The Barbed Wire - August 13, 2021

August 13, 2021
RCRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting - “Early Bird” Pricing Ends August 13
Bill of the Week: AB 838 (Friedman) - State Housing Law: Enforcement Response to Complaints
Insurance Commissioner Issues Additional Moratorium on Wildfire Nonrenewals
Bipartisan Infrastructure/Budget Reconciliation Update
Bill to Modernize Sustainable Forestry
Jenny Lester Moffitt Nomination Confirmed
Xochitl Torres Small Nomination Advanced

RCRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting - “Early Bird” Pricing Ends August 13

Register today for RCRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting, September 29 – October 1, 2021, at the Portola Hotel and Spa at Monterey Bay in Monterey County! “Early Bird” registration ends Friday, August 13th!

This year's program will feature experts discussing a wide range of topics from politics to space exploration, with a keynote address by former U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta.  View additional program details here.

Bill of the Week: AB 838 (Friedman) - State Housing Law: Enforcement Response to Complaints

In a joint letter submitted this week, RCRC, the California Association of Counties, the Urban Counties of California and the League of California Cities voiced continued concerns with Assembly Bill 838, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D – Glendale), which aims to ensure that tenants have safe and healthy housing. Although our organizations agree with the intent of the bill, as written AB 838 would place non-reimbursable cost burdens on local governments. 

AB 838 requires a city or county that receives a complaint from a tenant of a substandard building or a lead hazard violation to inspect the building to determine if the conditions are substandard. The bill would also require a city or county to provide free, certified copies of an inspection report and citations issued, if any, to the complaining tenant and to all potentially affected tenants, residents, occupants. AB 838 prohibits the local jurisdiction from collecting a fee or charging the property owner for the inspection or report unless the inspection reveals a lead hazard violation or the property is declared substandard pursuit to the inspection. 

While our coalition had successfully worked with the author’s office during the beginning of the legislative session to address our previous issues, recent amendments created new concerns related to the funding component of the bill. We will continue discussions with the author’s staff to find a compromise that protects tenants, is not overly burdensome to property owners, and allows local governments to fund the resources needed to implement the inspection and notification provisions of the bill. For more information, please contact Tracy Rhine.

Insurance Commissioner Issues Additional Moratorium on Wildfire Nonrenewals

Earlier this week, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued a notice to California insurers under Senate Bill 824 (Lara, 2018), which prohibits them from nonrenewing or cancelling homeowners insurance coverage for one year for policyholders who are known to be located within the parameters of wildfires covered under recent gubernatorial emergency declarations. The notice does not include ZIP codes for homeowners covered under the moratorium since the wildfires subject to the emergency declarations are still active and spreading through the counties where they are occurring. 
The homes being covered are in the counties of Alpine, Butte, Lassen, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity for various fires that have been declared under State of Emergency proclamations by Governor Gavin Newsom. The exact ZIP codes covered by the moratoria will be determined once the various wildfires are contained. 
The Commissioner’s notice can be viewed on the California Department of Insurance website here

Bipartisan Infrastructure/Budget Reconciliation Update

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to pass the bipartisan infrastructure package (The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) by a 69-30 vote.  Immediately following its passage, the Senate turned its attention to the budget resolution and on Wednesday morning just before 4 a.m., the Senate passed Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget resolution. The initial budget reconciliation amendment process (“Vote-A-Rama”) was slated for up to 50 hours of debate on the measure, but both sides yielded back some of their time as the votes hit the 15-hour mark. Following a 50-49 partisan vote in favor of the final reconciliation instructions, the 12 Senate committees that were given reconciliation instructions can now begin work over the remainder of the summer recess to craft their various titles for incorporation into the $3.5 trillion framework. 

Senate committees have been given until September 15th to report their various titles so that the Senate can proceed when it is scheduled to reconvene that week. This period will be crucial to ironing out the details and pay-fors of the agreement, which further came under scrutiny in a statement from Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) criticizing the federal governments’ continued deficit spending. A final reconciliation bill cannot pass the Senate without the votes of all 50 Democrats (assuming no Republicans join in support).  The reconciliation instructions reflect the maximum cost authorized for a possible package — $3.5 trillion — however it is likely, given the concerns of Senator Manchin as well as another notably centrist Democrat Senator Krysten Sinema (D-Arizona), that the resulting legislation will not reach that total. 

Bill to Modernize Sustainable Forestry

On Tuesday, Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) introduced bipartisan legislation to “convene a federal advisory panel tasked with making recommendations to support data collection critical to the health of America’s forests.” Specifically, this “Blue Ribbon” panel would be made up of forest industry representatives, experts, and climate specialists, who will assess the U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory & Analysis program’s past progress, current priorities, and future needs in order to effectively address climate change, promote carbon trading, support forest health, and bolster sustainable wood production. Senator King raised the need for this legislation with Victoria Christiansen, then-Chief of the U.S. Forest Service during a June hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Jenny Lester Moffitt Nomination Confirmed

On Wednesday, the full Senate confirmed by a voice vote the nomination of Jenny Lester Moffitt to serve as the United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Arkansas) welcomed her confirmation with Senator Stabenow stating that Moffitt “brings a wealth of experience and a unique perspective as both a farmer and a policy maker.” Senator Boozman added that he looks forward to working with Moffitt “to increase market opportunities for producers… and believe she will work in good faith to carry out the regulatory authorities for which she will be responsible in a manner that is consistent with congressional intent.”  

In mid-July, the RCRC Executive Committee approved supporting the confirmation of Moffitt. RCRC’s letter can be accessed here.  

Xochitl Torres Small Nomination Advanced

On Wednesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee advanced the nomination of former Representative Xochitl Torres Small (D-New Mexico) to be the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Under Secretary for Rural Development. During the nomination hearing, Representative Torres Small fielded repeated questions about the Administration’s approach to funding rural broadband, responding to a patricianly intense line of questioning from Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) on changing the eligibility requirements for USDA's ReConnect grant and loan program for broadband projects. Representative Torres Small responded that “If confirmed it’s my job to follow the law…I certainly appreciate the instructions that are in the statute.” She now awaits confirmation from the full Senate, however given that the chamber has just begun its “august recess,” this full nomination will likely have to wait until the Fall. 


Announcements regarding hearings, grants, and public comment notices of importance to California's rural counties.


Grant Opportunities Available for Innovative Resiliency Projects

The “California Resilience Challenge” provides grants up to $200,000 to help protect under-resourced communities against climate-related threats such as wildfire, drought, flood and extreme heat events. See prior project winners here. Eligible entities that many apply include local and regional jurisdictions such as counties, cities, special districts, tribes and community-based organizations. For more information, see here. Applications are due September 13, 2021.


State Water Board Requests Feedback for California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program  

On Thursday, August 19th from 10am to 11:30am the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is holding a public webinar to survey community water systems to inform future funding and eligibility for $1 billion in COVID-19 economic relief. The California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program would cover water debt, and potentially revenue loss, from residential and commercial customers accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, including how to register for the event, see here



The Municipal Resource Group, a sponsor of RCRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting, is offering a comprehensive leadership development program for interested participants that starts on August 25th. For more information about the 10-month LX EVOLVE program, please see the flyer here.


Access the State Grants Portal for a Multitude of Funding Opportunities

Billions of dollars are up for grabs to public agencies and other entities, including tribes and businesses. Grant seekers can access a centralized portal of grant and loan opportunities here, or sign up to receive new grant opportunities delivered straight to your inbox. 


Resource pages, deadline extensions, and available programs to assist communities impacted by COVID-19.


Coronavirus Relief Available from the Small Business Administration

The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering several coronavirus relief options to help alleviate the financial hardships resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The programs have received an overwhelming number of applications from businesses, so be sure to check the SBA website for the latest updates on the status of these programs.

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides loan forgiveness for retaining employees by temporarily expanding the traditional SBA 7(a) loan program. After initial funding was quickly depleted, the program received an infusion of an additional $310 billion, allowing the SBA to resume the program on April 27, 2020. Be sure to check the SBA website for the most recent information on the application process and availability of funds.
  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance provides up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties.
  • SBA Express Bridge Loans can be used to bridge the gap for businesses while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan; small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
  • SBA Debt Relief provides a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are interested in programs for other disasters, the SBA Disaster Loan Assistance portal is available here.


Economic Development Resources for Communities and Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus

The California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) has assembled resources for communities and business impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The page will be continually evolving as new resources become available. To go directly to the CALED resources, click here.


Use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds for Infectious Disease Response

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds may be used for a range of eligible activities that prevent and respond to the spread of infectious diseases such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Check out the Quick Guide to CDBG Eligible Activities to Support Infectious Disease Response for guidance and additional information.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) County Resource Page Available

The California State Association of Counties (CSAC), RCRC’s local government partner, continues to provide excellent up-to-date state and federal information to counties on this ever-changing pandemic event.  We encourage visiting CSAC’s COVID-19 resource page, which contains vital links to all CSAC COVID-19 advocacy letters and resources.  CSAC’s staff continues to work around the clock to update activities so that all of California’s counties can remain properly informed.


Information related to the current status of legislation and regulations impacting California’s rural counties.

Assembly Bill 246 (Quirk) Contractors: disciplinary actions. Assembly Bill 246 allows the Contractors State Licensing Board to take disciplinary actions against a contractor who violates state or local laws prohibiting illegal dumping.  Status: AB 246 was signed by Governor Newsom. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 322 (Salas): Energy: Electric Program Investment Charge program: Requires the Energy Commission to consider bioenergy projects for biomass conversion when awarding funds under the Electric Program Investment Charge program. Status: AB awaits consideration on the Senate Floor. RCRC Status: Support    

 Assembly Bill 332 (ESTM): Hazardous waste: treated wood waste. Reestablishes a statutory pathway for the alternative management and disposal of treated wood waste in a landfill.  Status:  AB 332awaits consideration on the Senate Floor. RCRC Status:  Support

Assembly Bill 843 (Aguiar-Curry): California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program: renewable feed-in tariff: Allows Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) to access the CPUC BioMAT program that provides funding for renewable bioenergy electricity projects, including biomass and biogas. Status: AB 843 awaits consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1311 (Wood) Recycling: beverage containers: certified recycling centers. Makes modest changes to the Beverage Container Recycling Act to increase consumer access to redemption opportunities. Status: AB 1311 awaits consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support

 Assembly Bill 1344 (Arambula) State Department of Public Health: Needle and Syringe Exchange Services.  Exempts needle and syringe exchanges services from the California Environmental Quality Act.  Status: AB 1344 awaits consideration on the Senate Floor. RCRC Status: Neutral

Assembly Bill 1454 (Bloom) Beverage Container and Litter Reduction Act.  Assembly Bill 1454 makes several changes to the Beverage Container Recycling Program, including creation of a new $25,000 startup loan for the creation of new recycling centers in unserved or underserved areas and increased payments to redemption centers with an even greater increase in rural areas.  Status: AB 1454 awaits consideration by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.  RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 37 (Cortese) California Environmental Quality Act Exemption.  Senate Bill 37 eliminates the ability to use a “common sense exemption” under the California Environmental Quality Act for any projects undertaken at over 40,000 sites throughout the state that appear on the Cortese List of currently or formerly contaminated properties.  The bill will require discretionary projects with no environmental impact at those locations (including many local corp yards, fire stations, airports, etc.) to undergo an initial assessment and prepare a negative declaration.  Status:  SB 37 awaits consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Status:  Oppose

Senate Bill 52 (Dodd): State of Emergency: Power Outages. Senate Bill 52 clarifies that deenergization events (also known as PSPS events) qualify as events for which a local emergency can be declared under the California Emergency Services Act. Status: SB 52 awaits consideration on the Assembly Floor. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 99 (Dodd): Community Energy Resilience Act of 2021. Senate Bill 99 requires the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. Status: SB 99 awaits consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 341 (McGuire) Makes several changes to increase oversight and accountability of telecommunications service outages. Status: SB 341 awaits consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support 

 Senate Bill 343 (Allen) Prohibits the sale of any product or packaging using a deceptive or misleading claim about its recyclability, including using the chasing arrows symbol unless CalRecycle determines the product or packaging is recyclable.  Requires CalRecycle to identify the types of plastic products and packaging from which a claim of recyclability may be made. Status: SB 343 awaits consideration on the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Watch

Senate Bill 619 (Laird) Organic waste: reduction regulations. Will seek to provide local governments with additional flexibility to achieve the state’s organic waste recycling requirements.  Status: SB 619 awaits consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support