State Reps. Mark Owens, R-Crane, and Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, and state Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, gathered together for their fifth town hall to talk about developments that have happened in phase two of reopening, their thoughts on the upcoming special session and education.
During the virtual town hall, Findley shared his thoughts on the $2.7 billion deficit the state budget is facing and the growing need to address the hole.
“We continue to ignore, for the most part, the state budget and the hole that we’re in, and the co-chairs of the joint committees and ways of means have done some work, but we’ve yet to put it in font of the legislators,” Findley said.
Findley added that a special session will take place this week and focus primarily on policy bills.
Owens said he was frustrated that the session will not deal with budget issues as the deficit grows.
“I know the call to action from the governor was to talk about police accountability and COVID-19,” Owens said. “With police accountability, there’s a lot of things there that have been tried through the Senate and the House before like arbitration that are very positive, but I do have a little concern that what came out today on police accountability was a big, ominous bill.”
Owens said the bill asks for everything when the conversation should be directed to individual aspects of police accountability. It has things people will and won’t support and things that are questionable that convolutes the conversation, according to Owens.
Bonham added that the special session should address the deficit to make the adjustments now instead of making deeper cuts later.
Bonham said he doesn’t feel like any of the single issues during the session will rise to the point to where lawmakers may walk out to deny a quorum as happened in previous sessions over cap and trade.
Findley said the special session is closed to the public, and he believes that is wrong.
A common question topic that was received over 42 times for the town hall was on the issue of education and the “let them play” initiative, an initiative to have the governor reconsider the restrictions on high school sports.
Owens said school districts will be able to build their own plan under some guidelines and recommendations. Schools will have the option to convene school for in-class and online, or online only.
Owens said he believes that most school districts in House District 60 will work toward in-class sessions.
“I believe the overwhelming majority of parents and students want kids to go back to brick and mortar. That’s where most excel,” Owens said. “COVID-19 is not affecting children near as much as it affects our elderly.”
Owens added that clubs and choirs will be under the same guidelines as schools.
Owens and Findley sent a letter to Gov. Brown for the “Let Them Play” initiative. Owens said sports will be tougher and that noncontact sports are currently allowed, but the guidelines are difficult. He said there is a conversation going around to have baseball and track in fall while allowing football and volleyball in the spring.
“We need to allow our kids to do our clubs, our athletics and get them back into that building,” Owens said.