Contributed by: Gil Riddell | AOC Policy Director
October 12, 2016
To no one’s surprise, October and early November will be a quiet time at the Capitol. It’s called the General Election.
But the AOC policy team has stayed in contact with legislative leadership and interim activities, and have a pretty good idea of what’s coming.
First is the election outcomes for legislative seats. County governing body members have helped the team inform legislative candidates of the existence of county government and the varied roles it plays as partners of the Legislature. Counties need a fully informed Legislature to reach sound public policy decisions.
Second is the outcome of ballot measures, which will have a significant impact on resources the 2017 Legislature will have or lack. State agencies are undergoing an exercise of budget cutting in the event there is no significant new income tax revenues to the state. New revenues, as always, precipitate a fight about where and how much of the revenue will go to which public function. There is no doubt that there are multiple critical needs that could well utilize more resources.
There is no secret about the highest profile issues for the 2017 Session, which include:
  • A major transportation package with new resources and an adjustment within the county share of the State Highway Fund to address needs of counties with low populations and high numbers of road miles.
  • Justice Reinvestment of $53 million for initiative grants.
  • New housing of appropriate cost and rents, a multi-part solution.
  • Capacity funds for Regional Solutions.
  • Major continuing investments in water development and field staff.
  • State resiliency initiatives, another multi-part task.
  • Continued legislative commitment to repair and replacement of crumbling county courthouses.
  • Clarity on the questions of non-profit property tax exemptions.
  • Further clean up of marijuana regulatory and revenue-sharing matters.
  • Appropriate and effective treatment of the “370” population of mentally ill.
  • Modernization of the public health system.

Federal issues matter in Oregon because of the extensive land ownership by the federal government. Federal forest management reform, interim funding/safety net, and full funding of Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) are on the “to do” list for Congress during the lame duck session. AOC is also working closely with NACo on the Federal Emergency Management Agency rulemaking related to national flood insurance and restrictions on development. Parts of the dispute should strike Oregonians as odd, given the state’s ground-breaking and strict land use system. Also on the AOC/NACo plate are the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, reform of wildfire suppression funding, and Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 rulemaking.

The AOC Legislative Committee received a visit from Congressman Kurt Schrader on October 10th. The congressman acknowledged the difficulties of working toward viable solutions in a highly dysfunctional Congress, but was not entirely down-beat about possibilities of some successes. He urged continued communication by counties with congressional offices.