. I’m committed to making this right, and this amendment keeps the promise we made.”

“I’m pleased that we are able to reinstate this program for young students aspiring to earn their college degree,” said Rep. Bonham. “In the summer, we called on the Governor to make good on the commitment made with the Oregon Promise Scholarship because we knew how much it meant to the families that were counting on it.”

HB 2093-5 was passed unanimously out of the House Committee on Education with bipartisan support. It now heads to Ways and Means.

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Only two House bills in the Oregon Legislature would address COVID-19’s impact on education

OREGON HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS
For Immediate Release
Date: April 2, 2021
Contact: Andrew Fromm
Email: andrew.fromm@oregonlegislature.gov

Of more than 100 bills in the House Committee on Education, legislation from Rep. Owens and Rep. Alonso León is one of only two bills related to COVID-19’s negative impact on K-12 education

SALEM, Ore. – Despite the enormous disruption COVID-19 has had on Oregon’s education system, only two bills in the House Committee on Education address the negative effects of COVID-19 on students.

Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) and Representative Teresa Alonso León (D- Woodburn) are chief sponsors of HB 2962, which would direct a formal evaluation of students’ education needs resulting from COVID-19 closures, a step towards identifying how students can recover from gaps in learning.

“It is critical we identify and address the serious gap in education our students have experienced during the last 12 months because of COVID-19 and government-mandated stay-at-home orders,” said Rep. Owens, who also serves as a member of the Crane School Board. “There is much more we should be doing as lawmakers to address this critical issue for Oregon students, and it is great to see the bipartisan support for this proposal that will hopefully lead to others.”

“We should not be hiding from the truth that virtual learning has seriously harmed our kids’ educational development,” added House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby.) “After Oregon’s education officials announced plans to abandon standardized testing that would measure learning gaps, we need proposals like this more than ever.”

Negative academic effects from distance learning still have not been adequately measured in Oregon, and plans to do so have been delayed.

Even 2020 high school graduation rates are misleading since the Oregon Department of Education drastically altered its graduation standards. As recently as 2017, Oregon had the second-worst graduation rate in the country. The full impact of virtual learning on graduation rates is still not clear.

Miguel Cardona, the Secretary of Education selected by President Joe Biden, affirmed the need for evaluations nationwide when saying that student data obtained from standardized tests is important to help education officials create policy and target resources where they are most needed. “We have to make sure we laser-focused on addressing inequities that have existed for years. … Every bit of data helps,” added Cardona during a legislative conference.

Oregon remains the second to last state for reopened schools according to a tracker from Burbio, a website that aggregates school government, library and community event information and consists of more than 80,000 K-12 school calendars from all fifty states.

Numerous studies have been conducted which indicate a correlation between native mental health impacts for children due to closed schools:

“Beginning in April 2020 the proportion of children’s mental health-related ED visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated through October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 years increased 24 percent and 31 percent respectively.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 13, 2020.

Additionally, most states in the country have been reopening after a variety of studies point to safe conditions that would allow willing students to attend school in-person with minimal COVID-19 risks:

The CDC guidance, under President Biden, recommends that schools can reopen with successfully implemented mitigation strategies.

“Our data indicate that schools can reopen safely if they develop and adhere to specific SARS-CoV-2 prevention policies.” – American Academy of Pediatrics, January 6, 2021.

“…we see no indication that in-person school reopenings have increased COVID-19 hospitalizations in the counties below 36-44 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 per week. Neither the levels nor the trends change in any direction when schools open in [counties below 36-44 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 per week], even as far as 6 weeks after schools reopened. In fact, we often see precise estimates suggesting declines in hospitalizations in these low-baseline COVID-19 counties…” – National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH), Tulane University, January 4, 2021.

HB 3350 is a second bill that addresses COVID-19’s impact on education.

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Oregon State Representative Mark Owens
House District 60

Rep. Mark Owens’ Statement on Governor Brown’s Statewide Two-Week Freeze

CRANE—Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) issued the following statement in response to Governor Brown’s Two-Week Freeze:

“Governor Brown’s one-size-fits-all approach to shutting down our state is far too extreme. Our eastern and rural Oregon communities in House District 60 will suffer to the point of no return. I am fully committed to stopping the spread of COVID-19, but these extreme regulations do not match the metrics.

Once again, our local elected leaders, public health authorities and businesses were not invited to the table to have a conversation about COVID-19 in our communities. Furthermore, evidence is lacking to support the arbitrary, targeted closures and restricted activities of certain businesses over others. Our businesses across Oregon will not survive another shutdown and thousands of Oregonians will lose their jobs, again, right before the holidays.

The secondary impacts of preventing the spread of COVID are significant and cannot be ignored; we’ve seen a devastating increase in suicide especially among youth and young adults, drug and alcohol use, and domestic and sexual violence. Our elderly family members have gone months without visitors or family and are dying alone.

I implore the Governor to reconsider this one-size-fits-all freeze, and speak with our businesses, local leaders and authorities to find a different path forward before it is too late for our families, communities, and our state.”

Rep. Owens also referenced agreement with a statement made by Jason Brandt, President & CEO for the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA), in a letter to Governor Brown:

“Businesses throughout Oregon have proven that they can make the operational changes necessary to keep their employees and their customers safe, even during this unprecedented pandemic. What we need now is a plan to address the root of the problem without causing additional harm to Oregonians throughout the state,” said Brandt.

ORLA’s statement can be read here: https://www.oregonrla.org/blog/indoor-and-outdoor-dining-shutdown-will-permanently-close-restaurants.