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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

Spring Break     

Even in Salem     

March 24, 2015

In This Issue
SRS Extension Announced
Health & Human Services
Public Safety
Finance Issues
Energy, Environment & Land Use
A word
PILT Action Needed
Counties Matter
National County Government Month
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
Spring Break Week in Salem

Salem - At the beginning of last week, AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell was overheard commenting that the 2015 legislative session was one of the most intense he can remember in his multiple decades of service to Oregon counties. AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett agreed, and prognosticated that the intensity would soon let up. It turns out Mr. Bovett was wrong. The intensity of the current legislative session continues at a fevered pitch.


The Legislature will not take a spring break, however, they will take off Friday for "In District Days." This is a chance for you to find your Senator or Representative back in their districts and let them know how current legislation can impact Oregon counties.  


But the big news this week is out of Washington, D.C. and that story is next.


Walden Secures SRS Extension 
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-OR, announced Tuesday morning that he has secured a two year extension of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. The extension, approved by the Speaker of the House, has been included in a bipartisan agreement to reform how doctors are paid under Medicare. The House is scheduled to vote on the Medicare bill later this week and the Senate could take it up next week.  

As Congressman Walden noted in his announcement, the two-year extension allows Congress the time to enact meaningful public land management reform while giving fiscally challenged counties and schools some breathing room.  

So what does this mean to Oregon counties? The section of the bill regarding SRS is 524. Here is a link to Congressman Walden's announcement and that section of the Medicare bill. We are still working on the finer points of the legislation with our experts, but we believe that:
  • Payments are for FY 2014 and 2015 at the 2013 level, minus five percent for 2014; and the 2015 payment is minus five percent from the 2014 level. This is not in the legislation itself, but we understand that is what Congressman Walden was able to negotiate;
  • Payments for FY 2014 must be made no later than 45 days after the Act is passed; 
  • If a county has received, or will receive, a partial 2014 payment prior to this payment, this payment will be reduced by that amount; and
  • FY 2013 elections and reservations will be used for FY 2014 and FY 2015.
Another question - will the underlying legislation (the so-called "doc-fix") pass both the House and the Senate?  Good question.  

The underlying bill is designed to fix Medicare payments to doctors and extend the Children's Health Insurance Program. Each year Congress sets the reimbursement rate for doctor's under the Medicare program. The "doc-fix" is an annual headache. Doctor's are facing a 21 percent reduction in reimbursement beginning April 1, 2015 if something is not done.


This Act completely revamps the manner in which doctors are reimbursed. The current Medicare formula will be repealed and an incentive payment system will be established. Doctors who receive high performance scores will be rewarded. Performance will be based on things such as keeping patients healthy while controlling costs (a novel idea).


The bottom line is that there is bipartisan support to pass this legislation and have it enacted before March 31, 2015.


Congressman Walden pointed out in his release that U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, has been very helpful in getting this legislation enacted. If you have a chance in the next day or two to send Congressmen Walden and DeFazio a thank you note, it would be greatly appreciated. You might also want to contact Senators Wyden and Merkley and urge them to support the legislation when it reaches the Senate, hopefully sometime early next week.  


Mike McArthur, Gil Riddell, Laura Cleland and Eric Schmidt contributed to this report and can try to help you with any questions you might have at this juncture 


Governance Issues 

Here are a couple updates on some hot governance topics:


Public Contracting and Procurement


More bills are being heard that would significantly change the manner of public contracting and procurement in Oregon. Most would cause significant burdens on local government. AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett has been working closely with other local government representatives to oppose many of those bills, and work on amendments to make a number of them less harmful.


Joint Marijuana Rolls On


The technical improvements bill has finally taken the form of amendments to Senate Bill 844. 

The bill and amendments were considered during a hearing before the Joint Marijuana Committee on Monday, March 23, and will be heard again during a work session on Wednesday, March 25.


It now appears likely that there will be two big policy bills, one dealing with changes to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA), and the other dealing with changes to Measure 91 (marijuana legalization, taxation and regulation). AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett has been working  with various stakeholders on crafting the first of the two big policy bills. Mr. Bovett is also working with another group of legislators and stakeholders on issues relating to land use, most likely to appear as part of the second major policy bill, which will also have to deal with a number of high profile issues, such as local control and taxation.  


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


Health and Human Services

There is a lot happening in the world of health and human services. HB 2546, the Electronic Cigarettes Bill, had a hearing on March 23rd. The bill was heard with a number of other tobacco-related measures. The hearing room was full with advocates on both sides of the issues - those wanting to limit access to e-cigarettes and nicotine products aimed at minors (e.g. flavored products), and those representing the tobacco industry and "vape shops." 


AOC provided testimony along with a number of other public health stakeholders. The biggest issue remaining on HB 2546 is a request for amendments to allow customers of vape shops to sample products in the store. At this point, AOC is joining the Coalition of Local Health Officials (CLHO) and other advocates in asking for a clean bill, and we are working to get a vote count in the Senate on the bill without these amendments.


Tuesday, March 24th, the Senate Human Services and Early Learning Committee will focus on the mental health system. Two bills that would establish a Task Force on Mental Health, SB 787 and SB 834, are scheduled for a hearing. It is our understanding that Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, does not plan to move these bills, and believes that a work group can be convened to examine the state's current mental health system without legislation. While we have taken a position in support of a task force, we will continue to work with Sen. Gelser and others to ensure that the county and community mental health program voices are included in any work group or task force that moves forward. 


Additionally, in the mental health world, the Addictions and Mental Health budget will be up for public hearing in the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services on Wednesday, March 25th. We will be joining the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs (AOCMHP) in talking about some of the recent successes in mental health and the ongoing need for additional resources. 


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


Public Safety

Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard joins county representatives to urge for full funding of community corrections and justice reinvestment 


Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard testifies before Ways & Means Public Safety Subcommittee


AOC's Public Safety Committee co-chair, Jim Bernard, testified to the Joint Ways & Means Subcommittee on Public Safety last week urging members to support the Department of Corrections agency budget.


"Please support full funding of community corrections and justice reinvestment so we can continue providing vital public safety services in our counties," said Bernard, a Clackamas County commissioner.

Bernard represents counties on the state's justice reinvestment grant review committee and the community corrections commission.


He joined Clackamas County Community Corrections Director, Capt. Chris Hoy, and Kim Bernard from the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice asking for the budget subcommittee members to support the department's initiatives in electronic health records.


"Counties have a strong relationship with the department," said Bernard.


Gardner and law enforcement officials push back against additional use of force investigation mandates 


Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner led a law enforcement coalition at last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on deadly use of force incidents. Three bills were considered under a public hearing - Senate Bills 910, 911, and 871.  SB 871, introduced by Sen. Chip Shields, D-Portland, was authored to address issues that have risen from events in Ferguson, MO and New York, NY that have gained national attention. The bill would require an independent investigation by the Attorney General of deadly use of force incidents.


Gardner testified against the bills on behalf of the district attorneys, sheriffs, and police chiefs saying that under SB 111 (2007), there is already process and protocols in place when deadly use of force incidents occur. 


"All 36 counties submitted their plan and all plans were approved by the Attorney General," said Gardner.


Gardner showed a video that was produced by Lane County on use of force incidents, addressing many concerns that the public has when these incidents occur. The video is available online.


April 6th Justice Reinvestment Summit to feature newly appointed Gov. Brown


Gov. Kate Brown will headline the Justice Reinvestment Summit in Salem on April 6, where hundreds of county and local public safety leaders are expected to join together to discuss the future of justice reinvestment grant dollars.


The event being organized by the Criminal Justice Commission is sponsored by AOC and county affiliate groups - Oregon State Sheriffs Association, Oregon District Attorneys Association and the Oregon Association of Community Corrections Directors - will bring together local public safety coordinating councils for a day-long summit on successful reentry and recidivism reduction programs. Attendees will hear from Brown, Department of Corrections Director Collette Peters, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, and the four legislators who co-chair the state's public safety task force - Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany.


There is still time to register.  


A limited number of travel scholarships are available for members of each county's local public safety coordinating council. Please contact the Criminal Justice Commission at 503-378-4078 for more details.


AOC policy manager Patrick Sieng keeps us all safe


Finance Issues 

Central assessment - House passes its version


SB 611A, the Senate version of revision of central assessment, contained new exemption formulas for centrally assessed companies that are extremely complex. The immediate revenue loss to local taxing districts under the Senate version had ballooned to $16.2 million per year (county share statewide $3 million). Tucked away in the bill was distinct and very favorable treatment of the value of franchises, added very late and neither explained nor discussed.


Our first public opportunity to address SB 611A came before the House Revenue Committee on March 16. We diplomatically explained the rushed and closed process of the Senate Committee on Finance & Revenue, which may well have been necessary to get the subject moving. Our key points, stressed but respectful, were:

  • AOC support for provisions that kept data centers locally assessed;
  • The unexplained exponential increase in lost local annual property tax revenue under SB 611A;
  • To urge the House Committee, as a first step and at the very least, to delete the distinct and special treatment given the value of franchises under the exemption formulas;
  • AOC support of any amendments that make the bill more clear, reduce opportunities for wasteful lawsuits, make administration easier, provide incentives for the right kind of economic development, and reduce the loss of critical local public resources; and
  • For the committee to be persistent in asking hard questions and demanding answers backed by objective data.

The House Revenue Committee responded exceedingly well. Three members in particular asked to-the-bone questions of the companies; expressed frustration at the lack of data with which to determine appropriate policy; and pointed out where the witnesses were vague in their answers.


After House hearings, the small group of Senators and Representatives engaged in the issue since January met again in private to negotiate. The outcome was SB 611A-11. With two notable exceptions, very little of SB 611A changed. The changes to SB 611A was a disappointment to the House negotiators, but under the circumstances it was the best (at this moment) that could be done to lower local revenue loss.


The complicated formulas for exemptions remained. But two improvements are worth mentioning. Data centers are further protected from central assessment by adding a provision that a centrally assessed company will have its data centers locally assessed if the original cost of the real and tangible personal property of its data centers in Oregon is equal to or greater than $200 million.


But the most significant change to SB 611A is the adoption of AOC's key point in testimony and lobbying: the value of the franchises for exemption purposes are calculated as part of the initial step of determining the real market value of the company worldwide (unitary value), rather than subtracted from the Oregon Assessed Value of the company, as provided in SB 611A.


The practical effect of adoption of the AOC recommendation is that the total immediate annual revenue loss to local property tax resources shrinks from $16.2 million (county share $3 million) to $7.8 million (county share $1.33 million). Moreover, the effective tax rate of Comcast, for example, rises from 6.51 Assessed Value to 11.42 AV.


We will see whether the incentives in the bill for new development of communications companies perform as promised, and whether the local resources spent for these incentives return to net-zero in a reasonably short period of time. The Senate passed the bill this morning (March 24), and it appears that other than the potential for some fine tuning in subsequent bills, this may well be it on this subject for this session. 


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



Veterans Steering Committee supporting bills on volunteers and privacy legislation: SB 638 and SB 453


SB 638 - Would help mobilize creative approaches for how counties can engage local volunteers to support and strengthen their veterans programs. The bill does not create any new requirements or mandates, but does require that any volunteer program directly aligns with our CVSO based model.


Under the framework of the bill, volunteers can assume some administrative workload functions, thereby giving CVSO's more time to focus on direct claims work. If a county does choose to pursue a volunteer program for veterans, SB 638 directs the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs to work with the county to ensure there are proper safeguards, confidentiality and quality requirements in place for these volunteers. 


SB 638 would give both counties and the state the flexibility to tailor and customize specific approaches at the local level by doing a number of things:

  • Place the volunteer veteran guide within the county CVSO office (or ODVA) where it can best augment and support the efforts of the CVSO;
  • Allow the county (or ODVA) to reimburse for expenses; for example, if the volunteer helped set up and staff a booth at a stand down, the county/ODVA could reimburse for mileage; and
  • Expand possible duties of volunteers that align with the current model successfully used in Wasco County (in 2014, Wasco County had a volunteer force of 22 individuals who provided approximately 300 hours of service each month).

SB 253 - Would exempt personally identifiable and contact information of veterans and persons serving on active duty or as reserve members with Armed Forces of United States, National Guard or other reserve component, from disclosure as public records when information is obtained by ODVA in performance of their duties and functions.


SB 253 is aimed at addressing the growing number of "pension poachers" who have targeted abusive practices on veterans and their families by providing false information. These often illegal, but hard to prosecute actions, have resulted in lost and reduced benefits for veterans. Under current law, private parties can access veterans names and contact information without any restriction.


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


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Looking Back


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

  • SB 249, received a work session in Senate Environment and Natural Resources and then this Monday passed the Senate 30-0. 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.
  • HB 2447 received a work session and was referred 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 of Energy more flexibility in offering incentives.
  • The Department of Land Conservation and Development held its budget hearings last week (HB 5027) in the Natural Resources Subcommittee of Ways and Means.
  • The  House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on HB 3334 which would require the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to spend $2 million per year out of Flexible Incentives Account on implementation of strategies to protect and restore sage grouse habitat. The hearing featured two remote video conferences: one from Harney County where Judge Steve Grasty lead the discussion and one from Baker County where Commissioner Bill Harvey spoke in favor of the bill.

Looking forward


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

  • The Department of Environmental Quality will hold its budget hearings (HB 5018) in the Natural Resources Subcommittee of Ways and Means.
  • Two of the juniper-related economic development bills, HB 2997 and HB 2998, will receive work sessions in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
  • The House Rural Communities, Land Use and Water committee will hold a public hearing for HB 3368. The bill modifies current statute to allow conditional land use approval for home occupation in resource zones to be conducted in outdoor setting, rather than indoors. AOC supports HB 3368.
  • A couple of bills aimed at helping with conversion from wood burning stoves to pellets will be held in the House Energy and Environment Committee. HB 2988 would add a subsidy to wood pellet purchases and HB 3253 and HB 3068 would each direct DEQ to conduct a study and develop recommendations for legislation to encourage a transition away from older wood stoves. AOC supports developing incentives for the biomass industry.
  • The House Agriculture and Natural Resources will be hosting a "pesticide day" and hear seven pesticide related bills.

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


Transportation/Community & Economic Development

Budgets and ConnectOregon V


Business Oregon's budget was on the agenda of the Joint Ways & Means Committee on Transportation and Economic Development all last week (March16-19). The budget garnered lots of support from AOC. AOC Executive Director Mike McArthur, who also serves as convener for the Mid-Columbia Regional Solutions Advisory Committee, was invited to provide testimony on Tuesday, March 17. Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart testified before the Committee on Thursday. AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern submitted a letter of support on behalf of AOC.  


AOC Testimony on SB 5525 - AOC highlighted the great partnerships counties have with Business Oregon and Regional Solutions. This was only the first round of hearings on this budget. The Business Oregon budget, as well as those of all agencies, will come back around again next month. 


Hearings on the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) budget will begin on Monday, March 23, and continue through the following Monday, March 30, when public testimony will be taken. Stay tuned for AOC's testimony!


Speaking of ODOT, the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) finally selected all projects for funding through ConnectOregon V at their commission meeting on Thursday, March 19.  Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney chairs the OTC, on which Douglas County Commissioner Susan Morgan, attorney Dave Lohman, and businessman Alando Simpson also sit.  


Commissioners engaged in a thoughtful, in-depth discussion about the selection process and the role of the OTC. The final list of the 40 projects funded in Connect Oregon V did not include the Port of St. Helens Berth 2 project. With only four OTC members, the proposed list was approved on a 3-1 vote. Commissioner Baney voted to approve the list of projects in order to avoid a stalemate and move the ConnectOregon V program forward.  


Oregon Transportation Commissioner meeting in Salem


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


A word from the IT guy
 News From NACo

Budget Plans Contain Items of Interest to Public Land Counties

On March 18, Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee released a FY 2016 budget proposal which included provisions aimed at addressing a broad array of natural resources issues.  Although non-binding, Congressional budget resolutions outline Congressional spending goals and priorities for coming fiscal years and establish spending caps for Congressional appropriators. Read more...


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! 


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.