WASHINGTON, D.C. – Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) members and staff joined more than 1,600 county leaders in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference Feb. 20 – 24. Attendees met with members of the Obama Administration and Congress on key issues like criminal justice and mental health reform, public lands and surface transportation.
Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader said, “The reason I am a member of a NACo steering committee is that the committee’s work dovetails nicely into the work I am doing at the local level. Not only do you move policy forward at the local level, you have an opportunity to move policy at the national level.”
“Counties and residents feel the effects of countless decisions made in Washington,” said NACo President Sallie Clark. “We are here to work with our federal partners because federal decisions profoundly impact Americans on the ground, where we live and work.”
County leaders emphasized to Congress and the White House that federal policies matter to county government and county government matters to America. In meetings with lawmakers and Administration officials, county leaders outlined several key federal policy priorities including:
• Protecting municipal bonds
• Protecting Medicaid
• Promoting county priorities in surface transportation implementation
• Supporting the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs
• Achieving mental health and criminal justice reform, and
• Preserving county interests in the “Waters of the U.S.” rule and other federal regulations that impact counties.
Conference attendees heard from congressional and Administration leaders including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senator John McCain, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Jerry Abramson, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli and Director of the National Science Foundation Dr. France Córdova.
Highlights from the conference include a Governors’ Roundtable to address how states and counties collaborate to tackle chronic rural poverty, featuring Govs. Bill Haslam (Tenn.), Gary R. Herbert (Utah), Terry McAuliffe (Va.) and Tom Wolf (Pa.), and a White House Rural Council Poverty Summit featuring speakers from the federal, state, academic and private sectors.
NACo hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill with U.S. Senator Al Franken, which highlighted counties’ pivotal role in lowering incarceration rates and facilitating successful reentry.
There were more than two dozen educational workshops featuring county officials and other leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. They focused on topics like workforce and economic development; transportation and infrastructure; public health and safety; mental health and jails; and cybersecurity and technology.
First-time NACo conference attendee and Wasco County Commissioner Rod Runyon shared information about why counties matter in reducing the number of people with mental health issues in local jails, stating “Wasco County is currently looking at designing a wing of the jail facility that was used in part for juveniles, and changing it into a mental health focused area by bringing in the proper people and resources so the individuals can be treated based on their needs.”
In conjunction with the Legislative Conference, NACo launched its new “Counties Matter” campaign designed to communicate the essential role counties play in everyday life. From issues like transportation and infrastructure to county administration, from economic development to health and public safety, counties are on the front lines serving communities.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) unites America’s 3,069 county governments. Founded in 1935, NACo brings county officials together to advocate with a collective voice on national policy, exchange ideas and build new leadership skills, pursue transformational county solutions, enrich the public’s understanding of county government and exercise exemplary leadership in public service. More information at: www.naco.org.
The Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) unites Oregon’s 36 county governments. Founded in 1906, AOC brings county officials together to advocate with a collective voice on state policy, exchange ideas and build new leadership skills, pursue transformational county solutions, enrich the public’s understanding of county government and exercise exemplary leadership in public service. More information at: http://www.oregoncounties.org/