AOC Logo


Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

Winter Sets In       

It doesn't last forever      

December 12, 2014

In This Issue
AOC Public Safety Package
Privacy & Technology
Comcast Case
Wildfire Seasons
Woody Biomass
Energy & Environment
Human Services
Rural Economic Development
More Rural Economics
Road Report
Transportation Update
Broadband Update
Vets Committee One Year!
Vet Preference Report
Pot Program
NACo Legislative Conference
NACo Drug Discount Program
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links

Find us on Facebook
   Capitol 1-18-12

Salem - The short days and long nights of a Pacific Northwest winter have set. Nonetheless, life goes on and that includes activity in Washington, D.C., Salem, and 36 Oregon counties.  


In this edition of Oregon Trails, we have brief summations of the recently completed December interim legislative days. The lame duck Legislature put a number of proposals on the agenda for the 2015 Legislature to consider. Next year's Legislative session is shaping up to be interesting, complicated and perhaps even somewhat controversial. It won't be dull.  


The lame duck Congress is nearing the end of its useful existence. We really don't have much to say about what happened in DC this year, but we are looking forward to going back to our Nation's Capitol in February and finding out what the new Congress hopes to accomplish.


The 2014 AOC Annual Conference was held in Lane County the week before Thanksgiving and it was a huge success. The conference was well attended and we are still getting evaluation forms back, but all indications are that the conference offered a lot of information and plenty of opportunities for networking. Thanks to everyone who attended and participated.  


Congress Acted - sort of

As this is being written, Congress is in the final stages of approving a budget bill that will keep the U.S. Government open into the next year. However, that bill does not include funding for an extension of Secure Rural Schools. Two of Oregon's Members of Congress put out news releases basically saying the extension of SRS will be considered by the new Congress early next year. PILT is funded in the proposed budget bill at a rate slightly higher than the last federal fiscal year.  


AOC Public Safety Package Introduced

After four public safety summits and a year of working with stakeholder groups, AOC announced its public safety package to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Wednesday. AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett and Cherryl Ramirez, executive director of the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs were joined by Marc Douthit who heads the Buckley House sobering program in Lane County.


Bovett gave a historical overview of district attorney funding, showing that in 1975, the state covered 19 percent of total district attorney costs. By 2000, the support had been reduced to nine percent. By 2003, further cuts to deputy district attorney salaries and witness fees were implemented by the Legislature. AOC is seeking a $10 million increase to district attorney funding, which is half of the $20 million increase former Attorney General Hardy Myers called for in a 1997 task force study. Bovett also shared about the need to modernize the 9-1-1 tax.


During the four public safety summits in Curry, Jackson, Columbia, and Umatilla counties, mental health and public safety was the key priority stated by commissioners, sheriffs, district attorneys and other public safety stakeholders. Bovett helped author a bill which has become the Criminal Justice-Behavioral Health Partnership Act - which would provide resources to local counties to implement programs to divert people with mental illness from jail. Douthit shared information about their sobering program, which assists those facing drug and alcohol addiction in connecting to services. A portion of this bill was funded by Gov. John Kitzhaber's recommended budget (GRB) released earlier this month. Gov. Kitzhaber's budget proposed an additional $53 million in funding for various mental health programs and services.


AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng handles Public Safety issues  

AOC Policy Manager Stacy Michaelson handles Human Services issues

AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett handles Governance issues

Cherryl Ramirez is AOCMHP Executive Director

Privacy and Technology

A sign of the times perhaps, a necessity for sure, but Oregon public safety leaders have formed a workgroup to tackle privacy and technology issues.


During the Joint House and Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts and Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin testified about the need for a collaborative approach to technology and privacy issues in public safety for the next session. Recent events have made the issue of automatic license plate readers and body cameras a hot topic of discussion. Both technologies are being increasingly used by police officers and sheriff deputies. 


A recent workgroup was convened with law enforcement leaders - chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors - with experience using these technologies. Agencies as large as Portland and as small as Mt. Angel are using these advanced technology tools to reduce crimes within local communities while trying to protect the privacy of individuals.


Bills are expected to be introduced in the 2015 legislative session that will help guide local city and county agencies in balancing the benefits to public safety and civil liberties of individuals.


AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng handles Public Safety issues


Comcast v. DOR - Fallout

On October 2, 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court held that both the cable television and Internet access services provided by Comcast qualify as data transmission services and are thus "communication services" subject to central assessment under ORS 308.515(1)(h).  


Taxpayers that are centrally assessed by the Department of Revenue (DOR) are assessed on intangible as well as tangible property. Intangible property is property without a physical presence such as contracts, licenses, franchises, patents, trade names, labor force and goodwill. Unlike other property such as houses, office buildings and industrial plants, centrally assessed property is typically part of an integrated system that is operated across county and state lines. Wires, pipelines, tracks or operational routes may connect the property. Centrally assessed properties (e.g., communications companies, railroads) are typically bought and sold on the market as an operating unit, not as separate parts. The value of the property of these companies in a single state is not easily isolated from the value of the entire operating unit. The appraisal methods used to value centrally assessed companies measure the full value of the business enterprise; tangible and intangible property together. The percent of a taxpayer's intangible value varies with the industry, but can range from five to 30 percent of total value. The amount of uncollected taxes of Comcast is $84,689,638 statewide.


Reaction to this court decision has caused: 1) emergency rulemaking by DOR to clarify activities that are considered "communication;" 2) a potential lawsuit by Comcast on the question of whether the maximum assessed value (MAV) of its property will be raised (note: discovery of new property results in a higher MAV; DOR had not assessed intangibles before 2009); 3) filing of at least one bill to reduce or eliminate assessment of intangible values; 4) fear in some counties that communications providers will back out of planned expansions that are important to their communities, so as to avoid the intangible tax; and 5) questions about how the governor will respond.


AOC has offered to discuss an appropriate resolution with stakeholders.


At the Senate Interim Finance & Revenue Committee on December 8th, the Department of Revenue reported that other states have moved away from assessing intangibles. But these states have taxation tools to adjust to loss of revenue, e.g., sales tax. Oregon has Measure 50 and thus a rate-based system. If intangibles are taken off the tax rolls it is a direct loss of revenue. Vince Porter, the Governor's Economic Policy Advisor, stated that companies want certainty and are looking at other states. He said if Oregon does not act, the state faces: 1) more lawsuits; 2) lagging behind other states in development; 3) bandaging measures (i.e., FaceBook). He added, however, that the governor is not necessarily considering elimination of central assessment. Representative Mike McLane asserted that Oregon has a January deadline to act. A spokesman for the industry stated that DOR rulemaking does not add clarity; the industry will continue to thrive and change; and the industry is providing the largest infrastructure development in Oregon. The industry has offered to discuss the issue with cities, counties, schools, private companies and other stakeholders.


AOC policy managers have heard conflicting opinions from commissioners and judges on what AOC direction should be. This issue will need to be thoroughly discussed within AOC.


AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell handles Revenue, Finance and Tax issues


Huge Wildfire Seasons - Two in a Row

Oregon has experienced two of the most expensive and challenging back-to-back fire seasons in more than half a century. Persistent drought, an early start, lightening and human-caused fires have been the themes in a year characterized by fires that have grown rapidly and required large commitments of resources to control. As of October 4, 2014, Oregon had experienced 1,094 fires, 126 more than our ten-year average; and burned 51,397 acres of Oregon Department of Forestry-protected land, 28,542 acres greater than our ten-year average. 


Human-caused fires were a significant driver. Large fire costs for the 2014 season are estimated at $75.6 million, compared to the Oregon ten-year average of $22.3 million. ODF received from the Emergency Board $16.5 million in general funds and $56 million of other funds.


AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell handles Public Lands and Natural Resource issues


Woody Biomass Update

Monday, December 8th, Oregon State Forester Doug Decker and others discussed the intersection of market and community development, forest health and fire suppression. Marcus Kaufman with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), discussed the sources of biomass, the benefits of biomass (which include decreased fire risk, reduced emissions from pile burning, supporting local jobs and a carbon neutral source of energy), and some of the challenges associated with using woody biomass as a fuel source. 


Some challenges and opportunities include a lack of existing market development, lack of demand, and competition from other inexpensive sources of fuel. AOC supports ODF's interest in investing in technical support and a grant program for biomass development. The governor's budget included $1.1 million for ODF's biomass proposal. The Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) Legislative Coordinator Palmer Mason also discussed the air regulatory impacts. DEQ has been charged by federal regulations to closely monitor fine particulate matter. DEQ urges any facility that is interested in developing biomass to contact DEQ as early as possible. 


AOC Policy Manager Mark Nystrom handles Energy and Environment issues 


Energy and Environment Update

Monday, December 8th,the Senate Energy and Environment Committee met and discussed a number of topics that are of interest to counties. These discussions included:

  • DOGAMI Landslide Plan: Oregon's Department of Geology and Mining Industries (DOGAMI) presented on how Oregon has significant landslide risk, and they don't have the consistent funding needed to thoroughly evaluate and model the risk of landslides around our state. DOGAMI has a request for increased funding in the Governor's Recommended Budget (GRB).
  • DEQ on EPA 111(d) regulations: The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) presented to the committee about EPA's 111(d) regulations requiring states to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Oregon has been mandated to reduce the rate by 48 percent from 2012 levels, and is targeting three methods: 1) Close PGE's Boardman coal plant. 2) Improve consumer energy efficiency through Energy Trust of Oregon and other investments. 3) Emphasize the renewable energy portfolio to increase the share of the state's consumption from renewable sources. This item is still in flux, as the EPA won't release final rules until June 2015, but Oregon is moving forward preemptively.
  • Carbon Fee Study: Researchers from the National Energy Regulatory Commission (NERC) and Portland State University (PSU) found that a carbon tax in Oregon would have significant impacts on employment and carbon emissions. They stated that if the revenue raised from the tax was reinvested to mitigate the employment reductions, we could see negligible employment losses outside of the metro area, which would be the hardest hit from a carbon tax proposal.

DEQ released more details on the governor's budget. The following items may have impact on counties:


New and continued work

  • Replacement of DEQ's wastewater permitting database.
  • Several new positions to develop and maintain a water quality data management system, as well as analyze and interpret the data and related information for water quality assessments.
  • Several new positions to work in partnership with other natural resource agencies to develop and use a common set of metrics for planning, tracking and reporting on restoration projects and for identifying priorities for restoration investments.
  • Two new positions to work with agencies and local governments on nonpoint sources of water pollution.
  • Innovative materials management work aimed at reducing waste, not just managing it after its creation.
  • Regional Solutions Team position that will be housed at DEQ but reports to the governor's natural resources advisor. This position will represent the governor's interests and help facilitate state-federal coordination on the Portland harbor cleanup and other high priority projects.
  • Six positions to evaluate, update, document and implement major business processes that need to be standardized across the agency and its programs.

Position restoration - The GRB recommends restoring some positions that had been proposed for reduction due to funding shortfalls:

  • Adding General Fund and increasing fees to restore six waste water permitting FTE and two nonpoint source positions.
  • Adding General Fund and increasing fees for the ballast water program position, and increasing fees for two oil spill prevention positions, and seven materials management positions.
AOC Policy Manager Mark Nystrom handles Energy and Environment issues


Human Services Update

The Interim House Health Care Committee had an informational hearing on the Lane County sobering project, which was met with a lot of positive feedback. AOC Policy Manager Andy Smith followed with an overview of AOC's mental health/public safety Legislative Concept. As Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, rushed him through, he assured Andy that this would be a topic of conversation in the upcoming legislative session.  


The committee also heard from Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney on the recommendations from the Task Force on the Future of Public Health Services. The bill regarding the recommendations will come from Rep. Greenlick and is expected to be available soon. The Governor's Recommended Budget (GRB) also included $0.5 million to fund the initial stages of the recommendations.


Ultimately the GRB was a mixed bag for health and human services. Despite some targeted investments in public health, overall funding was cut - with a notable decrease in family planning money resulting in a loss of federal funds. On the investment side, Aging and People with Disabilities is finally being funded based on a workload model, creating 123 new positions within Developmental Disabilities.


AOC Policy Manager Stacy Michaelson handles Human Services issues 


Focus on Rural

As you have no doubt figured out, the Governor's Recommended Budget (GRB) is out. As a result of the statewide listening tour held by Business Oregon Director Sean Robbins this past summer, the GRB includes a heavy emphasis on helping the economy in rural Oregon. The budgets for Business Oregon, Regional Solutions, and other entities include funding for infrastructure, technical assistance, and additional economic development projects.


Work groups for agriculture/food and forest/wood products have already been meeting.  Efforts to coordinate the work of these groups are underway. AOC will be at the table and will keep you posted!


AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern handles Economic Development issues


Rural Economic Development

Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, has introduced a new legislative concept based on Washington State's Growth Management Act (GMA). The concept states that if a county is under 50,000 people and has not shown growth since the last census, it can opt out of some of the state-wide land use planning requirements. 


By giving counties the option to be exempted from the current permitting process, the counties would be able to react more quickly to industries or businesses that are interested in investing, but not willing to tolerate the long process necessary to site their facilities. 


Joining Senator Hansell and Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, at an informational hearing this week was Okanogan County Planner Perry Huston. Okanogan County is one of the counties in Washington that has chosen to not opt into the GMA. The three outlined the goals of increasing the flexibility for rural counties in order to develop economic opportunity and slow down the exodus of residents.


(Sen. Hansell is a former Umatilla County Commissioner and a past president of AOC and NACo.)


AOC Policy Manager Mark Nystrom handles Land Use issues


One for the Roads

The AOC County Road Program has released the 2014 County Road Needs Study, which is available at The study concludes revenue and expenditure forecasts over the next five years show a 54 percent annual shortfall for county road departments. That translates into the need for an additional $505 million per year for counties.


"County road departments are stuck between a rock (declining revenues), and a hard place (rising costs). Our study shows just how little room remains between the two," noted County Road Program Manager Emily Ackland.


The study was first presented to the Senate Committee on Transportation in September, while still in draft form. With the final publication, it was presented by Deschutes County Public Works Director Chris Doty, Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken and AOC Transportation Policy Manager Mary Stern to the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development on December 9th. The Legislature appears receptive to county road needs, although only time will tell if they are willing to help fund the reduction of these needs.


Emily Ackland is AOC County Roads Program Manager

AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern handles Transportation issues


Transportation Plan Update

The draft Oregon Transportation Options Plan is now available for public review and comment.


Launched in September 2013, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is wrapping up the draft of Oregon's first statewide Transportation Options Plan. The Transportation Options Plan establishes a vision and policy guidance that integrates transportation options in local, regional, and state transportation planning, programming, and investment.


Transportation options refer to the strategies, programs, services, and investments that enhance traveler opportunities and encourage efficient choices to bike, walk, take transit, drive, share rides, and telecommute.


For over a year, the project team has been working with a statewide Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) to help guide the Transportation Options Plan process. Representing diverse statewide interests, the PAC's work is nearing completion. The Transportation Options Plan's final steps include:

  • Review of draft Transportation Options Plan for public comment until January 30th, 2015;
  • Finalize draft Transportation Options Plan for Oregon Transportation Commission action early 2015; and
  • Begin Implementation Phase mid 2015. 

AOC will have a presentation on the Plan at the January 2015 Transportation Steering Committee Meeting. For more information, check out:  

AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern handles Transportation issues


OBAC Sunset Extention

The Senate Business and Transportation Committee received a report from the Oregon Broadband Advisory Council on the first day of legislative hearings at the State Capitol. The report outlined the council's work since 2009 and the need to continue the council's work.


CenturyLink Vice President Christopher Denzin, Eastern Oregon Telecom General Manager Joseph Franell, City of Portland Community Technology Manager Mary Beth Henry, and Bend Broadband Vice President Wade Holmes all testified to the committee and asked for a sunset extension through Legislative Concept 1139, which was introduced as a committee bill.


Some of the council's work has included community broadband strategic planning, access for schools, next generation in public safety communications, and disaster recovery planning.


The council meets monthly at the local government center in Salem. Sherman County Commissioner Mike Smith is AOC's member on the council.


AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng handles Telecommunications issues with an able assist from AOC Communications Manager Eric Schmidt


Veterans Committee Celebrates

The AOC Veterans Committee celebrated its One Year Anniversary during AOC's Annual Conference in Eugene in November. Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel's leadership has been key to making the Veterans Committee an influential and important part of AOC.   


 First Row: Commissioner Elect Mae Huston (Jefferson County); Commissioner Pat Farr (Lane County);  Commissioner Diane McKeel (Multnomah County); Commissioner Rod Runyon (Wasco County); Kim Grooms (Linn County CVSO); Commissioner Martha Schrader (Clackamas County); Joseph Reiley (Lane County CVSO)

     Middle Row: Commissioner Elect Stan Primovich (Yamhill County); Laurie Skillman (ODVA); Commissioner George Murdock (Umatilla County); Commissioner Keith Heck (Josephine County); Eric Belt (ODVA)

     Back Row:  Commissioner John Lindsey (Linn County); Commissioner Ken Fahlgren (Crook County); Cameron Smith (ODVA)

Veterans Preference Report

During the 2014 legislative session, the chairs of the House and Senate Veterans committees directed a group of stakeholders to form a workgroup to address implementation challenges related to HB 3207 (2011). HB 3207, which is now codified in ORS 408.237, created statutory requirements for public employers to interview job applicants who are veterans. AOC was represented on this workgroup by a county counsel representative and by AOC staff. 


The Workgroup's report and draft legislative concept are consensus documents that reflect the participation of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, the League of Oregon Cities, the Oregon Military Department, the Oregon Employment Department and the Association of Oregon Counties.  


In practice, HB 3207 has proved to be ambiguous and difficult to implement for public employers. It has not been a consistent and predictable framework to ensure the intent of the Legislature for public employers to interview qualified veterans who are applying for jobs. Counties and other public employers have been involved in litigation on this issue and will benefit from changes to the statute that will make it more clear and more pragmatic in implementation. A formal presentation of the workgroup report and draft Legislative Concept (LC 1181) was provided by an ODVA representative and AOC staff to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Veterans committees on December 9th. 


AOC Policy Manager Andy Smith handles Veterans issues


Pot Program
Marijuana was the topic of OPB's live town hall on Thursday evening.  Click here to get a rundown on the program.  AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett was a guest on the program. If you missed it, You can listen to the playback, by going to the OPB website.  
NACo Legislative Conference
The 2015 NACo Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. begins February 21st, 2015. Registration and hotel information can be found on the NACo website. If you are planning to attend, AOC is planning to arrange visits with Oregon's Congressional Delegation on Tuesday, February 24th. We are also planning an Oregon Reception for Saturday, February 21st. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Eric or Laura at AOC.  

NACo Drug Discount Program 

Does your county participate in the NACo Prescription Discount Card Program? If so, NACo, Caremark, and AOC can take specific action to get discount cards into the hands of residents. Tailored assistance is provided at the direction of the participating county and can include direct mailings, bill inserts, brochure stands, press releases, announcements, planning, and much more. This assistance program is easy to start, and requires very little support from the participating county. 


Expanding your marketing helps more people to discover and access this excellent, cost saving program. To start your marketing initiative, or to learn more, please contact AOC Member Services Manager McKenzie Farrell at (503) 585-8351.   


NACo Discount Drug Program


Questions, Suggestions, Comments, Concerns, Praise
Please contact AOC Operations and Communications Director Laura Cleland with any concerns, suggestions, questions or comments you might have about Oregon Trails.  

Please contact AOC Communications Manager and Trivia Expert Eric Schmidt with any praise you might have. 

Laura Cleland & Eric Schmidt

Association of Oregon Counties



Have a great week.