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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

The Legislative Grind Continues

Happy Election Day!

May 19, 2015

In This Issue
Veterans Update
Governance & Marijuana
Health & Human Services
Transportation/Community & Economic Development
Natural Resources
Water Policy
Public Safety
Energy, Environment & Land Use
Regards to Rural
AOC Summer Summit
NACo Presidential Appointments
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Quick Links

Salem -  The big news out of Salem last week came in the form of the quarterly state revenue forecast. State economists have indicated that the state has an additional $420 million to work with (after the kicker is paid). That's good news. Furthermore, the forecast projected more than $473 million will be refunded to taxpayers, which is an average payment of $284, through the "kicker." 


News releases flew out of Capitol offices as the forecast was being released, nearly all of them saying the forecast means an additional $105 million for K-12 education needs (a combination of the corporate kicker going to education and some additional funding through legislative action) and that, even with the kicker, it could mean additional funding for public safety, human services and higher education.


For a complete look at the forecast and supporting documentation, please click here


Your AOC policy managers are still hard at work on a number of legislative issues. You will read about those in the stories below.


But before we get to all of that, we wanted to share this bit of news with you from NACo. 


During the 2015 Legislative Conference, NACo hosted the "Former County Officials" reception honoring former county officials currently serving in Congress. During the reception, members were presented with the "2015 County Alumni Award" in recognition for their service as a former county official and continued commitment to our nation's counties in Congress. Thanks to your help, we were fortunate to have Congressman Earl Blumenauer join us for the reception.


Recently, NACo 1st Vice President, Commissioner Sallie Clark of El Paso County, Colorado, met with Congressman Peter DeFazio and presented him with the award. 


History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a federal holiday for remembering the people who have died while serving in the nation's armed forces. The holiday is observed every year on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Confederate and Union soldiers who died in the war. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.


By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. Several Southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate soldiers who died in service: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee. Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day, which is observed on November 11th. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.


Oregon Veterans' Cremains to be Interred

A final salute with full military honors will be made to 19 Oregon military veterans and two spouses of veterans whose cremated remains will be interred at Willamette National Cemetery on May 22, at 10 a.m. Willamette National Cemetery is located in Portland at 11800 S.E. Mount Scott Boulevard.


For nearly 10 years, the Oregon State Hospital Replacement Project has been working with Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs (ODVA) to identify the deceased who are eligible for veteran burial. This includes the cremains of a veteran's spouse who also is eligible to be interred at a national cemetery. The State Hospital is the custodian of the cremated remains of approximately 3,400 people who died between 1914 and 1971 while living or working at the hospital, Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital, Mid-Columbia Hospital, Dammasch State Hospital, Oregon State Penitentiary, Fairview Training Center and other local hospitals.


The military service eras of these 19 honorably discharged veterans range from the Civil War to World War I. According to ODVA Director Cameron Smith the veteran's cremains have been secured until their identities could be accurately verified. Identifying these veterans' cremains after all these years ensures we honor and recognize their service," he said. "Just as we thank all veterans for their service, we thank the amazing team from the Oregon State Hospital and their partners for all of their research and hard work to correct the record."


With the goal of reunifying these cremains with families, the Oregon State Hospital has posted online the list of names of the people whose cremated remains are in the possession of the hospital. The list of names is posted on the Oregon State Hospital website


Congress Still Considering Changes to VA Choice Card Program 

Congress and the Veterans Affairs Department are working to change eligibility rules and open the VA Choice program to veterans who can't get needed medical care at their closest VA facility. At a hearing on May 12th, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said lawmakers and VA officials are working to change the regulation that bars veterans from using the private care program if they live within 40 miles of a VA clinic, even if that facility does not offer the services the veteran needs.


The rule has come under fire from lawmakers and veterans who say it has kept thousands from using VA Choice, a program launched in November to reduce patient wait times for appointments and improve access to health services. Since the kickoff of VA Choice, nearly 51,000 authorizations have been issued to veterans to use the program, resulting in 48,642 appointments. But more than 8 million VA Choice cards were issued, an indication that the program is falling short of its intended purpose, veterans advocacy groups and lawmakers noted. 


Lawmakers did not provide a time frame for the eligibility change to occur. The Senate passed a resolution in March on a 100-0 vote to change the rule; a House bill, H.R. 1909, has been introduced but has not yet been considered by committee. The VA estimates that the change could cost the department $4 billion to $34 billion a year, according to VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson.


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




Last night at 5:00 p.m., the newly formed Senate Committee on Implementing Measure 91 took up omnibus medical marijuana legislation that had reached an impasse before the Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91. The Senate Committee adopted three amendments to Senate Bill 964:

  • Dash-1 amendment, which further refines what dispensaries are grandfathered in the event of a local opt out.
  • Dash-3 amendment, which clarifies that local ordinances cannot prohibit deliveries from dispensaries in the event that the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) should amend its rules to allow such deliveries.
  • A conceptual amendment to make Section 17 go into effect on passage of the bill.  Section 17 clarifies that a dispensary does not have to relocate in the event a new school moves within 1,000 feet of the dispensary (on page 50, lines 22 and 31, change "17" to "18").

The amended bill passed out of the Senate Committee with a unanimous "do pass" recommendation. It will move to the Senate floor and then to Ways & Means, with an uncertain future. This is my summary of what is in the bill. There is much to like and dislike in the bill. But, if enacted, it would begin the process of putting sideboards on an out of control medical marijuana supply system that leaks massive quantities of marijuana into the Oregon and interstate black market, and threatens the viability of the Oregon retail system, as well as inviting federal intervention.


Immediately following the Senate Committee's work on the medical marijuana omnibus bill, at 5:30 p.m. the Joint Committee convened and began to work on Measure 91 itself, in the form of the Dash-1 amendments to House Bill 3400. I have numerous concerns with this legislation, including the preemption language in Section 33, and its impact on local opt out and local taxation. I've also engaged the planning directors and county counsels on Section 35, which needs work. Another serious concern is the tax distribution scheme in Measure 91, which the draft legislation does not fix. The Joint Committee will begin taking public testimony on the legislation this Wednesday evening.



House Bill 3495, an AOC priority bill, fixes an ambiguity in the Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan (OPSRP) statutes relating to the contribution start date. The bill passed the House of Representative on April 17, and yesterday passed unanimously out of the Senate Workforce Committee with a "do pass" recommendation. It now heads to the Senate floor, and then hopefully on to the Governor for her signature.


In light of the recent Oregon Supreme Court decision in Moro v State of Oregon, which overturned the bulk of the Legislature's 2013 PERS reforms, some legislators desire to do other reforms that Legislative Counsel has indicated would likely survive judicial scrutiny (see attached opinion). However, at present, there does not appear to be a consensus of legislators that want to move that forward this session.


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


Health and Human Services

In light of the revenue forecast, many conversations are changing at the Capitol. The effort to tax e-cigarettes has morphed into a request for a workgroup to study taxation options for the products; this is due in part to the increase in the revenue forecast, and also the Department of Revenue feeling they could not implement prior to 2017. Senator Courtney is still pushing for a mental health package, although a smaller amount than initially proposed. We have not yet heard what the new requested amount will be.


SB 663-A, which had a hearing in Senate Finance and Revenue on 5/19, is a gut-and-stuff of the Senate version of the public health modernization bill; the new language would create a statewide licensure program for tobacco and vaporizer retailers. While public health wants the licensure program (and AOC has supported such a program), the current amendments still allow an exemption from the Indoor Clean Air Act for vape shops to do sampling. The amendments also include a preemption on local governments from enacting licensure requirements. Moreover, the bill would not allow local regulations to be part of state license enforcement. Public health advocates continue to work to improve this bill to ensure strong tobacco enforcement laws.


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


Transportation/Community & Economic Development

The Long and Winding Road?

The long and winding road

That leads to your door

Will never disappear


This week's song is "The Long and Winding Road" by The Beatles. Could John and Paul have been referring to the 2015 Transportation Package?  By "your" did they mean "the Legislature?"


County roads are often long and winding . . . and in dire need of repair!  A transportation package is critical this session so that the backlog of projects can begin to be addressed. The glimmer of hope mentioned in last week's newsletter continues to glow very dimly. Meetings with the governor and legislative leaders are rumored to be continuing at Mahonia Hall. Several optimistic Democratic legislators believe concessions may be made to the clean fuels legislation that will bring the Republicans back to the table.


Since these meetings are taking place behind closed doors, we can only speculate . . . and hope . . . that a package is on the way. The media continues to keep the need for a transportation package in the forefront. A recent Register Guard editorial promotes the idea of a "swap": deferral of the clean fuels program in exchange for support of a gas tax increase. And OPB's Think Out Loud aired a segment entitled "Politics Get Complicated over Oregon Transportation Funding." We appreciate the media's engagement in this important issue. 


In that vein, The Oregonian hosted its second event in the "Big Ideas" series last night. Key transportation players were invited to participate in a panel titled, "Roads, Ruts and Revenues." Aptly timed with the Mahonia Hall meetings occurring, the panel delved into the reasons for our transportation funding crisis and possible solutions to move forward. Deschutes County Commissioner and Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Tammy Baney stood out on the panel for her understanding of both the county and state systems. Other panelists included Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario); Craig Campbell, AAA lobbyist and president of the Oregon Transportation Forum; and Matt Garrett, ODOT Director.


While there was consensus on the panel about the need for increased investment in transportation infrastructure, the uncertainty from the passage of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) has gridlocked the discussions. Rep. Bentz explained he couldn't reasonably vote to pass two potentially significant increases in the cost of gasoline this session, as the local backlash would be immense. AOC looks forward to these leaders moving the conversation past this stalemate and ensuring increased funding for the county transportation system.


In the event there is no package, your AOC staff and folks from LOC and ODOT continue their attempts to find a funding source, other than the State Highway Fund (SHF), to cover the cost of the DMV's Service Transformation Program (STP) and the DMV Debit/Credit Acceptance. These two programs 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. We'll keep you posted!


Lottery Bonds

A public hearing was held on House Bill 5030 on Friday, May 15, in the Joint Capitol Construction Committee. The bill authorizes the issuance of Lottery Bonds for Business Oregon, ODOT, Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), and Water Resources Department (WRD). AOC submitted written testimony in support of the bill, identifying the following funds which are of great importance to counties:

  • Special Public Works Fund, $28 million;
  • Regional Infrastructure Fund (Regional Solutions), $14 million;
  • Oregon Infrastructure Opportunity Program, $10 million;
  • Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, $7 million;
  • Multimodal Transportation Fund (Connect Oregon VI), $58.6+ million;
  • Affordable Housing Finance Fund, $15 million;
  • Water Supply Development Account, $6.25 million;
  • Water Conservation, Reuse & Storage Investment Fund, $2 million; and
  • Water Resources Department Fund, $11.25 million.

Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope and Deschutes County Commissioner Alan Unger, co-chairs of AOC's Water Policy Steering Committee, testified before the committee on the importance of the three funding items for WRD (more on this in the Water Policy section of this newsletter). Mary Stern, Community & Economic Development Policy Manager, testified in support of Regional Solutions. Another public hearing for HB 5030 is scheduled for Friday, May 29, at 1:00 p.m. If you would like to offer your support for any or all of these lottery funded programs, please contact Mary Stern.  


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


Forest Trust Land Counties: Data begins to surface for new management plan

Monday the Department of Forestry (ODF) staff presented the beginnings of data on which the Board of Forestry Subcommittee on Alternative Forest Management Plans will base its recommendation for a plan for the State Forests/County Forest Trust Lands to replace the disappointing current plan based on Structure-Based Management. While tending to state forests under the current plan, ODF is going broke. The Forest Development Fund, which holds the ODF share of timber sales revenue for a program that has always been self-sustaining, will be empty by 2020 unless there is increased timber harvesting on state forests. Former Governor Kitzhaber suggested ODF go to a "zoned approach," and ultimately the Board agreed to work within a 70 (timber focus)/30 (conservation focus) framework for the plan.


After months of data gathering, which included ground-checking and frequent updates, ODF unveiled a pie chart indicating planning area constraints on the landscape. It found that 51 percent of the 613,861 acres was available for harvesting; 12 percent unavailable due to roads, non-forest land types of ground, power line rights-of-way, cell towers, campgrounds, lakes and other causes; six percent unavailable due to take-avoidance measures under the federal Endangered Species Act; less than one percent unavailable due to Forest Practices Act constraints; and 30 percent unavailable under the current plan and State Forest Division policy. Much of the "unavailable" acreage could become available for harvest under a new plan.


Council of Forest Trust Land Counties Vice Chair Craig Pope, Polk County Commissioner, addressed the subcommittee giving praise to the ODF staff for improved data gathering and ground-truthing. Referring to an extension of the deadline to the end of 2016 for the Board to approve the plan [to the end of 2016], Commissioner Pope said that if the extra time is needed to get the data and technology right, CFTLC can agree, but recommended that ODF step up timber harvesting to avoid digging their financial hole from getting deeper. Finally, he queried whether and how much acreage will be "netted out" of the landscape before the 70/30 framework is calculated.

If you would like to see the documents produced at the subcommittee meeting,  go here.  Next tentatively scheduled meeting of the subcommittee is June 22.

AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell has many years experience dealing with Finance.


 Water Policy

Co-Chairs of AOC Water Policy Committee Tout Bonding to Grow Water Supply

As expected, the room was crowded with persons speaking to the Ways & Means Capital Construction Subcommittee in favor of several requests by state agencies and legislators for lottery-backed or general obligation bonding of various proposed capital projects. This was the second of three public hearings the subcommittee will hold on House Bills 5005 and 5030; the third is on May 29. AOC did what a representative of counties with general powers and general needs would do: supported several of the bonding requests, including low-income housing, regional solutions, and water supply development.


In the three minutes allotted to each witness, AOC Water Policy Co-Chairs Craig Pope and Alan Unger delivered clear messages on the need for the state to act now to provide the means for Oregon to increase clean water supplies for the prosperity of the state's economy and general health. Their individual comments on behalf of AOC were added to other testimony submitted to the subcommittee from individual organizations and a coalition that includes AOC. With long experience in the successful and ongoing Deschutes River Basin Project, Deschutes County Commissioner Unger emphasized that successful planning and projects require time, trust, and resources and technical assistance of the Water Resources  Department. Polk County Commissioner Pope reminded the subcommittee of the four packages requested by the department (see the last issue of Oregon Trails), each of which will provide the resources to begin bottom-up, local, place-based planning; feasibility studies of potential solutions; and financing to begin small and large water development projects that qualify. Commissioner Unger gave credit to the planning in the Hood River Basin (and to its leader, Hood River County Commissioner Les Perkins) and the Umatilla Basin (lead by former Umatilla County Commissioner and current Water Resources Commissioner Dennis Doherty).


The signals are encouraging for funding of water development, even though the total amount of bonding requests clearly outstrip the resources available. On May 29, the Governor's office is expected to speak in support of the water bonds.


AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell can answer your water related questions.  


Public Safety



AOC Joins United for Justice Lobby Day for Justice Reinvestment Grants 

County Commissioners joined sheriffs, district attorneys, community corrections directors and 50 others as part of a coalition advocating for $53 million in justice reinvestment grant funding.  The unprecedented coalition also included defense lawyers, business representatives, victims advocates, and nonprofit organizations. 

Approximately 50 legislators met with the coalition throughout the day to stress the need for funding, which in turn saves the state from having to spend money to build a new prison.  House Bill 3194 (2013) created the fund to go towards reentry and recidivism reduction programs. The bill also implemented modest sentencing reforms.

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


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Juniper Update

House Bill 2998 has been scheduled for a possible reconsideration and work session in the Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development on Monday. This is the bill that provides funding for small scale grants, technical assistance and workforce training. 


The Oregon Self Determination, Community and Wild Bird Investment Act 

This bill (formerly HB 2401) has broad and diverse support to collect a 5-cent/pound excise tax on the sale of wild bird feed to generate between $2-4 million/biennium. Half the funds would go to voluntary actions identified in the State's collaboratively-developed Sage Grouse Action Plan as part of Oregon's effort to avert the need for an ESA-listing in fall 2015. The other half would go towards voluntary actions benefitting other wild bird species and Oregon Conservation Strategy habitats in urban and rural landscapes statewide, as well as engaging new and underserved communities in conservation, outdoor education and recreation. Supporters, including AOC, are currently searching for a vehicle for the language of this bill. 


Natural Gas Workgroup

On Tuesday, Senate Bill 32 moved out of the House Committee on Energy and Environment. The -3 amendments were adopted which will invite interested local government officials to participate in the Public Utility Commission's work group. The group will study methods to expand natural gas service to areas that do not have access.


Biomass to Energy Project Development Grant

With generous funding from the USDA Forest Service, today the Oregon Department of Forestry posted a new Opportunity Announcements on ORPIN (the state's procurement portal) to solicit grant applications for biomass to energy project development. The agency has $75,000 to support biomass to energy project development statewide. Next calendar year, the agency will make an additional $75,000 available to support biomass to energy projects statewide.


Opportunity #: ODF-2211-15 Statewide Wood Energy Team-Woody Biomass Grant Application

Application Due Date: June 15, 2015  12:01 PM PST

Who to Contact: Patricia Morgan503-945-7234  


To access the solicitations, please log in to ORPIN and locate the Opportunity Announcement using the Opportunity No. or search for opportunities issued by ODF - Salem Headquarters (Department of Forestry).


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


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. 


NACo Presidential Appointments

Become a NACo Leader and Make a Difference

A great deal of NACo's strength is in its committees and that strength is reflected in the commitment and active participation revealed throughout our committee structure.


These appointments are for:

  • Policy steering committee and subcommittee chairs and vice chairs
  • LUCC and RAC chairs, vice chairs and members
  • At-Large appointments to the NACo Board of Directors
  • Standing committee chairs, vice chairs and members
  • Ad Hoc committee, task force and advisory board chairs, vice chairs and members

The Presidential Appointments Application Form must be completed by everyone who wants to be considered for a leadership or committee appointment on a standing or ad hoc committee for the 2015 - 2016 presidential year. The application form is available online at NACo's web site: Presidential Appointments Application.


Please note: steering committee membership is NOT a part of this application process. State associations are responsible for nominating general policy steering committee members. To become a members of a steering committee you must fill out the steering committee nomination form and submit it to your state association, who will submit the nomination to NACo.


Please address questions to Jamie Richards at 202.942.4258. 


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.