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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter


The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

Spring Has Sprung     

The Capitol is a hive of activity    

March 11, 2015

In This Issue
Human Services
Public Safety
Central Assessment
Energy, Environment & Land Use
Renewable Energy Project Funding
Oregon Wave Energy Trust
National County Government Month
U.S. Communities
Help Your Residents Live Healthy
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
Unusually warm weather has created immense beauty outside of the Capitol. 

Salem - The Oregon Legislature continues to move at breakneck speed, which made for a lengthy AOC Legislative Committee on Monday. Some of what happened is discussed below. 


Bills, bills, bills. With the general deadline for dropping bills (February 25) having passed, some 2,635 bills are in the hopper (to date; more to come). Of those, the AOC policy team is tracking 1,682, or 64 percent. Yep. They're a busy bunch.


Week five of the 2015 legislative session continued at a very fast pace. Hearings were held on many bills of interest to counties, including elections, public contracting and procurement, public employment, and marijuana.


Joint Marijuana Committee and the new LOC/AOC Legal Opinion

Having concluded its series of informational hearings the prior week, the Joint Marijuana Committee began conducting hearings on marijuana bills. The hearings are not being conducted for the purpose of passing any of the myriad of marijuana related bills that have been introduced. Instead, the committee is holding hearings on bills to address issues, some of which will be dealt with in one of two anticipated omnibus bills that have yet to be crafted.


First up on Wednesday was a bill introduced on behalf of the League of Oregon Cities (LOC), Senate Bill 542, that would strip out of Ballot Measure 91 the provisions that arguably restrict local authority to regulate, opt out and tax retail marijuana.


During that hearing, AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett introduced the committee to a new joint opinion from the legal staff of LOC and AOC relating to local authority. It is posted here.


An interesting discussion then took place between Mr. Bovett and committee members. After hearing two other unrelated bills, the committee called Mr. Bovett back to the witness table for even more discussion. For those wanting to watch the video, it can be viewed here (click on either or both of the SB 542 segments, although the latter is likely of most interest).


The committee plans to request a Legislative Counsel opinion on the matters covered in the joint LOC/AOC legal opinion. It will be interesting to see if Legislative Counsel has a different understanding than LOC/AOC legal counsel. In any event, AOC continues to push for a well licensed and regulated system, for both retail and medical marijuana.


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


Human Services

The Public Health modernization bills, Senate Bill 663 and House Bill 3100, had their first public hearings on Monday, March 9th. The bill has come a long way from the original proposal in 2013 to study regionalization, but we still have some ground to cover. 


Speaking of task force issues, SB 787 and SB 834 have been introduced. SB 787 would create a Task Force on Mental Health, in theory, one that would replicate the work done by the Task Force on the Future of Public Health Services. The bill is sponsored by Senators Bates, Monnes Anderson, Steiner Hayward and Gelser, as well as Representative Nathanson. While there are some minor adjustments to be made to the make up of the task force, this bill seems to be our best hope for the mental health system conversation -- it is a far preferable alternative to attempts to have a session-long workgroup. Though, we are still hearing murmurs of legislators wanting to have more immediate conversations, and are monitoring any progress. SB 834 is another mental health task force bill, with the lone sponsored of Senator Bates. We believe SB 787 is the bill to move, but we will be keeping an eye on SB 834 as well. 


Stacy Michaelson can answer any questions you might have on human services issues.


Public Safety

Olson talks public safety to AOC steering committee 


Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, was the featured guest at the AOC Public Safety Committee on Monday, where he shared a number of issues he is working on at the Legislature relating to public safety.


Olson, serving in his sixth full session, is the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee and is also a member of the Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91. He shared thoughts about how the marijuana discussions are going in committee and said he appreciated AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett's continued contributions to the discussions.


He was also asked questions from committee members about justice reinvestment dollars and how to lobby Ways and Means Committee leadership about keeping public safety savings within public safety. The committee later voted to send a letter to the Legislature regarding the importance of justice reinvestment programs created by House Bill 3194 in the 2013 session. That bill sent $15 million to counties for reentry and recidivism reduction programs.


County officials and public safety leaders around the state will gather April 6 in Salem for the justice reinvestment summit to highlight successful programs that have been created in the last year.


Budget committee members urged to correct issues for court security, provide funding for courthouse facilities 


Last week, the Oregon Judicial Department had its shot in front of the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Safety to showcase its budget. Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Balmer shared about the collaborative process this past year that AOC led to develop a priority list for courthouse improvement projects. Multnomah, Jefferson, Tillamook, and Lane counties have courthouse projects they are hoping to get funded by the legislature.


Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers testified to the committee on behalf of AOC and the Oregon State Sheriffs Association about the need to correct issues from a court 

fee adjustment bill that passed in 2013. The Judicial Department has a policy option package to send $1.8 million to counties for court security.



Labhart stresses need for resiliency officer

Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart, a longtime leader in emergency preparedness

issues, told the House Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee that House Bill 2270 needs to pass this session. The bill creates a position in the Governor's Office to coordinate seismic safety and resilience planning.


Labhart testified with Jay Wilson who chairs the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission and Scott Ashford from Oregon State University. 


The State Resilience Officer would work with the governor to coordinate seismic preparation with state agency directors and local communities.


Labhart said the coordination with other agencies and with local governments is needed to ensure safety for all Oregonians.


AOC policy manager Patrick Sieng keeps us all safe.


Central Assessment

AOC offered initial observations on Senate Bill 611A to the House Revenue Committee, which opened hearings on the bill on Tuesday.


SB 611A was a product of hard work and difficult decisions made in a rushed and opaque process by a serious-minded Senate Finance & Revenue Committee. Indeed this may have been the only way to get the conversation started productively on a long-term, exceedingly complex issue that has haunted the Legislative Assembly for at least 30 years. In fact, when an open process from the beginning of reform discussions was attempted in the past, it invariably ended without resolution with centrally assessed companies either squabbling among themselves or asking for far too much (e.g., complete elimination of intangible values, as if the intangible values could be isolated and separately determined). And the inevitable results were lawsuit after lawsuit, draining taxpayer revenues away from productive programs in both the public and private sectors. So hats off to the Senate committee.


The committee did a fine job with sections related to data centers. AOC fully supports the current amendments in the bill that modestly and carefully liberalize standards and protect data centers from central assessment. We recommend that the sections of SB 611A related to data centers be left alone.


SB 611A, probably because of the committee's need for quick action and minimal public debate, left serious questions for the House Revenue Committee to open up and answer. 

  • What is the explanation for the ballooning of loss of critical local property taxes, on which local governments must rely to protect and enhance communities? The initial design of reform of central assessment, based on "historic costs," was based on hard data, with minimal ambiguity, permitting the Department of Revenue (DOR) to calculate the assessment in a clear manner. Using an arguably arbitrary factor as a surrogate for intangible value did provide an opportunity for a creative lawyer to sue on behalf of a centrally assessed company, but as a method of valuation it was superior to calculation of depreciation, which DOR was unprepared to do. And the tax break for "legacy" companies (using a factor of 130 percent) was significant and appropriately targeted to those in the communications business (i.e., effecting less than 15 companies): $2.3 million annually statewide off the books immediately and thereafter, again, of local revenues. The counties' share of the annual loss ($437,000) seemed acceptable given the incentive-based opportunity of community development and a reduction of wasting lawsuits. SB 611A, however, after about four more designs of formulas for exemptions, ultimately provided tortuous choices of calculations increasingly benefiting legacy companies that resulted in an eye-popping, exponential increase in loss of public revenue of an estimated $16.2 million annually and a blurred focus on incentives for new development (at least 21 legacy companies were now benefited). 
  • A major contributing factor of this exponential increase in loss of property tax revenue is likely the late-coming exemption for the value of franchises and their favorable treatment in the formulas. Unlike the other two key exemptions (Federal Communication Commission license and 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). What is the cost of the three key exemptions within the calculations? Is one significantly greater than the others?  If so, why should they not be equalized for fairness among the companies, or better yet, reduced by caps to more reasonable amounts? 
  • It is disturbing to be ignorant of whether there was a quid-pro-quo for this exponential increase in costs to local public revenues. Fourteen companies have appealed their assessed valuations in Oregon Tax Court, costing themselves and the public attorney fees. If settlement of these appeals was not on the table in trade during discussion of the final formulas for exemptions, why not? 

AOC asked the committee to consider this list of observations to be incomplete at this point.  AOC looks forward to being fully involved in House proceedings with the intention of finding the right balance of incentives for community development and foregone local public revenues, which are critical to protect and enhance Oregon's communities.


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



Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) Budget

Initial hearings were held on the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) Budget on March 2nd and 3rd.The ODVA budget is heard in Transportation and Economic Subcommittee of Ways and Means. Highlights of the ODVA budget are:

  • $313 million = Total General Fund (GF)  and Lottery Funds (LF) in Transportation and Economic Subcommittee 2015-17 Budget (to be spread out over 12 state agencies; ODVA is one of these 12 agencies)
  • $12.8 million = Total GF and LF in ODVA Governor's 2015-17 Requested Budget (GRB); an increase from $9.7 million in 2013-15
  • $4.8 million = Portion of ODVA 2015-17 GRB that is allocated to CVSO's

Below is 2013-15 GF and LF funding levels for agencies that fall under the Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development.  Notice that these funds totaled $282 million; this amount will increase to approximately $313 million for 2015-17.


Commissioner McKeel Testifies 

Commissioner Diane McKeel testified in support of the ODVA budget, and specifically the ODVA request to fully fund CVSO's at a level of $3.8 million for 2015-17 biennium and to make the 2013-15 $1 million funding of ODVA's "Veterans Outreach Grants" an ongoing resource for counties. These outreach grants were originally planned as one-time funds. See Commissioner McKeel's testimony here


The Veterans Steering Committee has two budget priorities this session. First, to secure $4.8 million of funding for CSVOs that was contained in the Governor's Recommended Budget for ODVA. Second, in addition to ensuring this ongoing level of funding for CVSO's, our goal is to secure new, additional resources for CVSO's to expand direct services for veterans. Since 2007, CVSO's have helped increase the disability and compensation payments from $605 million to $1.1 billion. This increase of approximately $500 million during this period benefits more than 100,000 veterans and their families across Oregon. 


The final Subcommittee vote on ODVA's budget will not likely occur until sometime in May.


On March 9th the Veterans Committee recommended and the AOC Legislative Committee approved taking a position to SUPPORT the following veterans related bills:

  • SB 87  Requires public employer to use either tested and scored selection process or sorted or ranked selection process to make hiring or promotion decision. Establishes how eligibility for preference is determined and how preference and interviews are granted.
  • SB 92  Directs State Board of Education to develop data collection standards for school districts to collect data on students from military families.
  • SB 638  Authorizes county governing bodies to appoint county volunteer veterans' ombudsman to provide support services and assistance to veterans and their spouses, dependents and survivors that are not provided by county veterans' service officers.
  • SB 250 Repeals outdated statutes related to the Oregon Department of Veteran's Affairs; ODVA housekeeping bill.
  • SB 251 Clarifies Department of Veterans' Affairs status and authority as fiduciary and representative payee appointed by United States Department of Veterans Affairs and United States Social Security Administration; ODVA bill.
  • SB 252  Exempts Department of Veterans' Affairs from requirement to request or participate in resolution conference in connection with foreclosure of residential trust deed when department is acting in capacity as beneficiary of loan made by department pursuant to statute; ODVA bill.
  • SB 253  Exempts 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 was obtained by Department of Veterans' Affairs in performance of department's duties and functions; ODVA bill.
 AOC policy manager Andy Smith works hard for veterans on your behalf.


Energy, Environment & Land Use

Clean Fuels

On Wednesday, Senate Bill 324, the Clean Fuels legislation, was pass by the House and sent to the Governor for her signature. The debate lasted five hours and the final vote was 31-29 with several Democrats voting with Republicans to block the vote. One of the political concerns with the bill was that the transportation package, which AOC supports, will need bi-partisan compromise, and the Republicans have stated they will not deal on the transportation package if the Clean Fuels bill passes.


Natural Gas Workgroup

Senate Bill 32 was passed off the Senate floor and sent over to the House for consideration. The bill creates a task force to look at the feasibility of expanding natural gas service to underserved sections of the state. AOC would like to amend the bill to ensure that a county commissioner from the underserved area of the state be included in the task force.


State Lands Removal Fill Mitigation Fund

On Thursday, Senate Bill 249 received a public hearing. The bill allows the Department of State Lands (DSL) to create a mitigation bank for the Oregon Removal-Fill Mitigation Fund if a private bank is not already functioning in the area. The bill allows DSL to recoup its costs of a project if an private mitigation bank comes into the area. AOC supports SB 249.



Three of the juniper bills, House Bill 2997, House Bill 2998, and House Bill 2808, received a second public hearing on Thursday morning. There was so much enthusiastic testimony the previous week that a second public hearing needed to be held to accommodate other speakers. There has been a great deal of favorable bipartisan response in the Legislature for these bills. AOC supports all three bills.


Biomass Collection Tax Credit

House Bill 2449 received its first public hearing on Thursday afternoon. HB 2449 extends the sunset on biomass collection or production tax credit. The bill does a couple of things: first, it changes the reimbursement rate for collection of biomass materials. Second, it creates a pilot project to provide tax credits for biomass energy production. If an entity collects one tax credit they may not collect the other. The bill also includes a provision for the Oregon Department of Energy to report back to the Legislature. AOC supports HB 2449. 


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


Financial Assistance for Renewable Energy Projects

Business Partner Member News

Pacific Power's Blue Sky program has opened the application process for financial assistance to develop new, non-residential renewable energy projects in Oregon, Washington, and California.

This is a competitive application process with limited funds. Interested parties must complete the 2015 Blue Sky funding award application form and submit it along with all supplemental material by the end of day (5 p.m., PDT), Friday, May 29, 2015. Applicants will be notified of all award decisions by November 1, 2015.  

Detailed information on how to apply, eligibility guidelines, award recipient requirements and a listing of previously funded projects can be found at here. If you cannot find information you need online, please send an email to

Eligible technologies include wind, solar, low-emissions biomass, wave, landfill gas, certified low-impact hydro, pipeline or irrigation canal hydropower and geothermal. Preference is given to projects with a strong educational component and community benefits that bring a broader understanding of renewable energy generation and/or further research and development of new renewable generation technologies.

Projects must be installed within Pacific Power's service area by December 31, 2016. Extensions to this timeline may be considered for projects associated with the construction of a new building or structure on a case-by-case basis. Funding is not available for off-grid or residential projects, passive or thermal solar energy projects, or for geothermal or biomass heat pump systems.

All award recipients must participate in the Blue Sky program at one of the business partnership levels at the time they agree to receive a funding award (when they sign our funding award agreement).  

Pacific Power is a 2015 AOC Business Partner. 

Contact AOC Member Services Manager Mckenzie Farrell to learn more about the AOC Business Partner program.


Oregon Wave Energy Trust 

AOC Welcomes New Business Partner

Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) is a nonprofit, public-private partnership that is helping to responsibly develop ocean energy by connecting stakeholders, supporting research and development, and engaging in public outreach and policy work.

Learn more about OWET by visiting 

AOC thanks OWET for their partnership. 


Contact AOC Member Services Manager Mckenzie Farrell to learn more about the AOC Business Partner program.


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.


Contract Eliminates RFPs and Accelerates the Purchasing Process

Club Car´┐Ż Awarded U.S. Communities' Contract   

Club Car has been awarded U.S. Communities' contract for utility, transportation and g olf vehicles and related accessories, equipment, parts and services. The contract cove rs Club Car's portfolio of small four-wheel electric,  gas and diesel vehicles. Learn more...  

Contact AOC Member Services Manager Mckenzie Farrell with questions.


Help Your Residents Live Healthy


Prescription, Health & Dental Discounts For County Residents

Now is the time to sign-up or renew your enrollment in the NACo Prescription, Health, and Dental Discount Program - an exclusive program for NACo Member Counties. This program provides relief to uninsured and underinsured Americans who face high prescription, health and dental costs. The program is free to NACo member counties and it has been offering real savings to county residents across the country since 2004.

Sign-up or renew your enrollment today! 


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.