The Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) and Oregon Association of County Engineers and Surveyors (OACES) have been busy pushing County Road Department Priorities at the Capitol in Salem.

The Oregon Legislature has come to a stand still as contentious issues have sparked a walk out in the State Senate. Senate Republicans have denied quorum requirements to stall the legislative process. Senate minority and majority leaders, and the governor have met to discuss potential compromises. It is possible that Senate Republicans will return to the chamber to vote on budget bills. AOC and OACES priority bills are ready to be scheduled for floor votes in the Senate if the situation is resolved. 

If the walk out is not concluded before June 25 (Constitutional adjournment deadline), a special session may be scheduled to pass budget bills. AOC and OACES members are preparing for this contingency to include our priority bills within the budget package.

Three impactful county road department and public works bills AOC and OACES are advocating for, include:

  • HB 2101: Codifying the STBG Fund Exchange Program
  • SB 635: County Right of Way Permit Cost Recovery
  • HB 3556: Abandoned Recreational Vehicle Disposal Program

AOC and OACES are actively pursuing these legislative priorities, while also monitoring and advocating on other bills and important issues impacting county road departments. Such issues as public contracting, environmental regulations, traffic safety, bridges, and road operations and maintenance funding. Below are more details on each bill and how you can get involved to help advocate for your county priorities:

HB 2101: Codifying the STBG Fund Exchange Program

The Oregon House of Representatives unanimously passed HB 2101. The bill would codify the STBG Fund Exchange Program and create flexibility within ODOT’s State Highway Fund allocations to realize the long-term sustainability of the program. 

OACES and AOC reached a compromise with ODOT for a – 4 amendment to HB 2101. The amendment would fund a flat $35 million local program for cities, counties, and small MPOs, and only revert to federal funds if no state funds are available. $35 million is the approximate average annual amount that cities and counties are expected to receive in STBG funding for the next five years. Although this program will not increase with federal funds and inflation, it represents a significantly better and more sustainable program than ODOT’s previous 50% reduction plans. 

You can find OACES and AOC and county-submitted testimony [HERE] and view the hearing recording [HERE]. Thank you to all who made the time to speak on this issue and inform the legislature on OACES’ top priority. 

With the walk out still in effect at the time of writing, ODOT’s proposal to release STBG funding as a combination of state funds and HB2017 bridge funding may be implemented as a stop gap measure. 

ODOT has not given official notice of the cancellation of the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that governs the fund exchange program. However, ODOT has released the 2023 STBG Program funds, but has done so only as federal-aid dollars with no state fund exchange option. AOC and OACES will continue to engage ODOT and the legislature until an agreement is reached. 

SB 635: County Right of Way Utility Permit Cost Recovery

Senator Lew Frederick pre-session filed SB 635. The bill would allow counties to charge reasonable cost recovery fees for utility work in the county right of way. This is a reintroduction of HB 3049 (2021). Senator Bill Hansell’s Office hosted a weekly workgroup with counties and utilities to discuss utility concerns. Although progress was made in the workgroup, no amendment agreement was reached. AOC and OACES members are requesting a Joint Committee on Transportation led interim workgroup to continue discussions and prepare to reintroduce the bill in the 2024 short session.

HB 3556: Abandoned Recreational Vehicle Disposal Program

HB 3556 Creates an Abandoned Recreational Vehicle Disposal Revolving Account within the General Fund. The bill is a reintroduction of SB 466 (2021) formerly supported by AOC. An industry and agency partner workgroup led by the Oregon Tow Truck Association has worked through the 2021-22 interim, introducing the most current draft of the bill. HB 3556 was not scheduled for a work session and voted out of committee by the May 19 deadline for continued consideration this session. As a growing issue and a top priority for many stakeholders, AOC and OACES will look to support this effort and a future program in future sessions by providing accurate cost estimates for RV removal and disposal and are preparing a county survey.

How to Get Involved!

AOC and OACES will continue to post opportunities to submit testimony and advocate for public works priorities as our bills advance through the legislative process. You can access the AOC Transportation and Community Development Steering Committee bill tracker [HERE]. Click the “2023 Bill Tracker” button to access the weekly updates on AOC legislative priorities.

If your county road department or your board of county commissioners would like to engage on these or any other transportation-related bills or issues before the 2023 Legislative Assembly, please do not hesitate to reach out to AOC County Road Program Director Brian Worley or AOC Policy Analyst Jordan Cole for more information. 

Contributed by: Jordan Cole | Transportation Policy Analyst and Brian Worley | County Roads Program Director