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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

Casting the Snakes     

Salem celebrates St. Patrick's Day    

March 17, 2015

In This Issue
Health & Human Services
Public Safety
Finance Issues
Energy, Environment & Land Use
A word
PILT Action Needed
County Health Learning Challenge
National County Government Month
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Quick Links
An early spring in Salem

Salem - A weekend storm dropped plenty of precipitation on Salem, knocking a lot of the blossoms off the trees that line the mall. Nonetheless, the beauty of the early spring in the valley continues to amaze those of us who live and work in this part of Oregon. 


What is also amazing is the continued pace of activity at the State Capitol as the 2015 Oregon Legislature cranks out bills by the bucket. There isn't always complete agreement on the legislation that is making its way through the chambers, but there is general agreement that the movement is somewhat faster this session than in those of the recent past. We can only hope there isn't burn out or melt down as the session moves along.


As record rain fell on parts of Oregon over the weekend, record drought persisted in other parts of the state. Tuesday, Governor Brown officially declared drought emergencies in Malheur and Lake Counties. Several other eastern and southern Oregon counties are preparing drought declarations for the governor this week. The governor's drought declaration allows increased flexibility in how water is managed to ensure limited supplies are used as efficiently as possible. The governor is also working with Oregon's Congressional Delegation and federal agencies in addition to counties to address drought-related issues.    

Governance Issues 

County Clerks' Priority Bills Move to Senate Floor


The Oregon Association of County Clerks (OACC) introduced three priority bills this session.  Senate Bill 27 would make a number of improvements and clarifications to laws impacting the recording of documents. Senate Bill 28, which OACC worked closely with the Secretary of State to craft, would make a number of improvements and clarifications to Oregon election laws. Finally, Senate Bill 29 would reform the current process of electing Precinct Committee Persons (PCPs), increasing efficiencies, eliminating needless elections, and saving taxpayer dollars. SB 29 is many years in the making, and has finally reached a consensus among the key stakeholders this legislative session. All three bills are now on their way to the Senate floor with a "do pass" recommendation.

Public Contracting and Procurement Shenanigans

Numerous bills have been introduced to change the manner of public contracting and procurement in Oregon. Some of the bills would cause significant burdens and expense to local governments. Although only a handful of these bills have received a hearing thus far, many more are scheduled for hearings in the next few weeks. As a result, AOC and other local government associations, as well as numerous individual counties, cities, and special districts, are coordinating efforts to improve bills where they can be improved, and oppose bills that cannot be fixed. Special thanks to Brian Smith, Multnomah County purchasing manager, for his extraordinary efforts in analyzing each piece of legislation for all of the local government stakeholders, alerting us to critical issues, and testifying where needed.


Joint Marijuana Plans Come Forward as the Smoke Clears


The Joint Marijuana Committee continues to hold hearings to further its work toward implementing Ballot Measure 91 (marijuana legalization, taxation, and regulation). Although a slew of bills have been introduced relating to marijuana, and hearings are being held, none of those bills will be moving out of the Joint Marijuana Committee. The current plan is for two omnibus bills to be crafted:


1. A technical improvements bill that will move quickly. It is designed to clean up certain provisions of Measure 91 that a broad consensus of stakeholders agrees upon. Legislative Counsel is currently working on that bill, which will likely contain many of the provisions summarized in this document from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which is charged with implementing the retail provisions of Measure 91 (the technical fix bill will include many of the "Commission Requests," most of the "Technical Fixes," and a small number of the "Other" items from this document). Public hearings will soon be conducted on this omnibus technical improvements bill. The purpose of moving this bill quickly is to provide OLCC with as much certainty as possible as it begins it rulemaking process later this month.


2. A big policy bill that will deal with all of the remaining challenging issues, including what changes should be made to the medical marijuana supply chain, whether to modify the Measure 91 taxation and distribution scheme, potential adjustments to the personal allowance and growing provisions of Measure 91, local regulation, taxation, and opt out of retail businesses, land use, cross-pollination challenges between cannabis and hemp, and many more. AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett has been working with a number of select groups of legislators and stakeholders on these issues, and will continue to update AOC members as things progress. 


Rob Bovett, AOC legal counsel, handles governance issues for AOC.


Health and Human Services

On Tuesday, March 17th, the Oregon Health Authority's bill aimed at reducing the "Aid and Assist" population at the Oregon State Hospital is up for a hearing and possible work session in the House Judiciary Committee. HB 2420 would require that when the court questions the fitness to proceed of a defendant charged with a Class C Felony or less, the defendant shall have an interview with the community mental health program to determine if community services are available to treat the defendant (as opposed to sending them to the State Hospital). This bill is linked with a $4 million Policy Option Package (POP) from OHA that would put additional funding into the counties that are top utilizers of the state hospital. AOC has taken a position in support of this bill and will be testifying in support on Tuesday.


SB 14, Sen. Rod Monroe's, D-Portland, bill to remove the preemption on local tobacco tax, had a public hearing on March 12th. AOC testified in favor of the bill, along with Multnomah and Lane counties and City of Portland. It seems the bill was scheduled for a hearing without pressure from local governments, so we are working to find out if this was a courtesy hearing, or if Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, has intentions of actually moving this bill. We will be working with Senators Monroe and Hass to determine the feasibility of this bill gaining traction in the Senate. 


Stacy Michaelson, AOC policy manager, can answer any questions you might have on health and human services issues.


Public Safety

This past week was relatively quiet as far as public safety legislation is concerned. However, that appeared to be the calm before the storm. The week of March 16th promises a lot of activity dealing with public safety issues and we will have a complete report in the next edition of Oregon Trails.  


AOC policy manager Patrick Sieng keeps us all safe.


Finance Issues 

Central Assessment


AOC offered improvements to Senate Bill 611A (central assessment) on Monday, March 16th with presented testimony to the House Revenue Committee during a public hearing on SB 611A, related to reform of central assessment. A few of the points in that testimony follow:

  • AOC understands the limitations that private proprietary protections present to legislative fact-finding. There is no equivalent in the private sector of the Public Records Act. AOC greatly appreciates the effort to which the House Revenue Committee at the outset of hearings on SB 611A, in spite of proprietary limitations, has pressed for clarification and documentation of sweeping claims made by witnesses, particularly those related to relative tax burdens and future business plans
  • AOC fully supports the current amendments in the bill that modestly and carefully liberalize standards to protect data centers from central assessment. 
  • The resulting change in cost of local annual public resources of the initial exemption formula presented in early February ($2.3 million) to SB 611A in late February is an exponential increase ($16.2 million annually). It is an open secret that the major contributing factor of the exponential increase in loss of property tax revenue is the late-coming exemption for the value of franchises and their distinct and more favorable treatment in the complex exemption formulas. Unlike the other two key exemptions (Federal Communication Commission license; satellites, with FCC license related to the satellite), which are calculated in the initial determination of value of the company, franchises were removed from the valuation formula and became a subtraction to Assessed Value. This, of course, avoids any reduction to the full value of the franchises under Measure 50 (1997). This is a basic imbalance in treatment among centrally assessed companies and creates an excessive and unnecessary loss of local public resources. AOC urges the House Revenue Committee, as a first step and at the very least, to delete the distinct and special treatment franchises receive in SB 611A. If they are to be retained as exemptions, AOC asks that the committee treat franchises the same as the other two of the three key exemptions. That is, exempt the book value of a communication company's franchises only from the initial calculation of Unitary Value (real market value) of the company. This will come closer to leveling the cost of the three key exemptions and provide more parity of treatment among competing centrally assessed communication companies.
  • AOC also will support amendments to SB 611A that make the language of the bill more clear, reduce opportunities for wasteful lawsuits, make administration of the process by DOR easier, provide adequate incentives for the right kind of new development, and reduce the loss of public resources.
  • A comment about comparing the taxes collected from communications companies that were locally assessed in FY 2008-09 to those collected later under central assessment.  The meaning of the Comcast decision is that the Supreme Court has agreed that these companies are properly centrally assessed, and in effect, could have been centrally assessed years before FY 2008-09. It could be said that those companies caught a break with years of significant - and unwarranted - partial property tax exemptions.
  • AOC urges this committee to continue to ask hard questions and demand answers backed by objective data. A very frustrating element of making public policy on this subject is the lack of verified numbers to determine revenue impacts to local resources and appropriate incentives of the policy choices you contemplate. 

The committee plans to hold a work session on the bill Monday, March 23rd.


Property Tax Administration


This session, AOC is seeking funding for property tax administration. On March 12th at the Ways & Means General Government Subcommittee, AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell made a pitch on behalf of AOC for the resumption of the legislative appropriation to the County Assessment Function Funding Assistance Account (CAFFAA) of $5.2 million that was begun in 1999 but swept away in 2009.


There has been a significant reduction of state resources to property tax administration. The administrative processes required by Measures 5 (1990) and 50 (1997) are nearly indecipherable, yet the revenues they produce are critical to public services. With available resources counties lack the ability to fully discover new properties and improvements improperly missing from the tax rolls, which mean loss of potential for new revenues for education, public safety, physical and mental health, among other critical services.


A Department of Revenue study (11-04) with findings made before additional cutbacks in county A&T resources found: "The current level of funding allows all counties to fulfill most but not all of their critical program requirements" [emphasis added]; and funds are inadequate to maximize tax-generating revenue by maintaining active appraisal and omitted property discovery programs, to generate accurate or timely statistical data for system decision-makers, and to absorb significant statutorily mandated program changes.


County self-help: substantial, but not nearly enough.

  • Counties spend $99 million per year (FY 2014-15) to appraise, assess, and collect property taxes for all local taxing districts, while retaining a mere 17 percent of collections statewide.  (Education receives 45% of collections statewide). 
  • Pilot projects with great promise statewide. The Southwest Oregon Assessment & Taxation Coalition (Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, and Klamath) was formed to conduct pilot projects proposed by the counties. The pilots were kick-started in 2014 by a $345,000 legislative appropriation. The pilots -- 1) compliance auditing of business personal property returns; and 2) sharing commercial and industrial appraisers - are intended to pay for themselves and then some. 


In 1999, the Legislature began appropriating $5 million plus CPI/biennium through the Department of Revenue budget to the state assessment and taxation account (CAFFAA) to support assessment and collection of taxes for the state-funded education system.  This advanced the policy that beneficiaries of the service will help pay the cost.


Unfortunately, in the 2009 session dominated by the Great Recession and its accompanying finance challenges, the Legislature eliminated its biennial appropriation to the A&T fund, "sweeping" the $5.2 million for other state general fund programs. 


The reasons for the sweep of these critical state-shared revenues have passed.

Of the $99 million spent by counties in FY 2014-15, CAFFAA provides merely 20 percent of that total. As conceived in 1989, CAFFAA was intended to pay 35 percent of county property tax administration costs.


CAFFA has become so inadequate that the Governor's Recommended Budget for 2015-17 includes $1,836,000 of general funds for the Department of Revenue to fill the shortfall in the DOR share of 10 percent of CAFFA to perform industrial and centrally assessed valuation. By the way, resuming the legislative appropriation of $5.2 million, given the DOR 10 percent share of CAFFA, would reduce their Policy Option Package request to $1.3 million.


AOC will continue to press for a 10-year practice that was suddenly ended six years ago, and return the $5.2 million plus CPI/biennium general fund appropriation to CAFFAA.  


AOC policy director Gil Riddell handles revenue and finance issues for AOC.



AOC Commissioners Play Leading Role in Effort to Improve Veterans Preference Statute


Commissioners Bill Hall (Lincoln County) and Pat Farr (Lane County) are working with the Senate Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee to help improve Oregon's veterans preference statute.


The purposes of SB 87 are to:

  • Provide veterans a meaningful, fair and uniform hiring process for veterans preference in public employment
  • Emphasize importance of initial interviews for veterans and disabled veterans
  • Design universal methods for applying veterans preference that can be used by all public employers
  • Require employers to give the same weight to a veterans' transferable skills as the employer gives to skills and experience obtained outside of the military
  • Define terms clearly and use plain language that is easily understood by both veterans and employers

SB 87 is a comprehensive approach to veterans' preference in public employment that was developed by a diverse stakeholder work group, including counties, cities and state agencies. Based upon a request from members of the 2014 Legislature, SB 87 is the result of eight months of collaboration among a 13-member stakeholder work group; five of the stakeholders work group were veterans.


AOC policy manager Andy Smith works hard for veterans on your behalf.


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Looking Back


Last week there were a number of bills that had public hearings or work sessions in the Energy, Environment and Land Use fields:

  • On Tuesday HB 2448 received a work session and was moved to the Revenue Committee by prior reference. HB 2448 extends the sunset on energy conservation projects under $1M. It also allows the Department of Energy to require recertification of eligibility for tax credits and requires project owners to enter into performance agreements. AOC supports HB 2448 because it adds more oversight and transparency for ODOE's tax credit program.
  • SB 246 received a public hearing on Wednesday at the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. SB 246 authorizes Environmental Quality Commission to develop a low-interest loan program to complete on-site septic system repairs, replacements or upgrades. It also authorizes rulemaking for the loan program and establishes an On-site Septic System Loan Fund. Counties administer the on-site program in 24 counties around the state and AOC believes this would help local communities fix septic systems that pose a public environmental and health risk by providing low income residents a way to replace or repair their septic systems.
  • The Department of State Lands had their budget hearings, HB 5027, in the Natural Resources Subcommittee of Ways and Means. The public testimony was primarily focused on the management of the Elliot State Forest.
  • HB 2833 received a public hearing on Thursday in the House Energy and Environment Committee. HB 2833 adds woody biomass to types of green energy technology for which contracting agency must set aside 1.5 percent of contract price to include in public building. AOC supports HB 2833.

Looking forward


There are several bills scheduled for hearing this week as well:

  • On Monday, SB 249, will receive a work session in Senate Environment and Natural Resources. The bill allows the Department of State Lands to recoup its costs for wetland mitigation projects in areas where there previously was no wetland mitigation bank. Counties are responsible for the county road system in Oregon and at times counties have the need for wetland mitigation. In these cases it is helpful to have the ability to purchase "credits" from a mitigation bank in the area of the project. AOC supports SB 249.
  • In the same committee meeting, SB 752 will receive a public hearing. SB 752 conditionally exempts regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from combustion or decomposition of biomass. AOC supports the expansion of biomass heat and energy production.
  • On Tuesday in the Consumer Protection and Government Effectiveness Committee HB 2987 will receive a public hearing. HB 2987 proposes a fix to the 1.5% green technology requirement by removing the requirement for a county to hold in account or otherwise reserve moneys for including green energy technology in constructing, reconstructing or performing major renovation on public building if the county determines that including green energy technology is not appropriate. It also adds a requirement that the county report to the State Department of Energy the amount that the county would have spent to include green energy technology in constructing, reconstructing or performing major renovation of public building had the county  determined that doing so was appropriate.
  • This Tuesday HB 2447 will receive a work session and will most likely be moved to the Revenue Committee by prior reference. HB 2447 extends the Residential Energy Tax Credit. AOC supports the provisions in HB 2447 which will cap the tax credit incentives for category one alternative energy devices at 50 percent, provide rulemaking authority and allows the Department more flexibility in offering incentives.
  • The Department of Land Conservation and Development has its budget hearings this week (HB 5027) in the Natural Resources Subcommittee of Ways and Means. 

AOC policy manager Mark Nystrom handles Energy, Environment & Land Use issues



RIP 2015 Transportation Package?


Following a six hour debate on March 4, the House narrowly passed SB 324, the "Clean Fuels Bill" by a vote of 31-29.  Five Democrats voted with all Republicans against the bill.  Governor Brown signed the bill into law on Thursday, March 12, leading to what many believe is the demise of the proposed transportation package.   


The passage of SB 324 is anticipated to increase gas prices by $.04 to $.19 per gallon, making the transportation package, which funded by gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases, highly unlikely.


AOC will continue to work on the package with the hope that the legislature my revisit the Clean Fuels Bill later in the session to lessen some of the financial and regulatory impacts.  If that occurs, perhaps a transportation package will be possible.


On a related note, Rep. John Lively, D-Springfield, sponsored HB 3303, which contains many aspects of the Oregon Transportation Forum proposal.  Unfortunately, the 50/30/20 formula was not followed for any increased funding (an older version of the formula in statute was used).  A suggested amendment was drafted by ODOT staff to cure this defect.  However, at this point, the OTF leadership believes seeking the amendment is useless.  If by chance the package gains traction again, AOC will ensure the amendment is made. 


For further information or to provide a shoulder to cry on, contact policy manager Mary Stern.  


A word from the intern 
PILT Action Needed

Urge House Members to Sign Letter in Support of Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)


NACo is currently working with Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) champions in the House to urge members to sign onto a "Dear Colleague" letter to congressional leadership urging them to work in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to secure full funding for the PILT program for fiscal year FY 2016 and beyond. A copy of the letter, along with an updated list of cosigners, is available here . Please urge your House member to sign the Dear Colleague letter in support of future PILT funding by March 20, 2015. Here is more information on the letter.


NACo Contact:  Chris Marklund at or 202.942.4207 


County Health Learning Challenge

Applications Open for the NACo County Health Learning Challenge!



In partnership with the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, NACo presents an opportunity for up to three county teams to participate in the County Health Learning Challenge.  Using the Roadmaps to Health Take Action Cycle, this year-long collaborative challenge is intended to help the selected County Health Learning teams develop and strengthen cross-sector partnerships, select potential policy, systems and environmental changes to improve county health and put ideas into action to build a Culture of Health in their counties. Learn more and apply now!


NACo Contact: Andrew Whitacre at or 202.942.4215. 


National County Government Month


Tell Your Constituents about the Great Programs and Services Your County Provides!

National County Government Month (NCGM) is an annual celebration of county government held each April. This year's theme is "Counties Moving America Forward: The Keys are Transportation and Infrastructure," which is also the focus of NACo President Riki Hokama's presidential initiative. 


Start planning your NCGM activities today! To help you with that process, NACo has created a resource booklet that includes ideas and suggestions for activities you can do to raise awareness about the vital programs and services you provide to the residents of your county. 

To see the 2015 NCGM booklet, click here.


Visit for NCGM and NACo logos and a sample proclamation.  


Contact AOC Member Services Manager Mckenzie Farrell with questions.


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.