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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

Stress Levels Rise  

Capitol atmosphere gets testy     

April 14, 2015

In This Issue
Natural Resources
Health & Human Services
Public Safety
Energy, Environment & Land Use
A word
WIR Conference
Counties Matter
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
Let the sun shine

Salem -  Apparently tempers are getting a little short in our state Capitol as the 2015 legislative session nears what most agree is the mid-point. 


The AOC Legislative Committee met on Monday, April 13th and considered more than three dozen bills that had been discussed and decided on in AOC steering committee meetings earlier. AOC policy managers now have a clear path forward on several important, and some not so important, bills in the coming weeks. This edition of Oregon Trails has updates on some of the legislation still pending in Salem.  


NACo lobbyists briefed the Legislative Committee on Monday on several bills pending in Congress. Among those bills is HR 2, which contains the reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools. Basically, the U.S. Senate needs to act on HR 2, and that action is expected this week. NACo staff did not raise any red flags, but did urge Oregon commissioners to contact Senators Wyden and Merkley and urge a yes vote on the bill.


As always, if you have questions about the status of any bill or issue, please feel free to contact AOC. If we don't know the answer, we'll find someone who does. We reserve the right to obfuscate.  


 Natural Resources

Council of Forest Trusts Land Counties raises its profile. 


The Council of Forest Trusts Land Counties (CFTLC), which represents the 15 counties that transferred forest lands to the state over time under the Forest Acquisition Act (1941), lands that became State Forests (e.g., Tillamook and Clatsop), testified before the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee in favor of an amended House Bill 3210. 


HB 3210 would require a minimum level of harvest annually in each state forest district based on anticipated growth. CFTLC requested amendments to: 1) reduce the minimum harvest from 85 percent to 80 percent; and 2) delete a subsection that would require other districts to make up a shortfall of harvest in a district. The latter provision will create winners and losers under the revenue distribution formula, which would violate an informal tenet of CFTLC that all counties respect and protect the other counties' interests. 


The first requested amendment would put the actual harvest within the expectations of return under a new forest management plan currently being developed by the Board of Forestry. This amendment is not intended to obviate the board process, rather it is intended to provide some legislative protection to the 15 counties that the board will keep the historical interests of the counties in the forefront of their deliberations. The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee ordered that the amendments be drafted. Action on them is likely this Thursday, April 16.


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


Health and Human Services

While we wait for the next version of amendments on the Public Health Modernization bill, attention has turned to tobacco and e-cigarettes. 


House Bill 2546, which adds e-cigarettes to the Indoor Clean Air Act has the votes to pass out of the Senate - at least that's what we're told - after much discussion over whether the bill would be amended to allow sampling of "e-juice" (the liquid nicotine solution used in vaporizers - often flavored) in vape shops. The discussion seems to have shifted to Senate Bill 417, which would create a licensing requirement for retailers selling tobacco or e-cigarette/vaporizer products. 


Oregon is currently in the minority of states that do not already license tobacco retailers (as we do with liquor and likely will with marijuana). Amendments to SB 417 have been introduced that would create the sampling exemption for vape shops in the Indoor Clean Air Act. There has also been a mirror bill introduced in the House, with the exemption included: HB 3534


And just yesterday, a public hearing was held on SB 663 - the Senate version of the Public Health Modernization bill - to discuss "gut and stuff" amendments inserting the licensing and sampling language into this bill. The amendments were not adopted, and thus far, it is unclear which of these licensing bills is likely to move from committee - and in what form. 


In other e-cigarette news, the House Revenue Committee held a hearing last week on HB 2134, which the AOC Legislative Committee just voted to support; this bill would allow for the taxing of e-cigarettes, which appears to be a quickly growing market and thus far an untapped revenue source. 

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


Public Safety

9-1-1 Funding


Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard, co-chair of AOC's Public Safety Steering Committee, was in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 14th to advocate for more funding for the 9-1-1 system. AOC held four public safety summits last year, where increasing funding for 9-1-1 was one of the priorities developed. Currently, the 9-1-1 tax, which is 75 cents per month per phone, is one of the lower rates in the nation and only covers approximately 30 percent of 9-1-1 center operations. 


Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard chats with Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville


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



Tri-County Veteran's Round-Up Held in Pendleton on April 8th


Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock hosted an inaugural Tri-County Veteran's Round-Up in Pendleton on Wednesday, April 8th. The event was an effort to provide veterans residing in Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties with timely information and resources about important programs, services and benefits available to veterans and their families. Over 100 veterans attended the event. A hosted lunch was provided by Mario's Basque Bar B-Q.


The Round-Up focused on three major topics:

  • The latest news on VA Healthcare services in the region;
  • Outreach programs of the national non-profit The Wounded Warriors Project; and
  • The role and importance of County Veterans Services Officers (CVSOs) to access an array of VA benefits.

Rhonda Michael, the MyHealth eVet Coordinator from the Walla Walla VA Medical Center provided information about the Choice Card program, transportation vouchers, telehealth service and other information about new efforts to improve healthcare access in the VA system. Ross Magill, the regional director for The Wounded Warriors Project (WWP) office in Seattle shared information about their programs including peer support, wellness efforts, and local/national advocacy training. WWP serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, coincident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families. Gus Bedwell (ODVA staff) and Andy Smith (AOC staff) highlighted the key role and technical skill set of CVSOs. They both urged veterans not to be shy in utilizing the expertise of CVSOs when they are filing claims for benefits. Oregon is in the top ten nationally in terms of VA benefits per capita.


Additional attendees included Umatilla County CVSOs Stan Getz and Glenn Scott, Union County CVSO Byron Whipple, Morrow County CVSO Linda Skendzel and Kathleen Cathey from Senator Wyden's office In La Grande.


Commissioner Murdock plans to host another Round-Up and other similar events in the future to improve outreach to veterans. An important step in this work was the recent opening of a CVSO office in Hermiston. 


Glenn Scott, Umatilla County CVSO and AOC Policy Manager Andy Smith


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


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Land Use Update

It was an extremely busy week last week in the land use field. While a number of land use bills are moving, none can potentially impact counties more than SB 359. This bill would limit the land use appeal fees implemented by counties, forcing counties to backfill the land use process with county general fund, or lose local control and send appeals to LUBA, which will still cost the county money. AOC urges you to reach out to your senators and ask them to oppose this bill. The House companion bill, HB 3379 is also scheduled for a work session on Tuesday with the purposes to moving it to another committee.


Clean Diesel Bills

One of the two "Clean Diesel" bills, SB 824, received attention last week. Part of this bill would have been 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 (but would most likely be similar to California's legislation). However, a small group was pulled together and it was announced that a task force would be put together in the interim. AOC is advocating for county representation on the task force to address our equipment and public health concerns.


Natural Disaster Planning

Several natural disaster-related bills are still moving. SB 94, HB 3447, HB 2633 and SB 808 all are scheduled for work sessions. While AOC supports protecting our communities from natural disasters, county planning departments have worked tirelessly to meet many of the proposed requirements and a few of the bills include potentially unfunded mandates. AOC will continue to watch these bills closely and push for a seat at the table when workgroups/task forces are formed. 


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


Transportation/Community & Economic Development

We Have a Hearing!

SB 668, AOC's bill on county road right-of-way user fees, will have a hearing and possible work session on Wednesday, April 15 at 1:00 pm in the Senate Business and Transportation Committee.  This bill, with its (dash)-1 and (dash)-2 amendments, will allow counties to charge utility companies for costs associated with permitting, inspecting and repairing the work done in county rights-of-way by utilities - public utilities and electric coops excluded. 


This would not be a franchise fee like cities have. It would allow each county who wishes to do so to set fees for permitting and inspection of utility work; it would also allow counties to recover the cost of repairing damages caused by the utility. However, it is not merely a cost recovery tool; counties may negotiate a fee with the utilities if they wish.


This is an optional tool for counties. If your county wishes to use this tool, you would be precluded from charging public entities, including co-ops, except for communications service providers. (Under federal law we cannot treat public and private telecomm providers differently.)


Cities have been charging utility companies for years. Counties are prohibited by law from doing so. This equates to an unfunded mandate in that counties must spend road fund dollars to subsidize the time it takes staff to ensure utility companies are leaving roadways in good condition. Furthermore, counties have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain county roads for the benefit of the public.


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


A word from the spin doctor
to make (something) more difficult to understand
 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.