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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

May Day Approaches

The Session is way past half over

April 28, 2015

In This Issue
SRS Update
Transportation/Community & Economic Development
Natural Resources
Health & Human Services
Jails and Mental Illness Webinar
Public Safety
Energy, Environment & Land Use
Your moment of Zen
News from NACo
WIR Conference
Counties Matter
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links

Salem -  It is beginning to be very apparent this session of the Oregon Legislature is not running a marathon, but rather a long distance sprint. While the quick pace seems to ebb and flow on any given day, lawmakers continue to work at what seems to be a quick pace that shows very little sign of letting up.    


AOC policy managers have been doing a fantastic job of keeping up with the pace and policy decisions of the Legislature so far, but now the session moves into the budget phase which means even more vigilance and attention to detail. We may well see some change in the pacing of the work of the Legislature as the focus moves from committee work to Ways & Means to floor activity. 


Even though it is apparent that some tension exists, our Legislature nonetheless maintains an outward appearance of civility. Despite the disagreements over many of the policy bills, it appears this session of the Oregon Legislature is working quickly to put a lot of new legislation on the books.  


How it impacts Oregon counties remains to be seen, as you will discover in the articles below from your AOC policy staff.  


SRS Payments

Our editor hates it when one of our reporters begins an article with "As you know..." but, as you know, Congress has passed legislation reauthorizing Secure Rural Schools (SRS) for two more years. The details of the legislation are turning out to be somewhat more complicated than what we expected. Naturally, we are attempting to clarify the situation since the legislation mandated that the first payments go out 45 days after the legislation had been signed by the president. The president signed the bill April 16 and the payments should be going out by the end of May.  


Many of you have been asking, how much will my county receive? That is what we are trying to clarify. There have been different sets of numbers, even within the same agency. We are working with certified smart people here in Oregon, our Congressional offices and the agencies involved to figure it all out.


We can send you to this USDA website on SRS, for a ball park figure for the Forest Service payments. We are awaiting the figures from the BLM.  


In other words, we wish we could be certain about what the FY2014 SRS payments will be, but we aren't, which is basically the story line of federal forest payments for the last several years. As soon as we have clarification and some certainty, we will get the word out.  Trust, but verify.  


Transportation/Community & Economic Development

Now, it's really DEAD  

It was reported last week that AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern was looking for a way to save AOC's SB 668 from an early demise. Unfortunately, there were only two suitable bills into which we could try to stuff the County Road Utility User Fee. Both of those bills were moving forward with bipartisan support and little controversy, so there was understandable reluctance on the part of the sponsors to risk disruption with the inclusion of our bill.


Do not dismay! Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, chair of the Business and Transportation Committee, has offered to help us get a bill through next session. We will take him up on that offer. In the meantime, it would be useful if your public works folks would keep track of time spent permitting, inspecting and repairing work done by utility companies in county rights-of-way. The more information we have for our legislators, the more convincing our case will be!



A transportation package for the 2015 legislative session is still on life support. The Governor has expressed her strong support for a package and both parties in both chambers still proclaim their understanding of the great need. However, the earlier passage of the Clean Fuels bill still impairs the ability of the parties to move forward in addressing the state's critical transportation infrastructure needs. The Oregon Transportation Forum will met again this week for the first time in since February 3 to discuss strategy and options.


As you know, AOC's priority is to get a transportation package passed. Failing that, we have been working with the League of Oregon Cities (LOC) and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to prevent the loss of State Highway Funds as a result of two Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) programs. The cost of the DMV's Service Transformation Program (STP) and the DMV debit/credit acceptance would take an estimated $39 Million off the top of the State Highway Fund in the 2015-17 biennium, resulting in the loss of nearly $9 million to counties. Although AOC agrees there are definite needs to modernize the system used by DMV and to enable customers to pay with debit/credit cards, counties cannot afford to take the hit associated with paying for these programs. AOC, LOC, and ODOT staff are working with legislative counsel to draft language for insertion in HB 3256 that would identify funding sources for these two programs. Stay tuned!


Rural Industrial Incentives 

SB 938 would establish a new property tax abatement program that may be available by choice of the county for traded sector businesses with newly constructed or installed industrial improvements. This program would require a county to specify by ordinance the minimum real market value of the investment -- a minimum of $2 million, and a maximum of $10 million -- applying to all future investments that seek the exemption in that county. 


AOC raised several concerns about the bill at a Senate Revenue hearing, most importantly that the new program has no ties to economic development (i.e. job creation/retention or increased wages) and it could be retroactive to 2014. Senators Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, and Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, expressed a desire to put a small workgroup together to try to find a way to create some more incentives for rural businesses. AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern will be participating in that workgroup along with representatives from the assessors and LOC. 


The AOC Legislative Committee met the Monday after the hearing and took a neutral position on the bill, expressing grave concerns. Mary will share those concerns with the workgroup at its first meeting on Wednesday, April 29. She'll keep us posted! 


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


 Natural Resources

The drought is here and it is real  

As of this week, the State of Oregon has seven counties with state drought declarations: Baker, Crook, Harney, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, and Wheeler. After the May drought council meeting there likely will be around five more counties on the list. The entire state has a snow pack of less than 50 percent of "normal" (median basin-wide percentage of 1981-2010). Snow pack is nature's dam, and it is low. 


For basins with or without storage facilities, water shortages will be likely. Examples: Owyhee Reservoir inflow is 24 percent of average; Grande Ronde River inflow at Troy is at 52 percent; Silvies River at Burns, 17 percent; Willamette River at Salem, 76 percent. According to federal officials, southeastern Oregon is in "extreme drought," across the state's midsection is in "severe drought," and northeast and much of the southwest is currently in "moderate drought."


Gov. Kate Brown, in a meeting with the drought action team, directed that appropriate actions now permitted be taken, a public relations campaign be developed, and that the team meet at least once a month. The drought action team is a group that includes federal and state agencies, local government (including AOC), and stakeholder groups such as the Farm Bureau. The governor also stated support for funding of the Water Supply Development Program and place-based planning. She will visit with legislators on this subject and is likely to schedule a trip to the Klamath and Owyhee basins in May.


Visit to the newest State Forest  

On April 23, after a day of discussion of contentious issues by the Board of Forestry at Sunriver, the board and Department of Forestry (ODF) staff, members of the Council of Forest Trust Land Counties (CFTLC) and other county commissioners, US Forest Service staff, members of collaborative groups in the region, and interested stakeholders took a look at the Gilchrist State Forest in Klamath County. The Gilchrist family for generations had owned and managed the nearly 70,000 acres as a productive working forest largely of Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine. 


Its ownership passed to the investment giant Fidelity National Financial, which planned to subdivide the acreage into minimum-sized parcels for homesteads and in the process badly mismanaged the forest. The resulting fragmentation would have closed public access, maximized the complexity and cost of wildfires, and minimized habitat values. 


With the support of then-Governor Kulongoski, ODF began talks of purchase in 2007. In 2009, with the support of CFTLC, the Legislature approved $15 million in lottery-backed bonds for an initial purchase of 43,347 acres which was approved by the Legislature in 2010. The balance of the property was acquired in partnership with the Conservation Fund, which agreed to hold it until the state could finance purchase of the remaining 25,453 acres.  


Before state acquisition, ODF sought and gained approval by the Klamath County Board of Commissioners, under an agreement that would treat the forest under the Forest Acquisition Act of 1941 as county forest trust lands. Klamath County was already a member of CFTLC by virtue of the highly successful Sun Pass State Forest within the county borders.  


The Gilchrist State Forest was dedicated on June 11, 2010. The expectation at that time was that because of mismanagement under Fidelity ownership it would take several years for the Gilchrist to contribute significantly to the regional supply of forest products.  


Because of density levels and existing disease, the forest was at great risk of extensive pest-caused damage. ODF identified Ponderosa pine as the preferred species to leave during the clean-up of the forest. To the surprise of many and due to expert management on the ground, the Gilchrist is selling significant more sawlogs and pulp volume than expected from a growing acreage and at higher bid prices. It can only get better.


The familiar faces at the Board of Forestry meeting and tour:  All three Deschutes County Commissioners (Tammy Baney, Tony DeBone, and Alan Unger, who spoke as chair of the Deschutes Basin Collaborative); Klamath County Commissioners Tom Mallams and Jim Bellet; Tillmook County Commissioner Tim Josi and Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope, chair and vice chair of CFTLC respectively). 


AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell spends a lot of his time in the legislative woods.


Health and Human Services

On Monday, April 27th, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services held a great informational hearing on mobile crisis services. Presentations covered the Marion County Psychiatric Crisis Center and the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) service provided by the White Bird Clinic in Lane County. 


The two groups did an excellent job of highlighting the impact mobile crisis services can have in a community, and illustrating the need for greater investments in mental health services and jail diversion. We continue to see some members of the subcommittee question whether counties are the best providers of these services, but presentations like yesterday's go a long way in showing the great work that our local governments are doing -- and it is clear that we are having a positive impact on legislators' opinions of counties' behavioral health programs. As a follow-up to the hearing, we are working to schedule a tour of the Psychiatric Crisis Center for the subcommittee members during one of their upcoming meetings.


In other mental health/public safety news, Senate Joint Memorial 4 had a public hearing in the House Committee on Health Care Monday afternoon. SJM 4 encourages Congress to modify CFR 42 part 1 to allow for greater information sharing between law enforcement and health care providers. You might remember that this was an issue that Lane County requested AOC send to NACo for consideration, and the resolution passed out of the steering committee at NACO unanimously. 


As such, AOC has been throwing support behind SJM 4, knowing full well the limitations of a memorial. In her testimony on Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, highlighted AOC's support of this issue and shared that we had taken it before NACo. 


Frustrated with the purely symbolic nature of a memorial, yet understanding that this a federal issue, Rep. Mitch Greenlick's, D-Portland, response to the testimony was: Why don't we pass a measure overriding it [CFR 42], and let the Feds take us to court over it? It appears there may be a gut-and-stuff in the works...

AOC Policy Manager Stacy Michaelson can answer any questions you might have on health and human services issues.


Jails and Mental Illness Webinar

April 30, 2015: Call to Action -- Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails


Join NACo to learn more about an exciting new national initiative for counties, Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails! This webinar will explain what the initiative is and the benefits to counties of signing on. Hear from your fellow NACo members as they describe four Stepping Up launch events across the country that will highlight their accomplishments in reducing the numbers of people with mental illnesses in their jail, and how you can register to virtually attend these events. Counties will be able to officially sign on to Stepping Up starting on May 5. Register now!


Public Safety

Tribal Police extension passes House Judiciary Committee, on to floor

Senate Bill 343 passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously on Monday with Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, and Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, leading a coalition of tribal and local government leaders. The bill eliminates the sunset for tribal police departments, which was created by Senate Bill 412 in 2011. Then, AOC went from opposed to neutral on the bill with concerns about training, reciprocity, and jurisdictional issues. All the concerns have been addressed in the last five years and AOC is proud to support the bill and the county's tribal partners in Oregon.


Courthouse projects, local court fees highlighted during Ways & Means subcommittee hearing

Monday's hearing of the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Safety featured four courthouse projects that are being considered for funding during this legislative session. During the interim, AOC lead a court facilities task force that surveyed counties and prioritized projects based on readiness and feasibility. Multnomah, Jefferson, Tillamook and Lane counties are being considered for new courthouses or remodels.


A biennial report on local courts was also released at the meeting for review by legislators, which prompted discussion about standards in justice and municipal courts.  Traffic, violation and criminal cases processed in local courts contribute to the state's criminal fine account which funds statewide court security, statewide law enforcement medical liability and the police academy. All justice courts were compliant in their reporting.


AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng keeps an eye on public safety issues and carries a badge.


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Pesticide Bills

There were a number of bills aimed at regulating pesticide application during the first half of the session. These bills were the subject of a workgroup led by Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, over the past couple of weeks. The aim was to create a single bill and stuff it into an existing bill. However, with the deadline looming it was determined that the bill did not fit into one of the available "relating to" clauses. As a result Rep. Witt has committed to finding a bill in the Rules Committee and working the language into that bill. AOC staff continues to track the progress of the bills.


Land Use

In a flurry of activity a number of bills AOC was tracking closely either failed to get a work session or continued their progress through the system. Both the House and the Senate land use appeals limit bills (SB 359 and HB 3379) did not receive work sessions and appear to be dead. However, SB 94, a tsunami preparation bill continues to move.


Woody Biomass Tax Credit Bill

HB 2449, Oregon Department of Energy's biomass collector and producer tax credit bill, is scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday in the House Revenue Committee. The bill would remove the sunset on the biomass collector tax credit and also create an incentive aimed at biomass energy production. Some of the money would be targeted for the woody biomass sector. 

Generation of heat and electricity from woody biomass and shown to create jobs in rural Oregon, reduce the cost of forest treatments, reduce the risk of wildfire, and create locally made energy in an environmentally friendly manner. This bill, along with the Oregon Department of Forestry's Biomass Leadership Fund budget request are the two large-scale woody biomass bills this session. Commissioners and judges are encouraged to reach out to their legislators to voice support for these two investments in rural Oregon.


Workshops Available

Sustainable Northwest, Lake County Resource Initiative, and Wallowa Resources are hosting a series of workshops -- Making Energy Work for Rural Oregon -- in four different communities (not yet identified) across Oregon from June through October, 2015. The workshops will be designed to help communities implement renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The organizers are working closely with Energy Trust and Oregon Department of Energy.

Communities interested in applying to host can 
click here to apply. The deadline for applications is May 15, 2015.

Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency present an extraordinary opportunity to support a clean energy economy. Benefits from these investments retain energy dollars within a community, foster energy independence, create jobs, improve the health of our environment and respond to the challenges of climate change. Rural communities in Oregon are adjacent to some of the best renewable energy resources in the state. Investments in clean energy not only create a platform for economic growth; they create compelling opportunities for a prosperous regional future.

For more information and a full summary of the workshop series please visit this website


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


Break Time
Enjoy the craftsmanship of world renown smart phone photographer Mike McArthur.

The Gorge from Cape Horn.  We live in a beautiful part of the world.  

Federal Transportation Grant Funds Now Available


The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced the availability of $500 million for transportation projects in the latest round of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program.


Pre-applications are required and are due May 4, 2015 by 11:59 p.m. EDT. More information is available  here.


News from NACo 
Honoring Innovative Leadership in Promoting County Employee Retirement Savings

NACo and Nationwide Retirement Solutions are pleased to announce the "Aspire Award: Honoring Innovative Leadership in Promoting County Employee Retirement Savings".  The award has been established to recognize county plan sponsors in the NACo Deferred Compensation Program who have developed and implemented innovative approaches to help create opportunities for their employees to be retirement ready. 


Applications must be received by NACo no later than close of business May 15, 2015.


Please review the  guidelines for further information. Please address questions to Lisa Cole at NACo or 202-942-4270.


 WIR Conference Coming Up

The Premiere National Conference for Counties of the West



The Western Interstate Region (WIR) serves as the counties' advocate for public policy issues affecting the West. Don't miss your opportunity to connect with county officials from fifteen Western states at this intimate annual gathering. Key discussion items will include budget, tax and entitlement reform, long-term funding for federal transportation programs, broadband and Internet policies, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, including the Administration's "Waters of the U.S." proposed rule. Register now!  


Video:  Counties Matter

Federal Policies Matter to County Government


America's 3,069 county governments provide fundamental services for building healthy, safe and vibrant communities. Through the National Association of Counties, county governments engage federal policy makers on a range of issues like transportation, infrastructure, healthcare, public safety and public lands management. All of these issues are vital to our nation's quality of life and long-term prosperity.

 View the video to learn more and share this information with your residents! 


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.  
Laura Cleland & Eric Schmidt

Association of Oregon Counties



Have a great week.