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.

2020 legislative session comes to abrupt ending; local lawmakers react to leaders’ decision

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.

Planning changes

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.

Oregon: Legislators Take a Stand Against Gun Control

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.

Rep. Owens wants to get back to Capital

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.