Eastern Oregon state representatives Dan Bonham and Mark Owens and state senator Lynn Findley held the six of their biweekly town halls last evening. All three were highly critical of the state’s employment department. Despite having hired 600 new employees, they noted there were still 63,000 people whose applications had not been processed. They also urged a special session as quickly as possible to deal with a projected massive budget shortfall. They pointed out this was going to be particularly difficult for local governments that had secured state guarantees for funds they used to leverage federal dollars for particular projects. Rep. Bonham, whose District 59 includes Wasco County, said that it was imperative to prioritize the federal CARES Act contributions.
“Of the things that were on the list, I would argue that one that is the most emergent is the $7.8 million set aside for the Warm Springs water infrastructure. They had an issue with the EPA to fix their water treatment plant, and they have other pipe and pump issues and valve issues that need to be resolved immediately, as it is imperative of course, tied to COVID, that we keep our hands washed and we stay clean and free from opportunity to spread this virus. Water is an essential part of that.”
And Rep. Owens of District 30, who is a staunch conservative, said he was taking a stand that may cost him some political support from his base:
“I’ll tell you why I’m going to wear a mask in an indoor public place. Because the people that will be penalized if I do not are small businesses and our children. Like Rep. Bonham was saying, if I go into his store and he knows me and I’m not wearing a mask and he decides, because he doesn’t want to irritate me, to not put a mask on, and someone reports that to OSHA, OSHA can call him and have a discussion, but if there’s an OSHA person in there, and Rep. Bonham asks me not to put a mask on, he can get fined. I’m not the one putting myself in jeopardy by not wearing a mask in an indoor public place, I’m putting my small businesses. I’m also putting my children at risk, if we go back into phase one, where they can’t go back into a brick and mortar school. So to me it’s not about the governor ordering or mandating us to do it, it’s the right thing to do right now.”
The three legislators plan to continue these town halls every other Thursday evening into the future.