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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

The Home Stretch Begins

Cinco de Mayo Edition

May 5, 2015

In This Issue
Governance & Marijuana
Transportation/Community & Economic Development
Natural Resources
AOC Legislative Committee
Health & Human Services
Public Safety
Energy, Environment & Land Use
Veterans Update
Regards to Rural
AOC Summer Summit
News from NACo
WIR Conference
Counties Matter
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
The Gold Man Keeps Vigil

Salem -  This is the point in the legislative session when policy committees in both chambers find themselves with fewer agenda items to deal with and the budget committees find themselves with more to do. It is that point in the session when money talks, and this session the sound and fury are beginning to bubble to the surface.  


A recent Oregon Supreme Court decision and the pending revenue forecast with the possibility of the personal kicker being engaged are hanging over the budget writers, lobbyists, agencies and yes, counties. The screen play is still being outlined, but it won't be long before the plot starts to thicken and we all learn in what direction the next biennium will be going.


All that as your AOC policy staff continues to advocate for the best interests of Oregon counties, where the rubber meets the road in delivering vital public services to millions of Oregon residents.  



Public Records

House Bill 3505 was introduced to address issues raised by the events leading up to the resignation of Governor Kitzhaber. However, there are a number of provisions in the bill that would significantly burden local government.  


On April 27th, the bill received a hearing before the House Rules Committee. AOC members provided the committee with oral and written testimony in opposition to the bill, pointing out its flaws and burdens. Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard explained the practical application of the bill, leaving the committee with no doubt that the bill, as written, would create more problems than solutions. Although it is likely that the Legislature will do something to address the public records issues leading up to the resignation of Governor Kitzhaber, it is very unlikely it will be in the form of HB 3505.


Labor Relations

House Bill 2544, which would provide for binding arbitration for unresolved interim collective bargaining issues for strike permitted units, received a hearing before the Senate Workforce Committee on April 27th. AOC and others have been working hard to stop the bill from moving forward in the Senate.  


Columbia County Commissioner Earl Fisher testified in opposition to the bill, explaining to the committee how the Columbia County example used by the unions to promote the bill actually cuts against the bill by impairing the ability to promptly deal with economic crises. Julia Getchell, Clackamas County's labor & employee relations manager, pointed out additional problems that would be created by the bill. Opponents of the bill also received a boost from a recent Oregonian editorial.



The Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91 continues to struggle to find consensus. It is May 5, 2015, and the committee has yet to move a single piece of legislation, or even begin real work on adjustments to Measure 91.  


The committee is currently attempting to clear one of two big bills off its plate, namely Senate Bill 844. That bill  is designed to make adjustments to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) to ensure the program's supply chain does not continue to leak tremendous amounts of marijuana into the black market, and thus undercut the new retail program. A big sticking point is the issue of local control. The committee has adopted the Dash-6 and Dash-7 amendments into the bill, and is poised to adopt the Dash-17 amendments as well, which would restore possession limits that were completely removed by the Dash-6 amendments.  


However, that resulting bill would do at least three things that AOC is still strongly opposed to: (1) preempt local opt out of any medical marijuana business; (2) narrow the scope of local authority for time, place, and manner restrictions; and (3) severely limit law enforcement access to the medical marijuana supply chain database.  


AOC has been working hard to ensure that any such bill would not pass the Senate.  A new wrinkle came up at the hearing before the committee on May 4, 2015, with written testimony from Governor Kate Brown and a presentation and testimony from the Oregon Health Authority, pointing out issues with the bill that should be resolved.


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


Transportation/Community & Economic Development

Isn't that special?     

Rumors abound at the Capitol about a special session to consider a transportation package. Although the Governor, business leaders, and legislators of both parties and chambers have expressed their strong support for a package, we continue to be at a standstill. After warning they would do so, the Republicans walked away from discussions when the Low Carbon Fuel Standards (LCFS) Bill was passed along party lines.


Acknowledging the reality that Republicans become targets any time they vote for a tax, several legislators stated that the intention at the beginning of the session was to put as much space as possible between a vote for the transportation package and the next election. Because of LCFS, that space is shrinking. Even in the very unlikely event LCFS was to be repealed, there's little hope a package will be presented and accepted because the parties have not been involved in negotiating a package. The Legislature is running out of time in the regular session. 


Is a special session addressing a transportation package a possibility? Insiders say it's doubtful. There are simply too many moving parts -- some that could become sensitive campaign issues, and with an election just around the corner the will to act is just not there. 


Regardless of what happens with a transportation package, commissioners and judges should take every opportunity to inform their legislators and our citizens about the status of the county road system. During county budget meetings be sure to discuss the transportation needs in your county, whether it's road repair, pavement preservation, bridge repair or replacement, culvert repair, or safety upgrades. The County Road Needs Study estimates that Oregon counties face an annual shortfall of $505 million for the upkeep of the transportation system. How much of that shortfall belongs to your county?


Alphabet Soup (or - how many acronyms can we fit in this paragraph?)

In the event there is no transportation package, AOC has been working with the League of Oregon Cities (LOC) and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to prevent the loss of State Highway Funds (SHF) as a result of two Department of Motor Vehicles (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 SHF 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 worked with Legislative Counsel (LC) to draft language for insertion in HB 3256 that would identify funding sources for these two programs. We are still not sure if this will be a gut & stuff or just a stuff. AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern, along with staff from LOC and ODOT, will meet with the sponsor of HB 3256 late on Tuesday (5/5).  More to come!


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 the 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 Committee 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. 


At the April AOC Legislative Committee meeting, AOC took a neutral position on the bill, expressing grave concerns. These concerns were shared with the workgroup at its first meeting on Wednesday, April 29. Mary Stern and Jim McCauley of Washington County serve on this workgroup, along with representatives of the Assessors and LOC. Several more meetings of the workgroup will be held. 


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


 Natural Resources and Finance

Big push for water bonding; new Drought Action Team 

On May 8 and 15, the Joint Ways & Means Capital Construction Subcommittee will meet to consider bonding requests by the Water Resources Department (WRD) that are critical to water development in the state. Each request is a major priority for AOC. This is a time when county commissioners and judges can make a real difference.


In addition to implementation of Oregon's Integrated Water Resources Strategy (August, 2012), which AOC helped develop and which includes bottom-up local water planning processes, the resources provided by these bonds will deal directly with Oregon's severe and likely extended drought.


By mid-May after the State Drought Council meeting, the State of Oregon will have up to 12 counties with State Drought Declarations. Already declared are Baker, Crook, Harney, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, and Wheeler. 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. 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."


Governor Kate Brown has established a Drought Action Team that will meet monthly (next on May 27). The team includes representatives of federal (US Department of Agriculture, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Bureau of Reclamation, US Fish & Wildlife Services, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), state (Oregon Department of Agriculture, Water Resources Department, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife), and local (AOC, LOC, special districts, irrigators) governments, as well as important stakeholders (Farm Bureau, cattlemen, nurseries). The team is lead by Richard Whitman, the governor's natural resources advisor. 


The focus now is on the Capital Construction Subcommittee. Its members are:

  • Co-Chair Senator Fred Girod (Clackamas, Linn, & Marion Counties).
  • Co-Chair Representative Tobias Read (Washington & Multnomah Counties).
  • Senate President Peter Courtney (Marion County).
  • Ways & Means Co-Chair Senator Richard Devlin (Clackamas, Washington & Multnomah Counties).
  • House Majority Leader Val Hoyle (Lane County).
  • Representative John Huffman (Wasco, Wheeler, Jefferson, and Deschutes Counties).
  • House Speaker Tina Kotek (Multnomah County).
  • Representative Greg Smith (Umatilla, Morrow, Gilliam, Sherman, & Wasco Counties).

A group of centrist interests (called "the Avengers"), which helped develop and worked for adoption of the Integrated Water Resources Strategy and the State Water Supply Development Program (Senate Bill 839 [2013]), has organized to provide strategic support of passage of the WRD requests. [The Avengers include AOC, LOC, Special Districts Association of Oregon, Oregon Water Resources Congress, Oregon Association of Nurseries, Northeast Oregon Water Association, the Freshwater Trust and other moderate groups that come and go.]


On Friday May 8,  the Capital Construction Subcommittee will hold a hearing at 1:00 p.m. in hearing room F of the Capitol to consider and to hear testimony on the WRD general obligation bond request: Package #120 - Facilitating Water Development Loans ($30 million General Obligation Bonds). This package recapitalizes the Water Development Loan Fund using dedicated General Obligation Bonds for the purposes of financing water development projects. Funds are only issued after a project is identified and an agreement is signed for repayment by the borrower. Add $1.7 million for cost of issuance and debt service.


On Friday May 15, the subcommittee will receive testimony on the lottery bond packages offered by WRD, each critically important to AOC:

  • Package #106 - Funding Feasibility Studies (.75 FTE; $140,000 General Fund & $2 millionLottery Bonds). Communities often find it difficult to secure funding to study the feasibility of developing water conservation, reuse, or storage projects. WRD currently has $750,000 in its base budget to provide grant funding for such studies. This package would add an additional $2 million for SB 1069 (2008) feasibility study grants, and add staffing capacity (currently at .25 FTE) to administer and oversee the grant program. Add $150,000 for cost of issuance and debt service.
  • Package #113 - Funding Water Supply Projects (1 FTE; $187,000 General Fund & $17.25 million Lottery Bonds). Water is essential for economic growth, environmental health and the welfare of all Oregonians. The state needs to continue to provide support for water resources supply projects to meet Oregon's current and future out-of-stream and instream water needs. This package recapitalizes the Water Supply Development Account (established by SB 839 in 2013) and the Water Supply Fund. This includes $17.25 million for grants and loans for water projects, as well as a position to administer and oversee grants and loans. Add $1.3 million for cost of issuance and debt service.
  • Package #115 - Supporting Project Development & Place-Based Planning (6 FTE; $1.2 million General Fund & $750,000 Lottery Bonds). This package would allow the state to proactively work with communities to identify, evaluate and develop water resources solutions to meet out-of-stream and instream needs. This request would expand the water supply team, adding a water supply project manager, water supply engineer, finance analyst, water supply technical coordinator and two place-based planning coordinators. This package also includes $750,000 for grants to help communities voluntarily develop place-based integrated water resources plans to identify how they will meet their current and future out-of-stream and instream water needs. Add $56,000 for cost of issuance and debt service.

AOC will be contacting county commissioners and judges to help with this critical effort but if you would like to volunteer ahead of time, call Gil Riddell at AOC.


AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell spends a lot of his time in the deep end of the pool.


 AOC Legislative Committee to Meet

The AOC Legislative Committee, steering committees and board of directors are scheduled to meet May 11th at the Local Government Center in Salem. With the legislative session in full throttle, there will be plenty of discussion over pending legislative issues and proposals and your attendance is requested. Lunch will be served.  


You should have received copies of the agendas in your email. If you haven't, please contact the AOC office at 503-585-8351 and we will make every attempt to see that you get what you need. If you have questions, please feel free to call.  


We look forward to seeing you in Salem on the 11th!


Health and Human Services

Up in smoke

After many back-and-forth negotiations, HB 2546-A, the bill to include e-cigarettes in the Indoor Clean Air Act, passed out of the Senate Health Committee on Monday afternoon. The bill includes a delayed implementation, which helped move the bill out of committee. The smoke shop licensure bills have yet to make it to the floor and are still the subject of negotiation. 


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


Public Safety

AOC to join public safety, business, human services advocates for lobby day on justice reinvestment May 14th 

County judges and commissioners will join sheriffs, district attorneys, community corrections directors and other advocates for a lobby day on justice reinvestment funding on May 14.  


AOC will join public safety groups and the Oregon Coalition for Safety and Savings, which is comprised of victim services advocates, criminal defense lawyers, business leaders, and human services stakeholders. The lobby day continues these groups' efforts in continuing full funding for the justice reinvestment grant program, created by House Bill 3194 in 2013. Recent prison forecast projections and savings from prison diversion could mean up to $53 million in funding for counties for reentry and recidivism reduction programs.


Judges and commissioners are needed in full force for the May 14th event, which runs from approximately noon to 5 p.m. Please contact AOC Public Safety Policy Manager Patrick Sieng to RSVP. Appointments with legislators are already scheduled, so those signing up will be plugged into those meetings with other stakeholders.


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


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) Budget

Last week the Ways & Means Natural Resources Subcommittee announced that it would be cutting $10 million from the various natural resources agencies. On Wednesday morning they moved the Department of Land Conservation and Development's budget to the full Ways & Means Committee with only one of the policy option packages DLCD requested.


The Governor's Recommended Budget increased grants available to local communities by $500,000 for the biennium, included approximately $500,000 for natural hazards planning technical assistance and included funding for planning assistance related to the Sage Grouse. These programs were not included in the subcommittee's budget and overall DLCD's budget was reduced by approximately $2 million when compared to the Governor's Recommended Budget.


Natural Hazard Bills Move Forward

At the same time three natural hazard bills which all call for rulemaking at DLCD for areas at risk of tsunami, coastal erosion and landslides and then adoption of these rules by the local government continue to move. SB 94, HB 2633 and HB 3447 all have their unique qualities but have all passed the first hurdle. It is assumed that one of these bills will receive attention from the Ways and Means subcommittee. AOC is concerned that adopting new rules without funding for local governments and with cuts to DLCD's technical support will result in further burdens for Oregon's coastal counties.


Pesticide Bill released

A couple weeks ago Oregon Trails reported that the multiple pesticide bills would be worked into a single bill. That bill, HB 3549, was released last week. The bill encompasses a wide range of pesticide issues including having the Oregon Department of Forestry conduct a study on the impacts of aerial application of pesticides, the licensing requirements of those doing aerial application of pesticides, having the Department of Agriculture set up a pesticide complaint hotline and other requirements. AOC is closely tracking this bill and will be working to ensure county concerns are addressed 


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



Veterans Update

House Bill 2036 passed unanimously in the House and is now moving quickly toward the Senate Floor. HB 2036 combines three border-to-border highway initiatives to name the remaining balance of Oregon's highways in honor of veterans of the First World War, the Korean War, the Persian Gulf War and the Global War on Terror.


HB 2036  would create the following highway designation in honor of veterans:

  • A portion of U.S. Highway 395 as the "World War I Veterans Memorial Highway;"
  • Interstate 5 as the "Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway" and "Purple Heart Trail;" and
  • U.S. Highway 101 as the "Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Memorial Highway."

The United States awards Purple Hearts to military personnel wounded or killed in action. Designating the Oregon portion of Interstate 5 as the "Purple Heart Trail" would link the same designations in Washington and California for a single line from Canada to Mexico and create the first national border-to-border Purple Heart Trail in the U.S. 


Similar measures naming Oregon roadways for veterans have passed in previous legislative sessions, including most recently: House Bill 4023 (2014) to name the portion of U.S. 26 within the Warm Springs Reservation the "Warm Springs Veterans Memorial Highway," and Senate Bill 461 (2013) naming Interstate 84, from Oregon's border with Idaho, west to the point where it meets Interstate 5, the "Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway." 


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

Please RSVP!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Join our AOC Veterans Steering Committee

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 of the US Navy ships during this year's Rose Festival/Fleet week.  


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


Regards to Rural Conference

Regards to Rural Conference will be held June 26-27th at the Riverhouse Hotel and Convention Center in Bend.  


Presented by RDI, the Regards to Rural 2015 conference, Navigating the Rivers of Change: Rural Communities in Transition, is a gathering to inform and inspire. RDI invites you to join them to renew your energy, share practices and spark innovative ideas for strengthening the economic vitality and social vibrancy of rural communities. The conference will include over 30 effective skill-building sessions, access to rural resources and opportunities to network with others who are passionate about making sustainable changes in their rural communities.


Confirmed 2015 keynote speakers are Roger Brooks, tourism and downtown development expert, and Shanna Ratner, Principal of Yellow Wood Associates, Inc. In addition, RDI has invited U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to speak at the conference.


For questions about the conference, contact:

Stacey Stonesifer

RDI Senior Program Manager

Phone: 541.419.7000

AOC Summer Summit

Mark your calendars for the 2015 AOC Summer Summit, August 9 - 11 at the Bend Riverhouse Hotel and Conference Center.


The 2015 theme and location was selected by AOC President Gary Thompson. The theme will be focused on communications:


Connect. Communicate. Collaborate.


The program is going to be first rate. You won't want to miss it! Registration will be online in June. 


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.