Mar 24, 2020 | Press Releases
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.
Mar 6, 2020 | News
Larry Meyer and Leslie Thompson | The Argus Observer | March 6, 2020
ONTARIO — With Democrats and Republicans at loggerheads over Senate Bill 1530, the cap and trade bill to reduce greenhouse gases, the Oregon Legislature’s short session ground to a halt Thursday afternoon as Republicans continued to deny both houses a quorum.
As the Senate neared a vote on the bill, Senate Republicans — with the exception of one — walked out to prevent the vote, followed by the House Republicans.
Democratic leaders hounded the Republicans for “not showing up for work,” with Senate President Peter Courtney calling the walkout “anarchy,” and saying if they are not going to serve, they should not run.
Republicans offered to return Sunday to help pass bills of their choosing, mainly budget bills, to conclude the session. However, Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek rejected that, with Kotek saying that all bills passed out of committee deserved to be voted on.
“This session is over,” Courtney said, as he adjourned Thursday’s afternoon session, saying the Senate will reconvene at the “call of the chair.”
“This session is functionally over,” Kotek said, as she adjourned the House, adding the House would reconvene at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the scheduled time for adjournment for the short session.
‘Tactics used on our side are not long-term strategies’
“I am shocked at the Speaker’s decision to end the session prematurely, said House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, in statement. “We still had time to pass necessary funding, time to address the needs of Oregonians across the state, but Democratic leaders chose to sacrifice these budget bills and shared priorities in the name of their no-compromise approach to cap-and-trade.”
District 60 Rep. Mark Owens, along with Drazan, and their Republican colleagues decided to join the Senate GOP in a walkout on Feb. 25 over the cap and trade initiative. Both State Representatives and Senators expressed a hope to get back to the session before it adjourned, however wanted Democrats — the supermajority — to refer the carbon reduction bill to voters. But that promise never came.
“I am very disappointed in the outcome of the short session,” Owens said in a phone interview this morning. “The Democrats took one bill and made all Oregonians lose in pushing that forward.”
The session was always about one bill for the supermajority he said, but there were several budgetary items to be addressed. The hope was to get back in the Capital on the final day of session on Sunday.
“We were willing to come in but once again, they decided to hold Oregon hostage and all of Oregon will suffer as a result of that action,” Owens said.
“Gov. [Kate] Brown made it evident yesterday that she plans to take executive action to combat her climate change crisis,” he said, adding that while she has the authority to take such action, he didn’t know how implementable it was.
The partisan politics struck a chord with Owens this session, increasing his desire to focus on them.
“My strong desire is to rebuild relationships,” he said. “The tactics used on our side are not long-term strategies with which to govern Oregon. We have to make sure our constituent base knows that the walkout is a very serious position. I hope never to have to do it again.”
District 30 State Sen. Lynn Findley defended the Senate Republicans, saying he has been working, not just at the Capital, keeping in contact with his constituents.
“About 90 percent of e-mails I have received are in support of what the Republicans are doing,” he said.
Thursday, before the Legislature was adjourned, Findley said he was hopeful the Legislature would back into session on Sunday.
Republicans lobbied to have a bill put on the ballot for a vote of the people, but that was also rejected by the majority Democrats.
The House Rules Committee met Thursday afternoon to hear from Republicans who had been subpoenaed to explain their absences. When no Republican lawmaker showed up the committee adjourned after hearing from legislative council.
Owens said the Democrats are planning a “three-prong approach” to keep a walkout from being effective again: They will refer the matter to Oregon voters to change the constitution reducing the two-thirds needed to pass bills to a simple majority; they will change the terminology so that in a long session only days when a quorum is present count as a session day so that no party can “run the clock out”; and, Owens said, the other approach will be to assess fines on any lawmakers that have unexcused absences, with a certain number of those absences leading to a lawmaker’s release from office.
The Senate Rules Committee approved Senate Joint Resolution 201 which would end the two-thirds majority requirement for a quorum in either house and go to a simple majority with an amendment to the Oregon Constitution, which would require a vote of the people.
Oregon is only one of our states that requires a two-thirds majority of lawmakers to be present for a quorum, according to comments made the during the committees ‘ work session by Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, who chairs the committee.
Courtney and Kotek said they will convene a meeting the Emergency Board to deal major budget items such as flood relief for Umatilla County.
Feb 28, 2020 | News
NRA-ILA Oregon | February 28, 2020
A group of pro-Second Amendment lawmakers have taken the step of refusing to attend floor sessions. Their action prevents a chamber of the Oregon Legislature from reaching a quorum and stops House Bill 4005A and other bills from advancing.
If your state Representative appears in the list below, please take the time to thank them for taking a stand in defense of your Second Amendment rights.
District 1: Rep. David Brock Smith
District 2: Rep. Gary Leif
District 3: Rep. Carl Wilson
District 4: Rep. Duane Stark
District 6: Rep. Kim Wallan
District 7: Rep. Cedric Hayden
District 15: Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis
District 17: Rep. Sherrie Sprenger
District 18: Rep. Rick Lewis
District 19: Rep. Raquel Moore-Green
District 23: Rep. Mike Nearman
District 24: Rep. Ron Noble
District 25: Rep. Bill Post
District 39: Rep. Christine Drazan
District 53: Rep. Jack Zika
District 55: Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson
District 56: Rep. E. Werner Reschke
District 57: Rep. Greg Smith
District 58: Rep. Greg Barreto
District 59: Rep. Daniel Bonham
District 60: Rep. Mark Owens
House Bill 4005A is a firearm storage bill that mandates the same egregious provisions from SB 978, which failed to pass last year. HB 4005A requires all firearms to be locked with a trigger-locking device or kept in a locked container, unless carried, with each firearm not secured constituting a separate violation. Anyone who has their firearms lost or stolen would be strictly liable for any injury to persons or property if the firearms were not stored in compliance with the law. Gun safety and storage is a matter of personal responsibility and every person’s situation is different. It is unreasonable for the law to impose a one-size-fits-all solution. In short, this measure invades people’s homes and forces them to render their firearms useless for self-defense or become criminals.
Feb 28, 2020 | News
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.
Feb 25, 2020 | News
By Leslie Thompson | Argus Observer | February 25, 2020
ONTARIO — It’s been a busy first session for Rep. Mark Owens, R-District 60, who was appointed to his seat just before the short session started on Feb. 3 in Salem. Republicans in the Senate walked out on Monday over the cap-and-trade, and according to Owens “all options are on the table” for a repeat of a similar move by GOP lawmakers in the House. Owens, who did take part with his colleagues in the first walkout of the session on Feb. 18, sits on both the Committee on Revenue and the House Committee on Water.
“The intent of the short session is budgetary fixes and small policy tweaks,” Owens said, commenting about joining his colleagues in the decision not to show up for a scheduled floor session. “Those in the majority are trying to run a lot of large policy bills, so we showed them we have the ability to have solidarity in our pockets and avoid a quorum if we have to.”
Owens, R-Crane, was nominated to fill the seat vacated by Lynn Findley, who was appointed to the Senate District 30 seat, and was sworn in on Jan. 31 just days before the session’s Feb. 3 start. As such, he did not get the option to bring any bills forward.
However, he still feels he has been able to make a positive impact for his community with the bills he has signed on. This included being able to testify on a bill for the Eastern Oregon Economic Development Board in order to get more funding.
As far as some other issues brought before Owens and the legislators this session, the Argus caught up with Owens about how he voted on bills that impact sage grouse and cellphone users, his thoughts on sanctuary cities and counties, and his priorities for the short session, which is expected to wrap up at midnight on March 7.
Rural birds and broadband
Owens says he only had a few days to review all the bills that came forward.
One of those bills, which he supported was House Bill 4091, which moved on to the Senate last week. The bill aims to create a fund to help facilitate development while supporting conservation of sage-grouse habitat.
Saying it was a “good bill,” Owens said he appreciated that it allowed funds raised for a specific purpose to only be used for that purpose.
The bill, which passed unanimously in the House, provides for an “in-lieu fee” fund — separate from the General Fund — with interest to be earned to support efforts to restore, protect and other steps to conserve and build up the endangered bird’s habitat. This is designed to defray the costs of mitigation for impacts of development in a habitat area.
House Bill 4079 regarding funding for broadband, however, was one that Owens voted no on.
While it might come as a surprise, he said, that the representative for the most underserved district for broadband in the state voted no on a bill that would help fund $5 million for rural areas, it was the way the money would be raised that didn’t sit well with the lawmaker.
The bill proposed an additional tax for 4.1 million wireless customers in Oregon, he said, by bumping up a 1.6% surcharge.
Emphasizing that he didn’t believe an extra tax “would be fair to those people,” Owens said he’s supportive of broadband in rural areas, but he believes there is money in the General Fund to be used as a match for that funding.
There is “plenty of revenue” to do so, he said.
Sanctuary cities and counties
As usual, gun rights have surfaced in this session. A bill this year would make a gun owner responsible for damages if their firearm was stolen and used for a crime.
“I’m supportive of rural counties in eastern Oregon standing up for what we believe, even only if it’s just posturing,” Owens said regarding municipalities and counties taking extra measures to protect the Second Amendment.
The Nyssa City Council in its last regular meeting voted on enacting protections over gun rights, and Malheur County did the same in 2015.
Attempts elsewhere in District 60 to do the same have not got off the ground in Harney County, but have in Baker County.
Saying he was supportive of those who do take the extra steps, he reasoned why:
“We are showing the state we will no longer take continued erosion of our Constitutional rights,” he said, adding he was unsure whether doing so was actually enforceable or not.
Although it’s a short session and Owens is serving for the first time as a legislator he does have three priorities for the session. The first is to hear from constituents and “be a voice of our people.” The second, he says, is to learn the process in order to be effective in a longer session, as he has filed for the seat he is now filling for the Primary Election in May.
He already had been planning to file for the seat, he said, but when finding out about the shuffling of seats which began when former Sen. Cliff Bentz announced his bid for Congress, he waited. It wasn’t until after Findley, who had also been aiming to get elected to the House District 60 seat, pulled his file, that Owens filed.
Serving on the Harney County Commission, Owens said, gave him a good head start for a role as a state leader.
“It also taught me the closest form of government to the people. It taught me to build relationships and to be their voice,” he said. “I want to continue that in Salem and in all five counties I represent.”
Owens’ third priority in Salem, is in line with that: building relationships.
“As the super minority, we will have to work together to move forward.”