Leslie Thompson | The Argus Observer | Feb 28, 2020
ONTARIO — District 60 Rep. Mark Owens and his Republican colleagues are ready to get back to work, he says.
During a Monday night caucus, following a walkout of GOP members of the Senate, Owens says they decided that “solidarity was good” and joined the senators, who walked out on Monday.
“We did not show up after that,” he said during a phone interview on Thursday afternoon.
However, with the session set to adjourn March 8, “every member of the House really desires to get back in that building,” Owens said. “A lot of bills are very positive that we’d like to work through.”
The push to reduce Oregon’s carbon emissions, known as the cap and trade initiative, is working its way through the current short legislative session in Salem in Senate Bill 1530 and House Bill 4171.
The GOP lawmakers are urging Democrats, which are in the supermajority, to refer the issue to the voters, Owens said.
Owens said his “hope” and “desire” would to be back in Salem today, having left Oregon per instructions given to all House members.
This is because when a walkout happened during the 2019 session a request was given to Gov. Kate Brown to have Oregon State Police bring missing lawmakers back to Salem.
So far this year, Senate President Peter Courtney nor House Speaker Kotek have requested that measure be taken, Owens said, as the prompt would have to come from them to Brown.
If work resumes this session, Owens said he is looking forward most to working on a bill for small schools that would allow them to make foreign exchange students a part of enrollment.
“It’s a very important bill for our district and neighboring districts,” he said of being able to get needed funding for each student in attendance.
There is also a bill for funding foster care, that Owens wants to see go through.
And before the State Representatives left the session, Owens was successfully able to carry a local bill to the House Floor. The bill is for the Eastern Economic Development Boarder Board, and aims to clarify how the board can use that funding.
Originally set up as a grant-based establishment, the Boarder Board “feels ten grants is too restrictive,” Owens said, adding that the board would prefer to have “ten programs versus ten grants.”
That one got a third reading on the floor and passed unanimously out of the house, Owens said, and is slated to head next to the Senate.
“All they [the Democrats] have to do is say we will refer cap and trade to voters,” he said, of getting the GOP House members back to work.