News

Barbed Wire - April 20, 2012

RCRC Turns 40 in 2012

RCRC Board of Directors Vote to Change Name

During its board meeting in Colusa County this week, the Regional Council of Rural Counties voted to change its name to Rural County Representatives of California to more accurately reflect the organization. With 31 rural counties statewide – from as far south as Imperial County and as far north as Del Norte, Siskiyou and Modoc Counties – RCRC has added a significant number of rural counties and grown geographically from that of a regional body when it was originally founded in 1972, to a statewide body. RCRC will officially launch the name change in the coming months as it fulfills legal requirements and address other matters.

RCRC Identifies Select Priority Legislation for 2012

Now that the legislative session is heating up and bills that previously lacked language, often used as “spot bills” or place holders to meet certain legislative process deadlines, now contain bill language, RCRC staff has been even busier analyzing and advocating on behalf of member rural counties. RCRC has created a list of state and federal legislative priority bills. These include:

SB 1241 (Kehoe) - Land Use: General Plan, Fire Hazard Impacts, which passed out of the Senate Governance & Finance Committee this week. Senate Bill 1241 amends the General Plan safety element requirements for state responsibility areas (SRA’s) and very high fire hazard severity zones. The bill requires the safety element to be reviewed and updated to address the risk of fire in SRA’s and very high fire hazard severity zones.  

Additionally, a county would be required, prior to approving a tentative map, or a parcel map for which a tentative maps was not required, to make three findings: 1) that the design and location of each lot in the subdivision and the subdivision as a whole are consistent with any applicable regulations adopted by the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection; 2) that structural fire protection and suppression services are available for the subdivision through specified entities; and 3) that ingress and egress for the subdivision meets regulations for road standards for fire equipment access.

In a letter to the author, RCRC and CSAC have proposed amendments to the bill that would, among other things, eliminate the requirement that the safety element be updated during each revision of the housing element. RCRC has indicated its opposition to the bill unless it is amended to address rural county member concerns.

For questions or comments, please contact RCRC’s Kathy Mannion at 916-447-4806.

AB 1551 (Torres) - Public Safety Employees – Personal Use of Vehicles, which requires the employer of public safety employees to assume full legal responsibility for employee vehicles when those vehicles are used for a work-related purpose. RCRC believes the current mileage reimbursement rate, established by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), already allows employees to cover the costs of operating a personal vehicle for work purposes. RCRC opposes AB 1551 because of cost and liability issues. The IRS reimbursement rate factors not only include fuel and normal wear and tear, but also the need for insurance, thus addressing employees’ liability during the course of traveling for a work purpose.

AB 1551 this week passed the Assembly Insurance Committee and will be heard next in Assembly Appropriations Committee. Please contact RCRC’s Paul Smith at psmith@rcrcnet.org or 916-447-4806 with questions or comments.

Several RCRC-Supported Priority Bills Pass Out of Committees This Week

Several bills that RCRC legislative staff was monitoring passed out of their respective committees this week.  These include AB 2390 (Chesbro) - Biomass Incentives. Assembly Bill 2390 requires the California Energy Commission to work with Cal FIRE to construct a program that would create financial incentives for those producing and collecting woody biomass as part of vegetation management and other fire prevention activities. RCRC supports attempts to help defray costs of utilizing biomass for power-generation and fuels management for fire protection. The bill includes the following language -- who's sentiment RCRC member counties certainly share -- “In implementing the program, the commission shall encourage the maximum amount of hazardous forest fuels removal”.  

AB 2390 is awaiting hearing in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. Please contact RCRC’s Cyndi Hillery at chillery@rcrcnet.org or 916-447-4806 with questions or comments.

Another RCRC-supported bill that passed out of committee this week is AB 2090 (Berryhill) - Regulatory Reform. Assembly Bill 2090 strengthens last year’s SB 617 (Calderon), which requires a full economic impact analysis of proposed new regulations, but at a lower threshold than that of SB 617. SB 617, which RCRC supported, required that all new regulations with $50 million or more in impacts to have a full economic impact analysis completed as part of the regulatory process. In its support of SB 617, RCRC advocated for reducing the $50 million threshold, arguing that even small total economic impacts can be disproportionately burdensome on smaller businesses in rural counties. AB 2090 improves this issue by reducing the threshold to $15 million, and still stipulates that a full economic impact analysis be a part of the implementation of new regulations.

Please contact RCRC’s Cyndi Hillery with questions or comments at chillery@rcrcnet.org or 916-447-4806.

DWR Seeking Comments on the Draft Urban Level of Flood Protection Criteria

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is still accepting public comments on the Draft Urban Level of Flood Protection Criteria (Criteria) until May 4, 2012.  On April 10, 2012, DWR sent a letter to the 60 cities and 33 counties (of which 26 are RCRC member counties) located within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley.  The letter states that their city/county may be affected by these requirements. The draft criteria were developed in response to the requirements of SB 5, the Central Valley Flood Protection Act of 2008, to strengthen the relationship between flood management and land use. 

The applicability of the draft criteria varies depending upon where a city or county is located within California and with respect to flood hazard zones mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  All cities and counties within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley that are located in a flood hazard zone will be required to make specified findings related to an urban level of flood protection before approving land-use decisions, including a ministerial permit for construction of a new residence. The draft criteria are intended to help cities and counties make the required findings. 

While cities and counties located outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley are not required to make findings related to an urban level of flood protection, DWR suggests the draft criteria can help inform engineering and local land-use decisions for areas at risk of flooding anywhere in California.

DWR requests that public comments or questions on the Draft Urban Level of Flood Protection Criteria be sent to Allan Oto (aoto@water.ca.gov) by May 4, 2012.  For a copy of the draft criteria and additional information, please visit the DWR website:  http://www.water.ca.gov/floodsafe/urbancriteria/

Please share your comments to DWR with RCRC's Mary Pitto.  Please send any questions, comments, or concerns to RCRC’s Mary Pitto mpitto@rcrcnet.org.