“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” With that time honored quip delivered with a straight face, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Director for Oregon John Huffman launched into a report for the Association of Oregon Counties Legislative Committee April 9th.

A former state representative, Huffman told county officials that his experience in the legislature prepared him well for his relatively new role as Rural Development Director of Oregon. He cited numerous examples of legislation he had sponsored or had worked that dove tail into Rural Development projects. Huffman pointed out that his work in the legislature on broadband application is paying off now that USDA is involved in broadband in rural areas. “Broadband is badly needed in rural, very rural and frontier areas,” Huffman said.

His message throughout his presentation was that he wants to meet constantly and continuously with Oregon county officials.

AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett followed Huffman with a brief report on sexual harassment prevention training at the state Capitol. Bovett said the training was an eye opener for many veteran Capitol denizens and the atmosphere in the building following the training has most decidedly changed for the better.

Jason Lewis-Berry, from the Governor’s office, brought the Legislative Committee up to date on a number of Regional Solutions projects, including a brief report on the short session of the Oregon Legislature. The Legislature added funding for efforts to clean up after last year’s fire season. He also discussed trade policy issues the Governor’s office is working on. Those issues have the potential to impact Oregon businesses, workers and communities.

AOC Steering Committee Reports:

Transportation & Community Development – Transportation funding was included in the recent federal omnibus spending package. The committee is also working on 2019 Legislative priorities.

Governance – Items discussed included building code inspection programs, federal legislation regarding marijuana and the impact on Oregon.

Natural Resources – The committee heard from Lena Tucker, private forests division chief at the Oregon Department of Forestry about potential uplisting for the marbled Murrelet. County commissioners were urged to stay at the table during the discussions.

Health & Human Services – The committee discussed Coordinate Care Organization (CCO) contracts and the fact that they are being revisited currently. It was suggested that now is an opportune time to impact positive changes. In addition, the committee discussed holding a housing seminar and workshop in the near future. Finally, the committee shared that a tour of the veterans facility in The Dalles will be held on June 15 and that Veterans Affairs privatization was discussed.

Contributed by: Eric Schmidt | AOC Consultant