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.”
Jan 30, 2020 | News, Press Releases
January 30, 2020
Andrea Dominguez, Chief of Staff, 541-889-8866
REDMOND—Mark Owens (R-Crane), a local farmer and small business owner who was recently appointed to the House District 60 seat by a unanimous vote of the County Commissioners, was officially sworn-in today as Oregon’s newest State Representative by Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno in Redmond, with family and friends in attendance. The location was moved to Redmond to accommodate Secretary Clarno’s schedule.
Oregon House District 60 includes all of Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, and part of Lake Counties. The House District 60 seat was recently vacated upon the resignation of Rep. Lynn Findley (R-Vale), who was appointed to the Senate District 30 seat following the resignation of former-Senator Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario).
Owens resigned his recent position as Harney County Commissioner effective January 29, and will immediately report to Salem to take part in the 2020 Legislative Session, which will commence on Monday, February 3.
Rep. Owens said, “I am honored to be a part of this esteemed group of individuals who craft the legislation that governs our state. I look forward to working on the important issues that face Oregon, and serving as a voice for our Eastern Oregon communities in Salem.”
Rep. Owens can be reached during the Session via phone at 503-986-1460 or via email at email@example.com.
Jan 22, 2020 | News
Blue Mountain Eagle
January 22, 2020
Republican Mark Owens was selected unanimously by County Commissioners as the next state representative for House District 60 Jan. 21. The position was left vacant after Sen. Lynn Findley resigned and was appointed to the Oregon Senate Jan. 6.
“I am thankful and humbled today to have been appointed to serve as the next state representative for House District 60,” Owens said in a press release. “I look forward to serving the communities and being a voice for eastern Oregon in Salem.”
Owens, a Harney County commissioner, farmer, small business owner and Crane school board chair, filed to run for the seat on Nov. 4.
“At the state level, there is a lot of work to be done to protect our way of life in Eastern Oregon and to provide a better path for future generations of Oregonians,” Owens said. “We need to make sustainable natural resources a top priority. Our kids deserve stronger schools and greater opportunities for their career paths. Families need financial stability instead of living paycheck to paycheck and having to worry about the next tax increase coming our way from Salem. Most importantly, my top priority and my number one job will be to listen, learn and represent the constituents in Eastern Oregon.”
House District 60 encompasses all of Baker, Grant, Harney and Malheur counties as well as portions of Lake County. Owens will be sworn in later this month and will serve in the short legislative session that begins Feb. 3.
For more information, visit markowensfororegon.com.