News

Barbed Wire - March 29, 2012

RCRC Turns 40 in 2012

Last Minute Extension by Congress Averts Highway Program Shutdown

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives continued a heated standoff with the U.S. Senate over legislative consideration to reauthorize the nation’s surface transportation programs. Late Thursday, however, both the House and Senate approved a 90-day extension through June 30and the bill is expected to be signed by the President.  In a last ditch effort to force the House to come to the table on transportation policy, Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) tried to attach the Senate version of reauthorization to the extension; however, the bill was passed without those provisions.   

The Senate continues to urge the House to consider their bipartisan bill that was approved two weeks ago. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested a compromise extension bill that also allows for certain procedural maneuvering. 

As reported previously in the Barbed Wire, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, MAP 21 (S. 1813) was approved by the Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 74 to 22. The two-year, $109 billion, reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA LU), consolidates over 100 highway programs into five core areas and vastly increases spending on innovative financing. 

In a huge victory for counties, top priorities were included in MAP 21 during previous floor debate. An amendment to restore funding for local or “off system” bridges and a one year extension of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act and Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program (PILT) were included in the final package. 

The House has yet to consider their version of highway reauthorization. The package, H.R. 7 was pulled from the floor in February, lacking the votes needed for passage.

Please contact Melissa White, mwhite@rcrcnet.org, for additional information.  

Assembly Natural Resources Committee Passes SRA Fees Repeal Bill

On Monday, members of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee -- chaired by Eureka Democrat Wes Chesbro – passed Assembly Bill 1506 by Riverside Republican Kevin Jeffries on a 7-2 vote with members Roger Dickinson (Sacramento) and Nancy Skinner (Berkeley) opposing. AB 1506 repeals ABx1-29 from 2011, which instituted fees on structure owners located within the State Responsibility Area (SRA), commonly referred to as the ‘fire fee’.

Napa County Supervisor and RCRC Immediate Past Chair Diane Dillon testified during the committee hearing on behalf of AB 1506, referring to RCRC’s most recent letter to committee members, and urged members of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee to support California counties and those who live in them by passing the bill.

Next AB 1506 moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where RCRC will once again support it. RCRC has been opposed to SRA Fees from the beginning and will continue to work on the issue, including engaging Assembly Member Chesbro while he refines his proposed bill for which language is not yet in print.

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

Costly General Plan Safety Element Mandate Legislation Passes First Committee – Counties are Urged to Continue Opposition

Senate Bill 1241 (Kehoe), which amends the general plan safety element requirements for state responsibility area (SRAs) and very high fire hazard severity zones, unfortunately passed the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Tuesday on a 5-2 party line vote. As previously reported in the Barbed Wire, SB 1241 requires that the safety element be reviewed and updated each time the housing element is revised, to address the risk of fire on those areas and zones. Since most RCRC member counties are in SRA areas, this affects member counties particularly hard. RCRC and CSAC, in a joint letter, expressed opposition to this requirement citing the cost burden of such reviews and updates, and the unrealistic expectation that counties may recover all of their costs by imposing fees or assessments. The bill is virtually identical to two previous bills authored by Senator Kehoe, which were vetoed by former Governor Schwarzenegger. 

RCRC Immediate Past Chair and Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon testified in opposition of SB 1241 on behalf of RCRC and CSAC.  Testifying in support of the bill were the California Fire Chiefs Association, California Native Plant Society, California Professional Firefighters, and the Fire Districts Association of California. 

Prior to voting for the bill, Senator Lois Wolk encouraged, and Senator Kehoe agreed, to work with RCRC and CSAC to possibly modify the bill to lessen its impact on counties. SB 1241 will now be heard in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, which is chaired by Senator Wolk, on April 18.

RCRC urges member counties to contact Senate Governance and Finance Committee members, whose contact information may be accessed at: http://sgf.senate.ca.gov/. In your letters and/or discussions, please include examples of the estimated cost to comply with the bill’s mandate, as well as other concerns with the provisions of the bill. 

Please send copies of your letters to Kathy Mannion. Contact Kathy Mannion at (916) 447-4806 or kmannion@rcrcnet.org with any questions.

RCRC’s Homebuyers Fund Receives Green Leadership Award

The Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC) homebuyers fund, also known as CHF, received a 2012 Green Leadership Award in the Finance in the Public Sector category for developing and implementing the CHF Residential Energy Retrofit Program. CHF – a joint powers authority -- acquired $27 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from the California Energy Commission in 2010 to help distribute the funds as originally intended.

The Green Leadership Awards program, hosted by weekly newspaper Sacramento Business Journal, is an annual program which highlights the region's people, companies and organizations that take a lead in providing green technologies and services. RCRC’s CHF Residential Energy Retrofit Program was designed to help create jobs in the green sector and stimulate the California economy via whole-house energy efficiency retrofits in moderate income single family homes.  CHF program results to-date include 1057 homes completed or in the process of being retrofitted; retrofit projects averaging a 30% energy savings; 307 estimated jobs created/retained; $23.7 million in loans distributed; $2.1 million in grants distributed; and 86 billion BTUs of total energy savings.

An awards breakfast will be held on Friday, April 13, 2012 in Sacramento. For more information on the event, please visit http://www.bizjournalevents.com/greenbiz/green2012-awards.htm.

For questions or comments about the CHF program, please contact RCRC’s CHF Marketing Director Carolyn Holmes at 855-740-8422 or cholmes@rcrcnet.org.

Announcements
California Department of Water Resources to Hold Regional Forum on Water Management and Planning

The first Department Water Resources (DWR) Mountain Counties Regional Forum on Water Management and Planning is scheduled for Monday, April 2, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.The primary meeting location is El Dorado Hills, with satellite locations in Oakhurst; a webinar format is also available. Please note Sonora location has been withdrawn. Please visit www.waterplan.water.ca.gov/materials/index.cfm?subject=apr0212 to download the agenda, webinar link and conference call number. Meeting materials will be posted as they are available.

As previously reported in the Barbed Wire, the forum will focus on regional water management priorities, programs, conditions and challenges. This information will help develop the Water Plan Update 2013 Mountain Counties Regional Report, which tells the water story for this area.  An executive summary of the regional report will be included in the Water Plan Highlights document - capturing key elements of strategic water planning issues, priorities and recommendations that help with statewide investments. Representatives of water agencies and collaboratives; local, state, Tribal and federal government; watershed and community groups; conservancies; and the public are invited.  Please RSVP at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/P37FKGR. A $10 fee will be collected for the working lunch.

For more information, please contact Judie Talbot at talbot.judie@gmail.com or 775.720.0214.