AOC Logo


Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

March Madness       

In like a lion      

March 3, 2015

In This Issue
SRS Update
Transportation Package
Central Assessment
Kicker Kicks?
Motor - Voter
DA Funding
Jay Dixon on OYA
Accountable Policing
Justice Reinvestment
Energy, Environment, Etc
Inmate Addiction Treatment
Public Health
NACo Legislative Conference
County Government Month
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
The United States Capitol is undergoing an extensive restoration of the dome which explains the band aid and scaffolding.  

Salem/Washington, D.C.  This edition of Oregon Trails comes to you from Salem, Oregon and Washington, D.C.  


The annual NACo Legislative Conference was held in DC February 21-25. 40 Oregon county commissioners, judges and staff registered for the event which featured a heavy policy address from Vice President Joe Biden (who began his political career in county government) and a winter storm that could be called epic.  


A visual report on the conference appears following our musings on the events of the last week and the week ahead at the state Capitol building.  

SRS Update
This past Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-OR2, spoke to a group of county commissioners and judges from his Congressional district (at a lunch in his ceremonial corner office in the Capitol). He said that he had the permission from House Republican leadership to identify offsets (pay-fors) for a one-year SRS extension  across budget areas and ahead in time (about as flexible as you can get under budget rules). 


Congressman Walden said there would have to be some modest "procedural" changes in forest policy to go along with the payment. Congressman Walden is working with political consultant Jay Sullivan (originally from Ontario, OR) to help  manage the advocacy around this effort. Jay is coordinating with Chris Marklund, NACo public lands legislative staff to involve counties from throughout the nation who benefit from SRS funding. The cost of a one year extension is in the neighborhood of $330 million. It would probably be several months from the time any authorization for funding was signed into law until checks are received.


Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, has introduced a bill  that would provide a three year extension with no policy changes. That measure would cost approximately $1 billion and a funding source would need to be secured.


AOC Executive Director Mike McArthur is working with NACo on SRS issues
Transportation Package

Will There Be a Transportation Package This Legislative Session? 


The Magic 8 Ball Responds.


It's hard to keep up with whether or not there will be a transportation package this legislative session. If you ask ten people, you'll get ten different answers. Over the past few months, AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern has been checking in with the Magic 8 Ball to gauge the likely success of a package.

As you all know, AOC has been part of the Oregon Transportation Forum (OTF), which after a year of meetings developed a proposed package focused on "Fix It" but which also includes all transportation modes and some policy issues. AOC voted to support the OTF proposal in January. When asked about the odds of this package gaining traction, the Magic 8 Ball said, "Outlook good!"

Also in January, the Oregon Business Summit highlighted a transportation package as one of its top three priorities. In fact, most of the summit was dedicated to the need for a package. Then Governor Kitzhaber, business icons, and leaders from both legislative chambers and both parties all agreed that we must focus on our transportation infrastructure. The Magic 8 Ball decreed a package was "most likely."

In early February, legislative leadership appointed a transportation workgroup to consider a transportation package. Members include Senators Beyer, Johnson, Kruse, and Whitsett, and Representatives Bentz, Davis, McKeown, and Read. The group immediately began meeting in earnest twice a week. The Magic 8 Ball proclaimed, "Signs point to yes" for a successful package.

Many county road officials were out in full force at the Capitol on February 25 and 26 supporting a transportation package as they met with their legislators armed with the specific local needs identified in the statewide County Road Needs Study. Republican legislators made clear that they want to support a transportation package, but cannot do so if the Low Carbon Fuels bill passes. That bill has since passed the Senate along party lines and is now being heard in the House. Following the affirmative vote in the Senate, Republicans suspended their participation in the transportation workgroup. 


After a few legislative meetings on the Low Carbon Fuels bill in the House last week, the Magic 8 Ball said, "Reply hazy. Try again." Apparently, the Magic 8 Ball had heard what many of us had heard: there was a chance the Low Carbon Fuels bill may not pass the House. 


After a good night's sleep, AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern checked again with the Magic 8 Ball and asked if there will be a transportation package. It said, "Concentrate and ask again." So she did. The 8 Ball then said, "Cannot predict now."  She will keep you posted on what is happening in the Capitol and what the Magic 8 Ball has to say. Stay tuned!

AOC Policy Manager Mary Stern deals with transportation issues  


Central Assessment 

Monday, March 2nd, the Oregon Senate passed Senate Bill 611, the Senate Finance & Revenue Committee version of centrally assessed property tax reform. The committee folded into the bill SB 371, related to data centers.


On October 2, 2014, in Comcast Corporation v. Department of Revenue, 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)


The Department of Revenue (DOR) centrally assesses over 500 taxpayers on intangible as well as tangible value, and imposes more than $250 million in property taxes for counties, schools, and other local taxing districts. The amount of uncollected taxes of Comcast is $84,689,638 statewide.


The current appraisal method used to value centrally assessed companies is termed the unitary approach. It measures, as the first step, the full value of the entire business enterprise, tangible and intangible property together. The percent of a taxpayer's intangible value is very difficult to isolate and varies with the industry. A company's intangible value can range from five to 90 percent of total value, communications companies having the higher intangible value. The unitary value amounts to the company's real market value (sale at arm's length). The next step in the appraisal method for DOR is to allocate the portion of the unitary value of the company to Oregon.


As a result of Comcast, 14 centrally assessed companies (including Comcast) have contested their assessed value in the Oregon Tax Court. 


With Senate Bill 611, the Senate Finance & Revenue Committee worked at warp speed (in legislative terms) with the help of private discussions of a small work group that included legislators, the Governor's Office, Legislative Revenue Office (LRO), and Department of Revenue (DOR), which took comments informally from stakeholders. The bill is the Senate committee's view of the appropriate taxation of both current Oregon companies, "legacy companies," and those companies that with the proper incentives may consider locating in Oregon. The balance it attempted to strike was the concurrent annual loss of local property tax revenues beginning at the effective date of the legislation and into the future.


Recall that the AOC memo of February 9th described what was then the predominant approach to reform of central assessment: calculation of "historic cost" of the company's tangible property at the time owned or leased without depreciation allocated to Oregon multiplied by a factor used as a surrogate for intangible value. This approach removed ambiguity, thus reducing the number of potential lawsuits over value. The factor was settling in to 1.3, which would have resulted in a tax break for legacy companies and a loss of property tax revenue of $2.3 million annually statewide, the county share being $437,000. The benefits would flow to communications companies with high intangible values, where the incentive was targeted, and grant tax breaks to fewer than 15 legacy companies.


Nearly three weeks later, after considering formulas that included depreciation and began to stretch to several pages, SB 611 was passed out of committee on February 26th. The final product includes tortuous formulas for exemptions, which in the end grew the tax break for legacy companies and concurrent loss of annual public revenues from $2.3 million to $16.2 million (county share $3 million). For companies in Oregon, exemptions within the formula added for communications companies the value of their franchise agreements and satellites used for direct service to retail customers (along with the Federal Communication Commission license to operate) to the currently existing exemption for FCC licenses. The company is awarded the property tax exemption that is most beneficial.


There is also property tax exemption treatment for "qualified projects":  Capital investment in new communication infrastructure; company can offer services at or above the speed of one gigabit per second symmetrical service and at a price not greater than 150 percent of the U.S. average for the same service; and service to 50 percent or more of the customer base in the service territory of the infrastructure (phased in from 30 percent on January 15, 2017, to 50 percent on January 15, 2019).


The Public Utility Commission (PUC) will determine the maximum price of service and may update standards for speed, type, and price of service as it considers appropriate. The PUC must recertify each qualified project every five years. The PUC, in consultation with DOR, may adopt rules that establish criteria for qualification. SB 611 provides the application procedure including deadlines for a company seeking an exemption and an application fee of $50,000 to reimburse PUC and DOR for costs of reviewing the application and appraising the property. It also provides reporting requirements from the county assessor to DOR and from DOR to PUC.


Current law created to welcome the Facebook data center to Crook County (SB 1532 (2012); ORS 308.516) and have it locally assessed rather than centrally assessed, is liberalized somewhat and given a brighter line of separation from centrally assessed companies. SB 611 strikes the requirement that the data center be in an enterprise zone or other tax abatement program, but a county would retain that tool as added incentive for future prospects. 


Current law requires that for local (and not central) assessment, the original cost of construction and installation of all real and tangible personal property owned or leased by the company in Oregon other than the data center cannot equal more than five percent of the original cost of real and tangible personal property of all the data centers and additions to the data centers' properties owned, leased, or used by the company in Oregon. 

  • SB 611 narrows the limitation on the value of property in Oregon other than data centers to property in service and used by the company "in the business of communication," which property does not include an office, warehouse, manufacturing plant, retail outlet, or generation of electricity. 
  • Moreover, the bill raises the limitation on the value of property owned or leased by the company in Oregon other than the data centers and used in the business of communication from five percent to 10 percent.

On the next AOC Day, March 9th, two steering committees (Governance and Community & Economic Development) and the Legislative Committee will have a thorough discussion of SB 611 and how to weigh in.


AOC Policy Coordinator Gil Riddell is the resident expert in central assessment



The March State 2015 Revenue Forecast (presented in February) described the recovery of Oregon's economy as healthy: personal income, employment, and tax collections all exceed the last forecast in December. It also projects a personal kicker of $349.3 million, the amount returned to taxpayers as income tax credits. 


Sound good? 


Consider first that individual tax credits will be welcome but relatively small. And also consider how the Kicker works. If personal income tax collections plus all other general fund revenue is more than two percent higher than the revenue forecast at the close of the last session, then all the money in excess of the close of session forecast, including the two percent, is returned to taxpayers. The Kicker operates to penalize public resources for critical services when a recovery from periods of budget cuts and increased need for public services can be addressed. And it is one-of-a-kind, being based on a state economist's best guess of future revenues. No other state has it.


AOC has as a top priority the development of a program to establish community-based alternatives to incarceration for persons with mental health and substance abuse disorders from overloading the criminal justice system. This concept resulted from four public safety summits in 2014, and is intended to ultimately save precious jail space, save public money, and treat the sick appropriately. The program will require a boost from state resources.  The Kicker will make it harder to capture sufficient new resources to start an excellent idea.


AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell handles issues of public finance 


Clerks & New Motor-Voter

On Wednesday, February 25, Lane County Government Relations Manager Alex Cuyler and AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett testified before the General Government Subcommittee on House Bill 5036, the biennial budget for the Secretary of State. Mr. Cuyler and Mr. Bovett urged the committee to add an additional line item to HB 5036 to fully fund the fiscal impact of House Bill 2177 on counties, which is estimated to be $767,865 for the 2015-17 biennium.  


Mr. Bovett urged the Committee to not leave that funding issue to the end-of-session bill (commonly known as the "Christmas Tree" bill). HB 2177 is the so-called "New Motor Voter bill," which provides for automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, and is anticipated to substantially increase the voter rolls.


AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett works closely with County Clerks and on occasion with Alex Cuyler


District Attorneys 

Thursday, February 26, Washington County District Attorney Bob Hermann and AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett provided a presentation for the Public Safety Subcommittee regarding House Bill 5015, the biennial budget for state support of the district attorneys.  


Mr. Hermann summarized the key role and duties of Oregon's 36 elected District Attorneys in the Oregon public safety system, and the budget proposals and policy option packages proposed by the Oregon District Attorneys Association (ODAA). Mr. Bovett then explained how District Attorney functions are a shared state-county service, but walked the committee through decades of state budget cuts to the District Attorneys, thus impairing public safety and shifting financial burdens from the state to counties. Mr. Bovett explained AOC public safety priority package number two, which would start to restore funding from the state by $10 million in the 2015-17 biennium. The PowerPoint used by Mr. Hermann and Mr. Bovett can be reviewed here.


After Mr. Hermann and Mr. Bovett concluded their presentation, the committee heard from a wide array of public safety partners, attesting to the key role of district attorneys in the public safety system, and the vital necessity of adequately funding DA services.


AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett is a former Lincoln County  District Attorney


Commissioner Dixon on OYA Budget

AOC Public Safety Steering Committee co-chair and Benton County Commissioner, Jay Dixon, testified to the Joint Ways & Means subcommittee on public safety last week in favor of the Oregon Youth Authority budget. Commissioner Dixon has been involved in various commissions and boards relating to juvenile justice, including the Youth Development Council and the Juvenile Crime Prevention Committee.


"I ask that you support those efforts that will get kids out of close custody and return them to the community, where treatment is less expensive and more effective," said  Commissioner Dixon.


Commissioner Dixon also made a plea for continued support to county juvenile departments for diversion and basic services.


"In our county, those funds support our intensive probation program that aims to keep youth out of OYA placements, help fund our community service program that holds youth accountable and teaches work skills and provides individual services such as sex offender treatment," said Dixon.


The committee also heard from juvenile department directors, testifying in favor of the budget and continued partnerships with the Oregon Youth Authority.


AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng staffs the AOC Public Safety Steering Committee

Progressive & Accountable Policing

The joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, February 24th, wasn't held in your typical capitol hearing room. The meeting was held at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, also known as the police academy where all of Oregon's public safety personnel are trained. The academy is the training venue for police officers and sheriff's deputies, parole and probation officers, and 9-1-1 dispatchers and call takers.


Panels of experts in public safety presented to the committees on police accountability, challenges that face law enforcement, and training that occurs in the state. The Oregon Accreditation Alliance, Oregon Center for Policing Excellence, and Law Enforcement Contacts Committee were highlighted.


Lt. Tad Larson of the Marion County Sheriff's Office shared their county's success in responding to calls with persons suffering from mental illness. The county uses a case management system to create a collaborative effort between mental health professionals and deputies. Diverting those with mental illness from jail is a key issue.


After the hearing, legislators and staff had an opportunity to tour the academy campus.  Some received hands on training in firearms scenarios that show the split-second decisions that have to be made in law enforcement.


  Marion County Sheriff's Office Lt. Tad Larson, Keizer Police Chief John Teague, Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner, and Sponsors Executive Director Paul Solomon talk about responsive solutions to pressing public safety challenges in Oregon 


AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng handles public safety issues and is a Portland Police Bureau Reserve Officer


Justice Reinvestment Fund

The Coalition for Safety and Savings took to the Capitol last week to highlight the Justice Reinvestment fund.  


Last Thursday, legislators and staff heard directly from legislators who passed House Bill 3194 in 2013 and the success programs are having around the state. Clackamas County Community Corrections Director Chris Hoy, a captain with the sheriff's office, brought two clients from their drug treatment program funded by justice reinvestment funds.


The Coalition for Safety and Savings is comprised of human services groups, labor unions, education and business interests who supported House Bill 3194 and now support the continued funding of the justice reinvestment fund.


AOC has made this one of its top priorities, leading the public safety groups each week in strategy meetings to convince legislators that the $58.5 million in the governor's recommended budget needs to be fully funded so that counties can continue successful reentry and recidivism reduction programs.


A justice reinvestment kickoff for local public safety leaders will be held April 6 at the Salem Convention Center.


AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng can answer your questions about 3194


Energy, Environment and Land Use Update

Last week was a busy one with a number of notable bills:

  • A bill of high concern for counties was heard in Senate Judiciary last Wednesday.
    AOC Policy Manager Mark Nystrom listens to a hearing on SB 359 while waiting for his return flight from the NACo Legislative Conference
    Senate Bill 359 would limit land use appeal fees to $1,000 or 10 percent of costs, whichever is less. This will have a large fiscal impact to many counties and will be another example of counties and cities losing local control over their programs. The bill was introduced by special interest groups that are interested in limiting the role local governments can play in the land use decision making process. Many counties have fee based planning departments and this bill would remove the ability to charge for the real cost of the appeal and force local governments to move the appeal on to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). This bill has been introduced in past sessions but this year it seems to have some momentum. Even if your county is not impacted by these changes in fees, county commissioners should reach out to their senators and let them know how they stand on this issue.
  • Last Monday, SB 25 had its first public hearing in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. SB 25, which is modeled after existing Washington law, allows rural counties with no population growth to adopt a comprehensive land use plan without complying with statewide land use planning goals. This change would affect eight counties and the hope is that given more flexibility, the counties could generate more economic development. The hearing received a positive reception from the committee and it is expected to have a second public hearing.
  • On Tuesday, the low carbon fuel legislation, SB 324, continued to move its way through the House. It was voted out of the Energy and Environment Committee on a party line 5-4 vote. The bill removes the sunset on the provisions related to low carbon fuel standards. The next step is for a House floor vote where it is expected to pass.
  • The two materials management bills had their first public hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. SB 245 would raise the tip fee and use these increased revenues to maintain a number of DEQ solid waste programs and expand programs such as rural household hazardous waste programs. SB 263 would make changes to the statewide waste recovery goals.
  • On Thursday, the suite of Juniper related bills received a public hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee. The bills, HB 2808, HB 2997, and HB 2998 were warmly received. Second public hearings will be held for HB 2808 and HB 2998 on Thursday, March 5.
  • SB 133, the e-permitting legislation, passed the Senate and now moves to the house.

 Work on energy and land use legislation will continue to be action packed as we look ahead:

  • On Tuesday a couple of land use bills, HB 2830 and HB 2831, will receive a public hearing.
  • HB 2941 establishes rules for community solar facilities. The public hearing will be held Tuesday.
  • A public hearing for SB 249, which allows payments for off-site compensatory mitigation credits to be made to Oregon Removal-Fill Mitigation Fund if credits from the mitigation bank were not available at the time the Department of State Lands began developing off-site compensatory mitigation project in the region and the department has yet to recoup costs of project, will be held on Tuesday afternoon.
  • Two biomass related bills will receive a public hearing on Thursday. HB 2449 extends the sunset for the tax credit for biomass collection or production and HB 2833 adds woody biomass to the types of green energy technology for which a contracting agency must set aside 1.5 percent of the contract price to include in public building.

For any information on these bills or others pertaining to energy, environment or land use, contact AOC staff Mark Nystrom.



Inmate Addiction Treatment

In Washington, DC at the NACo Legislative Conference last week, the NACo Health Care Steering Committee supported a proposed resolution from AOC calling on Congress to amend 42 CFR Part 2 to allow for greater communication between law enforcement and health care providers regarding patients receiving treatment for addictions. The current regulation is more strict than HIPPA when it comes to addictions treatment information, and this is creating a barrier to integrated care and management between behavioral health and public safety. 


Monday, the Oregon Senate Committee on Health Care held a public hearing on Senate Joint Memorial 4, which also urges Congress to amend 42 CFR Part 2. It is not clear whether this issue will gain traction at the federal level under this Congress, but it is clear that this is an emerging issue that we will be following closely.


AOC Policy Manager Stacy Michaelson takes care of Health & Human Services issues


Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson introduces resolution to allow the use of Title III funds for sheriffs patrols during NACo Legislative Conference. Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi is seen on the far left of the dias.


 Public Health Modernization
The Public Health Modernization bills, SB 663 and HB 3100, have both been scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, March 9th. 

AOC has taken a position in support of the recommendations coming out of the Task Force on the Future of Public Health Services, and will shortly take an official position on these bills. At this time, there are some questions and concerns around the proposed governance structure for public health and ensuring a strong state-local partnership. 

However, the Coalition of Local Health Officials (CLHO) has been working closely with Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, and Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, and AOC is working with CLHO to determine where it is beneficial for AOC to weigh in. Expect more information at the AOC Legislative Committee meeting on March 9th. 

AOC Policy Manager Stacy Michaelson is your contact on this important issue


 NACo Legislative Conference Report
The NACo Legislative Conference started at 7:30 am (EST) February 21st. At 11:00 am (EST) snow began falling on the Nation's Capitol and continued to fall until just after 10:00 pm (EST) when it was replaced by sleet and ice. Needless to say, the Capitol city shut down as it is want to do, but the rest of the week came off cold, and sunny for the most part, allowing Oregon county commissioners, judges and staff to participate fully in the conference and with well planned and well executed visits to our Congressional delegation on Capitol Hill. Below is a submission of photos that express the week's events.

The Alaska non-stop Friday afternoon was packed with county people
Sherman County Commissioner Mike Smith, left, prepares a presentation before NACo Telecommunications Steering Committee



Vice President Biden addresses NACo Legislative Conference

Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley face county officials

Lane County Commissioners Farr and Lieken meet with Columbus County, Ohio commissioners and re-live the first ever College Football Championship

Connecticut Ave NW when it snowed
For more photos from Washington, please plan to attend the AOC Legislative Committee meeting on Monday, March 9th when a brief slide show will be presented. Contributing photographers include Kevin Cameron, Sid Lieken, Mark Nystrom, Mike McArthur and Art Schlack.  

"Claimology" - A Science that Can Save Your County Money


Behavior is by far the largest contributor to public entity claims. Indeed, nearly all claims are rooted in behavior. But it is not only an individual's behavior that causes claims; team behavior, organizational behavior, and societal behavior can also play significant roles. 

In the study of public entity Claimology, high risk factors and preventive factors are identified and analyzed. Read more...


AOC Member Services Manager Mckenzie Farrell can answer questions about AOC member benefits.

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.  


AOC Member Services Manager Mckenzie Farrell can answer questions about AOC member benefits.


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 coordinator. 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.