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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

Sine Die!

It's Over!

July 7, 2015

In This Issue
AOC Summer Summit
Christmas in July
Governance & Marijuana
Transportation/Community & Economic Development
Speed Limits
Interoperability Funding
Water Policy
Health & Human Services
Energy, Environment & Land Use
Natural Resources
County Solutions
Mike's Photo
NACo Annual Conference
CIS News
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Salem -  The 78th Oregon Legislative Assembly has adjourned sine die. History will judge the accomplishments and failures, but that hasn't deterred the participants in the session from issuing their own assessments.


One merely has to access the Legislature's own website and follow the links to the press release section to see the reactions and how they mostly fall along party lines and partisan talking points.  


Our job here at Oregon Trails is to try to gauge the impact of the Legislative session on Oregon's 36 counties, and in that regard, we must certainly say it was mixed, some wins, some losses.  


Your AOC policy managers will be working on the plus and minus of the past session over the next several days and we will have a written overview of the session at the AOC Summer Summit in Deschutes County August 9,10,11. In this edition of Oregon Trails your policy managers will go over some of the last minute legislative activity and what it means for counties and take a brief look ahead in some cases.


But the best news to report today is that the Oregon Legislature decided to finish the 2015 regular session at 6:05 pm, Monday, July 6th and the Capitol emptied out. Speculation about a special session to deal with whatever issues weren't addressed over the last six months will no doubt grow as we get closer to Labor Day, but for now, we will enjoy the moment.  


AOC Summer Summit - Time to Register


It's time! Registration is now open for the AOC Summer Summit, August 9 - 11, at the Bend Riverhouse and Convention Center.


Here's the exciting news: we have a new reservation system. It's all good, we've just needed to work out a few kinks. And there is one left, but it will not keep you from registering, just please note that registration for members and non-members is the same price, $250. Please disregard the reference that you are a non-member when registering. We will be sending more detailed instructions to all AOC members by email today.


If you have questions on the new system please contact Mckenzie Farrell.

Christmas in July 
It is known as the "Christmas Tree Bill" and it comes at the very end of every legislative session. It is the one piece of legislation that has something in it for virtually everyone in the Legislature. This year Senate Bill 5507 is that bill and it contains $5 million for Justice Reinvestment Initiative grants, which can be interpreted as a legislative win for Oregon counties. It also includes $20 million on housing for people with mental health issues.

Your AOC policy managers will be taking the ornaments off the Christmas Tree Bill over the next several days and will report in this and future communications of the wins and losses in that bill. It is only 36 pages long if you want some bed time reading material.



Marijuana was a big focus of the 2015 legislative session. Five bills wound their way through the process. Somewhat surprisingly, a sixth died on the Senate floor just before the Legislature adjourned. Here is the current status of the five pieces of 2015 Oregon marijuana legislation that have passed both the Senate and House:


House Bill 3400: The large omnibus bill, is enacted and operative. AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett asked the Governor to sign it prior to July 1, 2015, to avoid some practical problems for law enforcement. The Governor did so, and also issued a signing statement


House Bill 2041: The retail taxation companion bill to HB 3400. It passed both the House and Senate, and is on its way to the Governor.


* Senate Bill 460 : Provides for "early start" of retail sales of limited marijuana products through medical marijuana dispensaries, beginning October 1, 2015. It passed both the Senate and House, and is on its way to the Governor.


Senate Bill 844: Makes miscellaneous changes, including a research task force. It passed both the Senate and House, and is on its way to the Governor.


Senate Joint Memorial 12:  Asks Congress to declassify marijuana, so impediments to research and banking can be addressed. Copies will be sent to the President, Congressional leadership, and the Oregon Congressional delegation.


Mr. Bovett has created an updated one-page (two-sided) summary of all the marijuana legislation. In addition to the local time/place/manner, land use, and local taxation provisions, HB 3400 also contains the local marijuana business opt out provisions. In addition, SB 460, which provides for early start of retail sales through medical marijuana dispensaries, has its own separate local opt out. Mr. Bovett has already received requests for sample ordinances as to the various opt out options, so he sent a first draft out on the County Counsel list serve yesterday, July 6.


The last minute marijuana surprise was the failure of House Bill 2668 on the Senate floor. HB 2668 was a compromise bill to deal with cross-pollination between industrial hemp and marijuana. This is a big issue in Southern Oregon, where industrial hemp can virtually destroy nearby marijuana crops. The bill would have imposed a moratorium on further industrial hemp licensing until March 1, 2017, and funded research by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University. The bill failed on the Senate floor by a vote of 11 to 19.


Another question that continues to arise relates to personnel policies in light of marijuana legalization. Tamara Jones, Pre-Loss Attorney with City/County Insurance Services (CIS), has graciously provided the following:


Now that the recreational marijuana law is in effect, employers should review their existing drug/alcohol use policies and determine whether they clearly prohibit employees from: (1) Coming to work in an impaired or "high" state; and/or (2) Using marijuana during off-duty hours and having a detectable amount of THC (marijuana) in their system, even if they are not impaired (also known as a "zero tolerance" policy).  Although the new marijuana law did not give marijuana users any employment law protections, the courts (and the attorneys who want to represent your employees) will be looking closely at your drug/alcohol use policy to determine whether any discipline or termination issued to a marijuana-using employee was consistent with your policy.  Most employers do not need to change existing policy language to reflect the employer's culture and views towards marijuana, even if it is now legal in Oregon.  For those employers who discover at this late date that they are not, in fact, "zero tolerance" employers but wish to be, they should consult with counsel about the timing and process for implementing a new or significantly updated policy in both union and union-free workplaces.  


AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett is our resident expert on marijuana legislation.


Transportation/Community & Economic Development

Transportation/Community & Economic Development

Between Transportation and Community & Economic Development, the 2015 legislative session was a mixed bag.


Let's get the bad news out of the way: Oregon's transportation system took a beating this session. The much anticipated comprehensive transportation package never materialized after the Democrats pushed through the Clean Fuels legislation early on and, in response, the Republicans walked away from the negotiating table. Although a last minute rally raised our hopes, those hopes were quickly dashed. As a result, Oregon's state highways, county roads, city streets, and bridges will continue to deteriorate.  


The Legislature also failed to provide funding for the Department of Motor Vehicle's (DMV) System Transformation Program (new IT system at $90 million over 10 years) or the credit/debit card merchant fees estimates at $6 million per biennium. These dollars will now come off the top of the State Highway Fund (SHF), meaning counties should see less money in the years to come. However, the June 2015 preliminary forecast findings show an uptick in the primary sources of the SHF: DMV, Motor Carrier, and Motor Fuels. If this forecast holds true, we may escape the session without a decrease in our SHF revenues. 


AOC and its partners will continue to push for a transportation package in the near future. AOC's proposed formula for allocation of any new state highway fund revenues to counties will be included as we move forward. 


Aside from the failed transportation package, there were some investments made in the system:

  • Connect Oregon VI was funded at $45 million rather than the $58.6 million that was anticipated or the $100 million that was initially intended for Connect Oregon programs at its inception. 
  • $35 million in general fund bonds have been slated for ODOT Highway improvements. These include: $17 million for US 26 - 116th to 136th; $7 million for OR 126 - Eugene to Florence; $1.5 million for US 26 - Warm Springs; $2.5 million for 1-5 cable barriers - Southern Oregon; $3 million for OR 34 - I-5 to Corvallis; and $4 million for I-84 Pendleton to La Grande. 

On a more positive note, Community & Economic Development fared a bit better. Here are some of the highlights:

  • $40 million in general fund bonds have been set aside for affordable housing.
  • $7 million was infused into the Brownfields Revolving Account; legislation passed allowing local governments to create land banks to deal with brownfields in their communities.
  • $10 million was awarded to the Port of Coos Bay to acquire, construct or improve the Coos Bay rail link.
  • $2.5 million was provided to the new Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant Program Fund.
  • The cap on the number of Enterprise Zones (EZ) has been removed, making it easier to create or expand EZs.
  • A Task Force on the Willamette Falls Navigation Canal and Locks will be created to study issues relating to repair, reopening and operations of the canal and locks; $7.5 million was allocated for the Willamette Falls Riverwalk.
  • Funding was provided for Regional Solutions:
    • $12 million to the Regional Infrastructure Fund for Regional Solutions projects;
    • Regional Solutions coordinator positions, five of which are of limited duration; the Governor's Office will need to present a staffing plan in February 2016.
    • $2 million in total operations support for RAIN.

More information will be provided on Regional Solutions and other topics as soon as we can catch our breath!      


AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern navigates transportation issues along with community and economic development.


Public Safety

Justice Reinvestment Funded at $40 million

An additional $5 million in funding was allocated to the justice reinvestment grant program that counties receive for reentry and recidivism reduction programs in the final days of the legislative session. This is in addition to the $35 million already allocated in the Criminal Justice Commission budget, which passed a few weeks ago.


While not the full expected cost-avoidance amount of $53 million that AOC and other advocates were seeking at the start of session, the $40 million fund reaffirms the Legislature's commitment to continue successful local programs and avoid prison growth.


AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng deals with public safety issues and carries a badge


Interoperability Funding Opportunity
The State of Oregon has a unique, one-time funding opportunity for projects that advance statewide radio communications in Oregon. The State Radio Project (SRP) set aside $2.3 million for interoperability projects through the Statewide Interoperability Executive Council (SIEC). The projects that will be funded will develop interoperability between state and local public safety agencies. 

If your county is interested in learning more about this opportunity, please click on the following links for the cover letter describing the nature of the allocation process.

If you and your county are interested in applying, please contact Eric Schmidt at AOC for the application form and other needed documents. We will be sending out a seperate email later this week with all the collateral materials.

The deadline for the application submission is September 30 and the projects need to be completed by March of 2017. Please let your communications people know about this opportunity.  
Water Policy

Water supply development scores clean sweep.  

AOC has strongly supported the recovery of critical professional staff at the Water Resources Department (WRD), requests for water supply development funds, and technical and financial support for local place-based planning to be convened by counties. The 78th Legislative Assembly answered in a very big way!


Legislative actions this session resulted in the following (but see caveat below):

  1. WRD now has the authority to provide communities with the initial financial capacity to cover facilitation, logistical, and technical costs of place-based (local) integrated water resources planning. This includes costs of determining water needs, acquiring necessary information, identifying and understanding future scenarios, evaluating alternatives, and ultimately developing a strategy for how the community intends to address its water needs. There is an appropriation for one full-time WRD staff position for initial implementation of place-based planning. 
  2. WRD has lottery bonding authority, with $750,000 of the proceeds appropriated to implement the authority described in #1.
  3. WRD received general fund appropriations for three permanent full-time positions for a water supply engineer and two planning coordinators to help further water resources development projects. Staff will do outreach and active consulting on technical, permitting, and engineering questions with individuals and local governments as well as coordinating financing opportunities. 
  4. A county government may apply to WRD for a grant for 50 percent of the cost of a study of the feasibility or viability of a water supply project. WRD has an appropriation for a full-time administrator of feasibility grants to help you. WRD has $2 million available for the grants from general funds and lottery bonds, with a cap of $500,000 for a single grant.
  5. WRD has lottery bonding authority of $6.25 million to the Water Supply Development Account and $11 million to the Water Supply Fund. The proceeds are for grants and loans to evaluate, plan and develop statewide water storage systems and delivery infrastructure, conservation and reuse projects, or provide access to new water supplies, in compliance with the Oregon Integrated Water Resources Strategy. The Umatilla Basin is specifically referenced as an intended recipient of the Water Supply Fund moneys.
  6. WRD has general obligation bonding authority of $30 million to revitalize the loan program funded by the constitutional Water Development Loan Fund. This will provide additional financing options for water projects. 

Note, however, that the bonds are anticipated to be issued at the end of the 2015-17 biennium. There will be opportunities for WRD to borrow against anticipated revenues, so that progress can be made during this biennium.


It is unfortunate that these correct policy choices were at least in part influenced by the four-years-old-and-counting drought. But water supply development is needed now and will be needed even more in the future.


A big tip of the hat to Senator Bill Hansell, R-Athena (former AOC and NACo president) and Representative Greg Smith, R-Heppner, for their persistence in gaining the full water package.


AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell works on water policy issues.

Health and Human Services

Oregon counties came out of the legislative session in relatively good shape on the health and human services fronts: a public health modernization bill with which we are happy, a public health budget that saw some potential cuts restored, and an additional $28 million for mental health services. 


And the session has ended just in time for us to begin planning for 2016. Some of the work that lies ahead in the very near future includes:

  • Working closely with legislators and OHA as they examine the mental health system in the state - both OHA's behavioral health mapping project, and the statewide mental health conversation(s) that four legislators in particular (Senators Alan Bates, D-Medford, Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton as well as Representative Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland) are committed to pursuing; and
  • Working with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Coalition of Local Health Officials (CLHO) on the initial assessments and implementation of public health modernization.
It is not too soon to start and we will be active over the summer and fall months working on these important issues.  

AOC Policy Manager Stacy Michaelson deals with health and human services issues.


Energy, Environment & Land Use

As the possibility of any more policy bills passing dwindled in this now concluded legislative session, the action shifted to budget bills and looking forward to post-session work. Some of the highlights from the Department of Administrative Services Bill (SB 5507 - The Christmas Tree Bill) included:

  • A onetime appropriation of $194,000 to the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) for the completion of the Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Program.
  • A $1.7 million expenditure limitation increase to support enhancements to the Department of Agriculture's Pesticides program. The funds will provide for six new positions and enhancements to laboratory testing and sampling of pesticides.

Sage Grouse Funding

The Legislature did deal with the issue of the Sage Grouse, but much remains to be done. This is just the activity from the Christmas Tree Bill, there were other legislative actions that will be part of the overview at the AOC Summer Summit.

  • A one-time General Fund appropriation of $500,000 to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to improve and protect sage grouse habitat through actions, such as juniper removal, that improve the resilience of sagebrush habitat to wildlife;
  • The Department of Forestry was provided $809,377 General Fund to the Fire Protection Division for sage grouse habitat protection and improvement; and
  • DLCD received an appropriation of $300,000 General Fund to establish a SageCon coordinator to lead the SageCon governance and implementation teams.

Many agencies and advocates are already looking beyond the 2015 session and planning meetings. In the coming months AOC staff will be discussing integrated floodplain management, BLM fire prioritization, Sage Grouse and sagebrush conservation, DEQ's material management implementation, offshore power generation, and the implementation of clean fuels legislation. For any questions on these or other energy, environment or land use issues, please contact AOC Policy Manager Mark Nystrom. He likes insects.  


AOC Policy Manager Mark Nystrom handles energy, environment & land use issues.


Natural Resources 

State predator control payments slightly enhanced.  

Counties will continue to carry a burden of funding federal Wildlife Services for predator control, but with some added help from the state. The budgets for the 2015-17 biennium for the departments of Agriculture and Fish & Wildlife, used as pass-through for payments to the federal agency, totaled $1,001,083 including some $100,000 for specific services contracted by ODFW from Wildlife Services. This compares to the total of $931,778 appropriated in 2013-15.


House Bill 2182 may well pull counties out of the role of predator control financing pack horse. The bill directs ODFW to study development of a statewide predator management plan and report findings to the Legislature by September 15, 2016. We anticipate that proposed legislation will be included in that report and that the bill will contain a far more appropriate and sustainable sharing of funding of predator controls. 


AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell is in charge of the natural resource and public lands portfolio.



Legislature Delivers for CVSO's in Final Stretch of Session

After months of uncertainty, the Legislature voted to fund County Veteran Service Officers (CVSOs) at a level of $4.7 million for the 2015-17 Biennium, an increase from a $3.7 million level in the 2013-15 budget. 


The issue that remained in doubt in recent weeks was whether this budget would be $4.2 million, which was the initial level that was part of SB 5539 (the ODVA agency budget bill). We are happy to report that the additional $500,000 of funding was contained in the Christmas Tree bill ( SB 5507 ).  The caveat for this additional $500,000 of funding, like other expenditures in the Christmas Tree bill, is that it is specifically noted to be "one-time" funding. The next piece of advocacy for AOC will be to work with the Legislature to make this half-million part of the base level of ongoing funding for CVSO's.


Veterans LGBT Bill Passes Out of House on Final Day of Session (SB 946)

SB 946 creates the position of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Coordinator at the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs, to assist veterans in seeking review and appeal of their discharge status, and to help them in filing appeals, claims, and accessing other benefits that may be available. Under the bill, ODVA is also required to report to the Legislature the number of veterans served, the type of assistance provided, recommendations for expansion and improvement of services to be provided by the coordinator, and recommendations for how to better serve LGBT veterans. The bill passed in the Senate on a 24-5-1 vote on July 3rd and in the House on 38-21-1 vote on July 6th.


AOC Policy Manager Andrew Smith is in charge of the Veterans' portfolio. 


County Solutions 
County Solutions is conducting an assessment of the needs and  opportunities for county commissioners in convening and participating in  collaborative problem solving efforts in their communities and regions. It  is apparent that effectively supporting commissioners and judges and their staffs  will require building the capacity to be responsive when issues or  opportunities present themselves. 

Over the last three months we have been  learning about how this could work through some early pilot projects  and by evaluating the kinds of institutional relationships we might  develop with state agencies and other partners going forward.  Collaborative efforts we have been involved in include issues such as: public  access to recreational facilities, tying workforce development strategies  to specific industrial lands, development of power generation facilities,  veterans transportation needs, and Sister County agreements for disaster  preparedness and land use issues. 

We have also been monitoring community  based initiatives that will provide excellent opportunities for c ommissioners and judges to use their convening authority to provide leadership for  local collaborative action. Two examples include the new workforce investment act and the new local workforce regions and integrated place- based water planning approved this session. 

In addition, we have been asked  to serve on a steering committee for the Foundations of Oregon to assist  in developing collaborative community strategies for rural economic  development. Finally, AOC County Solutions has been been assisting the  Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility (NORCOR) serving Wasco,Hood  River, Gilliam and Sherman Counties in developing collaborative financial  sustainability strategies. We will discuss these and other efforts at the AOC Summer Summit.  

Greg Wolf is the Director of the Oregon County Solutions Center.


Mike's Photo 

Harvest time in Sherman County. Photo from the renowned camera phone artist Mike Mcarthur who spent much of his youth in the cab of an earlier generation of the machine in this photo.  

NACo Annual Conference
The Annual NACo Conference will take place July 10 - 13 in Meklenburg County/Charlotte, North Carolina. If you are planning to attend, you need to submit your county's credentials to vote in the annual election of officers. It sounds like the race for 2nd VP is going to be very interesting.  

Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi is seeking another term as NACo Regional Representative West Region. If you are going to be in North Carolina, the election for that post is Monday morning, July 13th and Tim could use your help handing out campaign flyers and talking to commissioners from the other western states.   

Please feel free to contact Mike McArthur or Eric Schmidt at AOC if you have any questions about the NACo Conference. They will be attending along with AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett.  
CIS Expands - Enhances Coverage for Counties

As a member-governed and owned organization, CIS is continuously looking for additional coverage to help meet counties' emerging needs. The CIS Board of Trustees recently authorized two important updates: Builders' Risk coverage has been added and Cyber Risk coverage has been expanded. Read more...

Please feel free to contact Laura Cleland or Eric Schmidt at AOC with any questions you might have about AOC. We will make sure you are connected to the right policy manager or member services manager. We are also looking for timely stories and photos that you might want to share with our newsletter list. Please let us know.  
See you Deschutes County August 9-10-11 for the AOC Summer Summit!