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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

The Legislature Trudges Along

Sunshine turns to clouds in Salem

April 21, 2015

In This Issue
Transportation/Community & Economic Development
Natural Resources
Health & Human Services
Public Safety
Energy, Environment & Land Use
Oregon-China Sister State Relations
A word
WIR Conference
Counties Matter
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Salem -  The frenetic pace of the Legislature continues, even after the first deadline meant to weed out the number of bills still in play. Today is the second deadline -- a bill must have had a work session in its chamber of origin by the end of today, or it will go no further. This does not apply to the Ways and Means, Rules or Revenue committees. AOC policy managers highlight the most important activity on bills of interest to AOC below.


Big news out of Washington, D.C. last week. The Senate passed, and the President signed, the "Doc-Fix" bill. This bill included an extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act - a retroactive payment for 2014 and an upcoming payment for 2015. While exact figures are not yet available, the 2014 payment is anticipated to be approximately five percent less than 2013, and 2015 approximately five percent less than 2014. In addition, the 25 percent payments based on actual harvest that have already been distributed to counties will be subtracted from the 2014 checks. A number of technical questions remain as to how the payments will be calculated. 


The legislation requires the 2014 payment to be made no later than 45 days following the president's signature. He signed the bill on April 16. The test of the nimbleness of the federal bureaucracy has now begun. 



At the halfway point of the 2015 legislative session, an avalanche of legislation has received hearings, consuming an extraordinary amount of time and attention. However, a much smaller number of bills are moving forward. For most legislative committees, the deadline to move a bill was Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Thus, many bills are now dead.  However, three committees are exempt from that rule (Revenue, Rules and Ways & Means), and a number of bills have been sent to one of those committees to keep them alive. It is also possible to see bills resurrected in the form of an amendment to another bill.


Public Records

House Bill 3505 would make numerous changes to public records law in the aftermath of the recent controversy surrounding Governor Kitzhaber. "HB 3505 is a grab bag of reforms, and even a receptive and determined Legislature might not approve every one of them." - The Oregonian Editorial. AOC is opposed to the bill as written, which is currently scheduled for a hearing on Monday, April 27, at 3:00 p.m. in the House Rules Committee. Counties that are opposed to the bill, or parts of the bill, should contact their legislators as soon as possible.


Public Contracting and Procurement

There have been a slew of bills proposing to amend public contracting law, mostly in ways that AOC does not support. Most of those bills are now dead. Here is a brief update on the ones that have consumed a lot of time, each of which AOC opposes:

Senate Bill 414 would add new burdens and requirements before outsourcing, and provide for judicial review of those decisions. Amendments were proposed that AOC equally did not like. This bill now appears to be dead.

Senate Bill 809 would require the use of apprentices in certain public contracts. The bill has been narrowed, somewhat, with amendments, and sent to the Ways and Means Committee.

House Bill 2617 would impose a number of additional requirements on contractors and public contracting agencies with regard to subcontractors. Amendments have been proposed to address one concern expressed by opponents of the bill, but AOC still remains opposed. The bill appears to have died in Committee on April 21.

House Bill 3321 and House Bill 3322 would impose numerous new burdens on public contracting, especially outsourcing. A work group has been meeting, but public agency representatives, including AOC, have remained strongly opposed to the bills. The bills have been referred to the House Rules Committee to keep them alive for the time being.



House Bill 2544 would require binding arbitration for unresolved interim collective bargaining. The bill passed the House early in the legislative session at the behest of public employee unions. Many public employer representatives, including AOC, remain strongly opposed.

House Bill 3025, the so called "Ban the Box" bill, prohibiting employers from using criminal history for employment decisions prior to making a job offer, remains alive. It was narrowed by amendment and sent to the House Rules Committee.


On other labor issues, a number of mandatory sick leave and minimum wage bills are still alive, but it appears most likely that only a mandatory sick leave bill will pass this legislative session, and that no vote will be taken on increasing the minimum wage.



House Bill 3495, an AOC priority bill, would fix an ambiguity in the Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan (OPSRP) statutes relating to the contribution start date. After a successful public hearing and work session on April 1 and 10, respectively, the bill passed the House unanimously on April 17.


Fiscal Distress and Insolvency

House Bill 3518, an AOC bill, would provide a process to resolve issues relating to municipal fiscal distress, up to an including the filing of bankruptcy. The bill received a hearing in the House Rules Committee on April 20, featuring testimony and a presentation from bankruptcy attorney Oren Haker from Stoel Rives. Strong concerns were expressed by committee members regarding the extent of the governor's power in the legislation, as well as the power of the fiscal distress committee to raise taxes, fees and revenue. Knowing this bill is most likely a multi-session piece of legislation, AOC intends to work in the interim to develop legislation that a consensus of legislators can support. For such a bill to pass, however, it is clear that officials from fiscally distressed counties would need to not only get behind the bill, but also let their legislators know about that support.



The Joint Marijuana Committee is taking this week off to work on legislation. It is anticipated that on Monday, April 27, the committee may move its first piece of legislation, dealing with the medical marijuana supply chain, which currently leaks massive quantities of marijuana into the black market, both here in Oregon and across state lines. Control of that leakage is necessary to ensure the viability of the OLCC licensed retail market. However, the devil will be in the details. It is anticipated that the bill to be considered next Monday will be modeled, at least in part, on Senate Bill 936, which AOC Legal Counsel had a hand in designing, but with many amendments.


If that bill clears the committee next Monday, in whatever form, this will leave two large pieces of legislation for the committee to work on next: (1) A so-called "technical amendments" bill to fix and improve certain aspects of Measure 91; and (2) a so-called "omnibus bill" to deal with all of the big issues put into the "parking lot" by the committee over the past two months, including vital issues to counties, such as local regulation, local opt out, taxation and land use.


As time permits, AOC Legal Counsel continues to provide regional presentations on these constantly evolving developments in marijuana law and policy.


AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett juggles all of the governance issues.


Transportation/Community & Economic Development

Not Dead Yet?

On Wednesday, April 15, a public hearing was held on Senate Bill 668, AOC's bill on county road right-of-way user fees, in the Senate Business and Transportation Committee. The day's agenda was crammed with over 20 bills scheduled for public hearings and possible work sessions. 


Senator Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) kicked off the testimony in support of our bill. Due to the many senators in the room wishing to testify on other bills on the docket, the hearing on 668 was recessed after Sen. Roblan's testimony. When it was reopened about 40 minutes later, Commissioner Martha Schrader testified on the importance of the bill to Clackamas County and to all counties. Commissioners John Sweet of Coos County and Larry Givens of Umatilla County then testified in support of the bill, along with OACES President and Jackson County Public Works Director John Vial and Deschutes County Public Works Director Chris Doty. Mary Stern batted clean-up with Mike McArthur providing visual testimony to the committee. A picture really is worth a thousand words! There was no opposition testimony to the bill.


Despite our best efforts in this disjointed hearing, the bill failed to move out of committee. AOC received a "note from mother" Senator Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), and dash-3 amendments were written clarifying that counties were only seeking to recover costs from utilities for permitting, inspecting and repairing work done in the county road right-of-way. Allegations by utility companies that counties are already charging permit fees caused some confusion, and the -3 amendments were never considered by the Senate Business & Transportation Committee.


At press time, AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern was looking for a bill in which to "gut and stuff" SB 668 -3.  There's a snowball's chance that this bill will move . . . but a chance is a chance, no matter how small!


Let the Sun Shine

AOC supports House Bill 3492 -1, which would allow taxable solar projects to elect to pay a fee ($7,000 per MW per year) in lieu of property taxes by entering into up to 20 year agreements with counties, with no central assessment.  Moneys would be distributed in the same manner as property taxes. The $7,000/per MW cited in the bill is what proponents believe is equivalent to the level of tax incurred by a gas-fired plant. 


This bill would allow for easier financing for these types of projects, which could mean an estimated six to eight new projects with six to seven MW per project in the state.  The counties most likely to see developer interest are Malheur, Harney, Jefferson, Wasco, Morrow, Umatilla, Lake and Klamath.


Mary Stern will testify on behalf of AOC and the Community Renewable Energy Association (CREA). She will keep us updated on the progress of the bill. 


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


 Natural Resources

AOC and CFTLC weigh in on Department of Forestry budget requests

The Ways & Means Natural Resources Subcommittee spent last week reviewing the proposed 2015-17 budget of the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), and in the process the subcommittee received a lot of input. On the Federal Forest Health Package ($6 million to continue the successful program to increase the pace and scale of logging on federal forests), over 50 organizations signed nine letters of support -- AOC was one of those organizations endorsing the request.

AOC emphasized the importance of the program to rural communities and businesses that depend on access to federal forests. Citing current conditions of federal forests as presenting severe threats to wildlife habitat and valuable timber resources, AOC noted the opportunity to expand the program to the west side, which has been in gridlock for over two decades.


At the public hearing on Thursday, Commissioner Tim Josi, as chair of the Council of Forest Trust Land Counties, addressed the subcommittee on state forest matters. CFTLC, which represents the 15 counties that transferred forestlands to the state over time under the State Forest Acquisition Program (1941) in exchange for a share of revenues and direct involvement in forest management policy, has endorsed three ODF budget packages. Commissioner Josi shared his concerns about the development of the new State Forest Management Plan by the Board of Forestry and explained the inadequacy of harvest under the current plan. He noted that Tillamook County has a $1.4 million shortfall this year directly related to the current plan and will face an additional $1.7 million shortfall next fiscal year. He cited Circuit Judge Richard Barron's finding in Tillamook County v. State of Oregon (2005) that the Forest Trust Land arrangement between the 15 counties and the state has all of the elements of a contract.

The three ODF budget packages: 1) South Fork Inmate Camp - take $750,000 of funding burden off ODF to better reflect the proportion of work related to forestry; 2) Recreation, Education, and Interpretation - one-time request for $1.4 million to keep the Tillamook Forest Center running; and 3) Research and Monitoring - one-time request for $650,000 to meet information and science-based needs. Support of CFTLC for the latter two depends on the Board of Forestry taking necessary action on harvest levels in the new forest management plan.


Note: The last edition of Oregon Trails reported the work session scheduled by the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on House Bill 3210, which would require higher harvest levels on state forests. At the request of the Board of Forestry and state forester, the committee decided on Thursday to "stand down" in respect for the current administrative process to develop a new state forest management plan. HB 3210 is dead.


AOC also offered support for funding of the ODF program on bio-fuels.

AOC reminds Legislature that counties carry the load on predator control

There has been a handful of bills introduced on the subject of predator control and how to provide broad-based, stable funding of a statewide program (e.g., Senate bill 318; House Bills 2182, 3140, 3188). This is good news, because as explained by AOC to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, to this point counties have had to shoulder the burden of funding. This in spite of wildlife being in the sole jurisdiction of the state. HB 2182, which directs the Department of Fish & Wildlife to study developing a statewide predator control management plan and report results to the Legislature by September 15, 2016, shows promise where other informal work groups have not been able to deliver.


AOC testified that state funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services is appropriated through the budgets of the Oregon departments of Agriculture and Fish & Wildlife. After severe cuts beginning in 2009, counties were forced to fill the shortfall to the extent possible, in spite of their own shrinking budgets. For the 2009-11 biennium, counties contributed over $2.4 million to Wildlife Services compared to the state's total of $340,000, or more than seven times the state appropriation. For the 2013-15 biennium, the state has rebounded its contribution to $931,778. By maintaining or enhancing this level of funding in 2015-17, the state will help to relieve the pressure on overly burdened county budgets and permit a more effective predator control program in Oregon. The Governor's Recommended Budget includes a modest enhancement in funding to $949,884. A far better answer is for the state to develop a program that is sustainable and is funded by beneficiaries, including the public.


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


Health and Human Services

With today's deadline, bills have been moving out of committee to Rules/Ways and Means, or to the graveyard at warp speed. House Bill 3100-2, the Public Health Modernization bill, moved out of House Health on Friday. Yesterday, Senate Bill 663 was moved out of Senate Health with the dash-5 and dash-6 amendments. These amendments are a "gut and stuff" of the original bill. The dash-5 pulls language from SB 417 around licensure of tobacco retailers, and includes an exemption in the Indoor Clean Air Act for sampling in vape shops. The dash-6 raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21. On the budget front, the Ways and Means Committee is wrapping up their road show this week, and the Human Services Subcommittee is heading into phase two of their agency budget conversations. 

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


Public Safety

Justice Courts 

Senate Bill 385, a bill that would allow justice, municipal, juvenile and probate judges to ban weapons in the court room, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. SB 385 was requested by the Justices of the Peace Association and AOC. House Bill 3399, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, passed the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. The bill will require criminal trials in justice court to be audio recorded. It will also require all judges to be a member of the bar or receive a certification in special courts from the National Judicial College or an equivalent program.


Grand Jury Recording

SB 822 was amended and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Counties and District Attorneys remain concerned about the costs that counties could incur. More discussion on amendments and costs will occur during the Ways & Means process.  Sponsors of the bill, Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, have said they will engage with local stakeholders to work out issues in the bill.


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



You're Invited!  Hold the Date!

Friday, June 5, 2015

AOC Veterans Steering Committee

Tours of PDX Airport USO and US Navy Ship During Rose Festival Fleet Week

When: Friday, June 5th (9 am  -- 1 pm)

Where: Portland Airport/Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Please RSVP to Andy Smith




Please join us for tours of the Portland Airport's new United Service Organization (USO) and one the US Navy ships during this year's Rose Festival/Fleet week.  The PDX Airport USO was re-established in 2014 after an absence of 41 years. While the final lineup of Navy ships coming to this year's Rose Festival has not been released, we hope to visit a modern destroyer similar to the USS Spruance (DDG-111) which came to Portland last year.




AOC Policy Manager Andy Smith works hard for veterans on your behalf.


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Transportation Growth Management Application Materials

The 2015 Transportation Growth Management (TGM) grant application materials are now available. The application materials are posted on this website, along with example applications from previous cycles and a cost helper. TGM grants are awarded on an annual basis. Eligible applicants include cities, counties, councils of government on behalf of a city or county, and tribal governments. Eligible applicants may join together to propose a project, such as a multi-county Transportation System Plan (TSP) or city-county corridor plan. Grantees must provide a match of 12 percent or more of the total project cost, in the form of cash, staff time, monetized volunteer time and direct project expenses.


Applications are due June 12th and TGM will announce the grant awards in August, after the August Advisory Committee meeting.


Land Use Appeals Fee Cap Bill

Senate Bill 359, which would have capped the fees on land use appeals set by counties, did not receive a work session last week and is now effectively dead. The Association of Oregon Counties worked with several other allies to explain that the bill would result in a loss of local control, shifting fiscal responsibility to the state, and potentially higher fees for other planning services. The companion bill, House Bill 3379, is slated to receive a work session today (Tuesday) to be moved to the Rules Committee.


Land Use Bills Still Churning      

There are around 20 land use bills whose fate is still up in the air in the House and the Senate. Most of these are scheduled to be heard Tuesday afternoon. By next week, after the dust settles, there should be a clearer picture of what bills are still alive and which will have to be revisited in the future.


Forest Biomass Workgroup

The Forest Biomass Workgroup meets this week to discuss furthering the legislative priorities of the expansion of biomass in Oregon. There are a number of bills including HB 2449 (biomass producer tax credit), the suite of juniper related bills (HB 2997/HB 2998), other biomass related bills (SB 730, SB 752) the Oregon Department of Forestry budget, and others. The group will also be discussing ongoing biomass projects in the state.


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


Oregon-China Sister State Relations Council Meets with Oregon Counties

The President of the Oregon-China Sister State Relations Council, Jin Lan, met with Oregon county commissioners today in Salem at the Local Government Center.


Mr. Lan provided insight on how Oregon counties can establish sister-state relations with China and engage in economic development partnerships. In addition, Mr. Lan made it clear that building a strong relationship with Oregon is vital to increasing China's awareness about the Oregon market. He referenced various industries where opportunities for increased partnership exist, including: agriculture, energy and tourism.


Mr. Lan offered to assist Oregon local governments interested in working with Chinese government officials and business leaders to build productive and long lasting relationships at the local level.


AOC is planning to convene a meeting to continue the discussion regarding potential opportunities where Oregon counties can partner with China to support economic development opportunities and increased trade relations. A tentative meeting date has been schedule for Thursday, April 30th at 1p.m. by conference call. Contact Mckenzie Farrell, member services and communications manager, for more information.


A word from the spin doctor
quick and light in movement; moving with ease; agile; active; rapid.
 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.