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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

The Calm Before the Storm  

Deadline Looms, Road Show Begins     

April 7, 2015

In This Issue
Ways & Means Road Show
AOC Meeting Day
Health & Human Services
Public Safety
Natural Resources
Energy, Environment & Land Use
A Quote
WIR Conference
Counties Matter
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
Are There Storm Clouds in the Future?

Salem - A big deadline looms over the Capitol this week. A bill must have a work session scheduled in its chamber of origin by this Friday, April 10th, or it won't be heard from again. The next big deadline is April 21st when any bill that is scheduled for a work session must have had that work session or it won't be heard from again. Of course, any dead bill can come back to life as a gut and stuff, but we will leave that discussion to the legislative observers who have nothing better to do than look for guts and stuff like that.


As the deadline looms, legislators are also working on budget issues which have, to just about everyone's surprise, generated a fair amount of discussion. AOC's crack policy staff is monitoring the budget discussions closely and will report when necessary on the impacts those discussions will have on Oregon counties. Please see the article in this edition of Oregon Trails about the Joint Ways and Means Committee Road Show which could provide you and your county an opportunity to provide input into the state budget discussions.  


So, it appears the Legislature is still working quickly, but the pace has become somewhat routine, giving the impression of the calm before the storm.  


This report should calm your nerves.  


Ways and Means Road Show

In years past, the Oregon Legislature's Joint Ways and Means Committee has embarked on a "road show" in April. Basically, this means the committee holds hearings in selected communities around the state to provide Oregon taxpayers an opportunity to weigh in on the budgeting process still underway in the Legislature.  


The presiding officers of the Legislature have authorized the schedule of the field hearings which means the members of the Ways and Means Committee will have excused absences from other legislative activity in order to attend the hearings. Not all committee members are able to attend every hearing, but the turnout is usually substantial which means you and other county officials should make every effort to attend the hearing nearest you.  


As the committee posts additional information, we will let you know via email.  Please contact AOC if you need information or assistance in putting together talking points. Here is the schedule for the committee:   


Friday, April 10 - La Grande

Gilbert Center, Eastern Oregon University

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


Saturday, April 11 - Boardman

SAGE Center, Port of Morrow

12:30 pm - 2:00 pm


Tuesday, April 14 - Lincoln City

Lincoln City Cultural Center

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm


Thursday, April 16 - Gresham

Mount Hood Community College

7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Tuesday, April 21 - Portland

PCC Rock Creek Campus

7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Thursday, April 23 -Springfield

(location to be determined)

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm


Friday, April 24 - Klamath Falls

Oregon Institute of Technology

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


Saturday, April 25 - Grants Pass

Performing Arts Center Lecture Hall at Grants Pass High School

12:30 pm - 2:00 pm


Please monitor your email for addtional details for the hearings. Please consider being part of the process. Thank you.


Please feel free to contact Gil Riddell or Eric Schmidt at AOC for additional information.



April 13th - AOC Meeting Day in Salem

Most of the AOC steering committees will hold meetings Monday, April 13th, beginning at 8:00 am. Agendas have started going out and more will follow.


We hope to have the meetings done by 11:15 so that lunch can be served and beginning at 11:45 am PDT, the NACo policy team will provide AOC with an update on waters of the U.S., SRS and transportation legislation at the federal level via a conference call. 


The Legislative Committee meeting will begin at noon, following the NACo briefing, and the Board of Directors will convene once the Legislative Committee has completed its business, probably around 6:00 or 7:00 pm (OK, probably not, it will just seem like it).  


Please plan to attend your steering committee meetings, the Legislative Committee meeting and we look forward to Board members sticking around. We will have teleconference and videoconferencing available for those of you who cannot be in Salem, but you'll be on your own for lunch. 


Please contact Member Services Director Mckenzie Farrell with any questions about Monday, April 13th.


Health and Human Services

There were a few big events in Public Health in the past week. The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services heard public testimony on the Public Health budget. AOC packed the room and dominated the witness chair.


Directors from Washington, Polk and Yamhill counties were on hand, along with Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson. Silas Halloran-Steiner (Yamhill) and his family had a special treat when his kids were invited to sit up at the dais with committee members. Overall, it was a strong showing from counties. We heard no promises regarding the budget, but did get the impression that the committee understood the plight of local public health departments.


In other public health updates, the first round of amendments for the Public Health Modernization bill were adopted this week. While the committee approved the amendments, they have not moved the bill to the floor yet. There is still work to be done to get the bill right and Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, understands that. A group of county lobbyists are working to develop language for the (dash) -2 amendments this week. More to come...


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


Public Safety

Enhanced State Police Presence Stressed

Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler publicly thanked Oregon State Police Superintendent Rich Evans last week during the department's budget hearing in front of the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Safety. 


"Superintendent Evans attended all four of our (AOC) public safety summits and understands the need for local law enforcement to collaborate with each other," said Wheeler.


Commissioner Wheeler also provided details about Polk County's public safety crisis, which has become a common scene in many Oregon counties facing fiscal distress. Since March 2014, Polk County limited its sheriff's patrol to 10 hours per day and has had over 2,200 calls to 9-1-1 where callers were told a deputy was not available. In some serious cases, state police were able to send troopers from the Salem or McMinnville offices.


"The state police has really stepped up in Polk County and around the state," said Commissioner Wheeler.


Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers, Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins, and Washington County District Attorney Bob Herrman also testified before the committee, urging the committee to fund more troopers, crime lab services, and dedicated fish and wildlife troopers.


L-R, Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler, Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins, State Police Superintendent Rich Evans, Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers, and Washington County District Attorney Bob Herrman 


Justice Reinvestment Summit draws more than 450  

Over 450 attendees, including approximately 50 county elected officials showed up in Salem on Monday for the first justice reinvestment summit, hosted by the Criminal Justice Commission and sponsored by AOC and other county affiliate groups. The summit featured Governor Kate Brown, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Department of Corrections Director Collette Peters, and speakers from county and state government talking about successful programs created by House Bill 3194 (2013).


"Thank you for the work that you are doing in your communities" Gov. Brown said, as she opened the general session. "I was there when we passed Senate Bill 1145 to send resources to counties and I will continue to support justice reinvestment programs so you can continue your work."


Two dozen county elected officials took a moment to take a shuttle bus to the Capitol to urge legislators to fully fund the justice reinvestment program at the level proposed in the Governor's Recommended Budget - $58.5 million. The group, which included judges, commissioners, sheriffs, district attorneys, and a justice of the peace, used a practice that is common among lobbyists in the building - sending notes to members while the House is in session and "pulling" legislators from the floor. 


Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts lobbies Rep. Greg Barreto,


Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice lobbies Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach



At lunch, numerous legislators and staff bused from the Capitol to the Salem Convention Center to chat with local officials from their counties. They heard from two of the state's public safety task force co-chairs, Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany.


"We need to continue making the push for full funding of justice reinvestment," according to Rep. Williamson.


AOC policy manager Patrick Sieng keeps an eye on Public Safety issues and carries a badge.


Natural Resources

AOC weighs in on three natural resources subjects  

During the week there were opportunities to put AOC on the record on three natural resources related subjects, each in a different committee.


AOC and others, including Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith, received a mixed reception from the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water when testifying in support of the transfer of most federal public lands to the state. A group representing the American Lands Council, a Utah-based organization advocating for such a transfer, handed out t-shirts and spoke of the need to "return our lands."  


AOC spoke in favor of both House Bill 3240 and House Joint Memorial 13, which used the "whereas clauses" in the AOC Resolution 2015 L1. HB 3240 and the AOC resolution proposed a legislative study on a transfer as the logical first step in the process. The difference between the two, however, was that the bill did not include a position on the study group for a county governing body member. AOC took the opportunity, after describing the circumstances that call for federal transfer, to request an amendment to HB 3240 to add a county member to the study. Commissioner Smith had done the same earlier.


The House committee questioned the cost and worried that not much would change, because federal environmental laws would still apply to the lands, even in state hands.


Regarding predator control, being discussed by the Ways & Means Natural Resources Subcommittee as it looks over the Department of Fish & Wildlife proposed 2015-17 budget, AOC submitted its own testimony explaining how counties have had to carry the load of funding for federal Wildlife Services. 


In the 2009-11 biennium, counties were contributing seven times more than the state for predator control. Fortunately, the budgets of ODFW and Agriculture have been increasing funding to Wildlife Services to a point where the county load has lessened to about two and one-half times that of the state. AOC advocated for continued increases. AOC also joined the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregonians for Food & Shelter, and Oregon Sheep Growers Association in a letter to the Ways & Means co-chairs, Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin and Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, in support of the increase proposed in the Governor's Recommended Budget.


The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, seemed warm to an excellent visual presentation by Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, on the importance and safety of modern mining and reclamation. AOC weighed in to support House Bills 3089, 3096, and 3269, which direct studies by the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries on mineral potential in the state and how to increase local revenues through mining operations. The committee chair indicated informally that there could well be a work session on those bills. 


AOC policy director Gil Riddell handles revenue and finance issues and natural resource issues. 



Veterans Legislation Update 

At its April 13th morning meeting, the AOC Veterans Steering Committee will be discussing whether to SUPPORT the following list of bills; any bills that gain the support of the Veterans Steering Committee will be forwarded to the AOC Legislative Committee for a formal vote during its afternoon meeting on April 13th.   


SB 89 Would authorize county governing bodies to appoint volunteers to provide support services and assistance to veterans and their spouses, dependents and survivors in able to augment and assist the work of county veterans' service officers. Also sets up framework for ODVA to assist with background checks and to provide training support for volunteers. Similar provisions of this bill were originally contained in SB 638, which the AOC Legislative Committee voted to support on March 9th.


SB 691 Would "reinstate" state veterans benefits for those who received a dishonorable discharge based solely on their sexual orientation. ODVA is working with the sponsors of the bill on amendments to make the bill as effective as possible; affording LGBT veterans a full array of VA benefits will require changes in federal law.


SB 780 Directs Department of Corrections to establish pilot program for mental health treatment for inmates engaged in intensive alternative incarceration addiction program who are service members and who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 


HB 2230 Would require Director of Oregon Health Authority to notify Director of Veterans' Affairs upon receipt of certain written information from member or veteran of uniformed service, if authorized to do so by member or veteran. Similar to bills in previous sessions dealing with the Department Motor Vehicles and the Department of Human Services.


HB 2763/SB 531 Would authorize the state, counties, municipalities, or political subdivisions to establish and administer programs to supplement the military pay of employees who are on leave due to military duty. The amount to be paid may not exceed the base salary amount the employee was earning on the date the leave of absence began----i.e. so that military employees don't "go backwards" in terms of their salary as a result of being deployed.


HJM 14 Requests that Department of Veterans Affairs Portland Regional Benefit Office release data regarding Patient-Centered Community Care Program (PC3). This program was recently created by the VA to offer community health care option outside of the VA Healthcare System. PC3 was funded at a level of $10 billion nationally and is in addition to the VA's $10 billion Choice Card Program.


Deployed Oregon Guard Units Returning Home Soon 

Oregon National Guard soldiers are scheduled to return to Oregon from Afghanistan and Kuwait in several waves beginning in early April. Most of the 923 soldiers will be returning from Afghanistan, where they have been deployed since late last summer.


Tentative dates for the returns and public ceremonies for the 41st Brigade units include: 

  • 147 soldiers of the Bend-based 1-82 Cavalry Squadron should arrive in the state in early April. A demobilization ceremony will take place on May 16.


  • One company of soldiers from the Ashland-based 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry Regiment should return to Oregon at the end of April. The rest of the battalion is scheduled to return in mid-June. A public demobilization ceremony for both groups is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 8 in the Medford area.
  • The largest group, 324 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry should return to Oregon in mid-May. They, as well as the group that came home earlier in March, will attend a demobilization ceremony tentatively scheduled for the morning of June 13 at the Linn County Fairgrounds.
  • Another unit, the Warrenton-based 234th Engineers, has been deployed to Kuwait. Its 161 soldiers are expected to return in late April and early May. A ceremony is tentatively scheduled for late May at West Salem High School.
AOC policy manager Andy Smith works hard for veterans on your behalf.


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Looking Forward  

There are several bills scheduled for hearing this week:

  • The State Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) held its budget hearings this week (SB 5511) in the Natural Resources Subcommittee of Ways and Means. One area of particular concern was the proposed elimination of numerous positions from ODFW including several in the fish passage program. This would result in a bottle-neck in the removal-fill permit application process. These cuts could potentially cause the county road programs to have significant delays.
  • SB 245 and SB 263, the two Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) materials management bills moved out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. AOC worked hard with DEQ to develop an annual rebate provision for the nine most economically distressed counties in the state and an exemption for alternative daily cover. The bills now move to the Senate Floor.
  • Clean Diesel Bills SB 824 (Senate Energy and Natural Resources) and HB 3310 (House Health Care) were held last Wednesday. They heard testimony in both committees for replicating California diesel emissions regulations in Oregon. Part of this process would be the implementation of required retrofit or replacement of publicly owned trucks that do not meet certain standards, which are not yet enumerated in the bill. Testimony was mixed in support and opposition. AOC took this as an opportunity to highlight the County Roads Need Study and the estimated $505 million dollar annual shortfall in county road budgets.
Continuing to Look Foward
  • SB 778 gives DOGAMI authority to prohibit the construction of new facilities in an identified tsunami inundation zone if the department determines that no available methods can adequately mitigate the risk of unreasonable danger to occupant safety at the site from a possible tsunami. This would take the land use decision away from local planners. SB 778 is up for a public hearing in Senate Veterans and Emergency Preparedness.
  • SB 808 is up for a public hearing in Senate Veterans and Emergency Preparedness. The bill directs Department of Human Services (DHS) to coordinate and facilitate state and local community resilience planning to prepare for and respond to catastrophic consequences and mass displacement that may result from naturally occurring seismic events.
  • SB 94 directs Land Conservation and Development Commission (DLCD) to require local governments in which there are communities at substantial risk of experiencing severe impact from tsunami inundation to plan for tsunami resilience.
  • HB 3447 is in House Veterans and Emergency Preparedness. This bill directs Land Conservation and Development Commission(LCDC) to develop guidelines for tsunami resilience planning and to require local governments that have communities at substantial risk of experiencing severe impact from a tsunami inundation to plan for tsunami resilience.

This is a busy week in House Rural Communities, Land Use in Water. The following bills have public hearings :

  • HB 2401-would impose an excise tax on wild bird feed to be used for bird conservation efforts including the sage grouse.
  • HB 3367-the bill would require a conditional use permit for recreational paths in exclusive farm use land.
  • HB 3416-would require the award of attorney fees to the prevailing party on a review of land use planning decisions.
  • HB 2830-- Modifies time period for local government to take action on application for permit, limited land use decision or zone change after remand based on final order of Land Use Board of Appeals.
  • HB 3412-- Requires State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to develop comprehensive landslide hazard mitigation program.

HB 2447 and HB 2448 are receiving a public hearing in House Revenue. HB 2447 extends the sunset for the tax credit for residential alternative energy devices and HB 2448 extends the sunset for tax credits for energy conservation projects. AOC supports these bills.


SB 730 would establish the Biomass Heat for Rural Schools Fund. While the bill does not include financing, it is an interesting approach. The bill will receive a public hearing in Senate Education.


SB 846 which establishes a task force to study essential indigenous anadromous salmonid habitat and its relationship to ditches and other man-made water conveyance channels will receive a public hearing in Senate Environment and Natural Resources. AOC supports this bill.


HB 2984 and HB 2985, two bills that take a creative approach to urban forestry, will receive work sessions in House Agriculture and Natural Resources.


HB 2449 will have a work session this week in Senate Energy and Environment. HB 2449 extends the sunset on biomass collection or production tax credit. The bill does a couple of things: first, it changes the reimbursement rate for collection of biomass materials. Second, it creates a pilot project to provide tax credits for biomass energy production. If an entity collects one tax credit they may not collect the other. The bill also includes a provision for ODOE to report back to the legislature. AOC supports HB 2449.


AOC policy manager Mark Nystrom handles Energy, Environment & Land Use issues and has a very full calendar.


Transportation/Community & Economic Development

Latest on the Gain Share Bill 

On April 3, the Gain Share bill, SB 129A, passed out of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. The bill has been referred to Ways & Means. Only those local governments who receive in excess of $5 million per year from Gain Share distributions will be impacted. Currently, that means only Washington County is affected.


The local share of Gain Share revenue created from Washington County's SIP agreements would be distributed as follows:

  • 15% ($14.25 million) to Career Technical Education (CTE) statewide distribution.
  • 15% ($14.25 million) to OSU Statewide Service Program (OSU Extension).
  • 30% ($28.5 million) to State School Fund for equity distribution across Oregon.
  • 40% ($38 million) to local governments for additional distribution to local schools and other taxing districts.

The amendments also include a 10-year extension in Gain Share until January 1, 2029; language making it clear that Gain Share distributions continue for the life of a SIP; and a budgetary change moving Gain Share distributions from an expenditure to a revenue transfer, ensuring that all future distributions will be automatic and not subject to legislative approval.


Much haggling occurred over the distribution percentages in committee. We believe those are now settled.  However, the extension of the program to 2029 seems to be an issue of concern behind the scenes. This extension and the other improvements listed above ensure the stability of the program and the certainty that will be provided to businesses considering investment in our state. 


Please contact members of the Ways and Means Committee to show your support for this extremely important economic development tool.  


Transportation Package at a Dead End?

The parties in question seem to be more divided than ever on getting a transportation package passed this session. At the outset of the session, the Legislature, business leaders, local officials, and impacted stake holders all seemed so hopeful that a package would pass, allowing improvements to the sorry state of our transportation system. Although not yet gone forever, hope has unfortunately faded as both parties dig in their heels when it comes to making concessions to get the talks moving again. 


Although AOC will continue to push for a transportation package, we must ensure that if no package comes to fruition, we are not negatively impacted by having the cost of the Department of Motor Vehicle's (DMV) Service Transformation Program (STP) and the DMV Debit/Credit Acceptance come off the top of the State Highway Fund. The cost of these two DMV projects would take an estimated $39 Million off the top of the State Highway Fund in the next 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 are working with the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee on a bill that will identify funding sources for these two programs. Stay tuned!


SB 668 - Not Dead Yet!

AOC's bill relating to the ability of counties to charge utilities for work done in our county road right-of-way, SB 668 with (dash) -2 amendments, has not yet been given a public hearing. We continue to push from our end and are working on lining up testimony to ensure we are ready when the date comes! If your county would benefit greatly from being able to recover the costs of permitting, inspections, cleanup and repair, please contact Mary Stern so that we can get you on the list to testify. 


Did you Know....?


Hopefully by now, you have been receiving and reading the daily factoids related to county roads and our transportation system. These little facts are being shared by AOC to help educate you, the Legislature, the media, and the public about county road departments and the responsibilities of our counties associated with maintaining our portion of the state transportation system. Special thanks to Daniel Hauser for putting these factoids together.  


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


 Quote from 1866
 "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session."  Gideon J. Tucker, American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician from New York.

Cynics would say it applies in 2015, but optimists would say the internet has made things better.  

 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.