The Barbed Wire - August 28, 2020

August 28, 2020
Strangest Legislative Session in Recent Years Slated to Adjourn on August 31st
Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 1659 (Bloom)- Wildfire Mitigation: Revenue Bonds
RCRC Speaks with Politico’s Jeremy B. White for a Nonpartisan Look at the 12 Propositions Slated for California’s November Ballot
Internal Revenue Service Tax Extension for Wildfire Victims
State Senate Confirms Board of Forestry Members
Supreme Court Sides With Trinity County in Case Supported by RCRC
United States Postal Service Funding
Federal Communications Commission Connection Support
RCRC Renews Calls for Wireline Communications Resiliency During Power Outages
RCRC Urges CPUC to Make Residents in Communities with Limited or No Wireless Communications Coverage Eligible for SGIP Subsidies and Comments on Potential Income Cap for Existing PSPS Mitigation Subsidies

Strangest Legislative Session in Recent Years Slated to Adjourn on August 31st

Upon adjournment, the 2020 Legislative Session will come to a close at 11:59 p.m. on August 31st. After the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused an early two-month legislative recess in late March, April and early May and the resulting public health guidelines along with positive COVID-19 tests in the State Capitol in the final days of the Session, the 2020 Legislative Session has earned the reputation as the strangest in recent memory.

Since returning from Summer Recess, the Legislature focused largely on bills related to COVID-19. They heard and took action on an assortment of bills including budget trailer bills, housing, criminal justice, worker protections and health and safety. The Governor has until September 30, 2020 to act on bills that have reached his desk. Outside of urgency clause bills that go into effect immediately upon their enactment, all other bills enacted take effect January 1, 2021.

RCRC staff will continue to monitor outstanding bills during the final hours/days of the 2020 Legislative Session. The RCRC Board of Directors will receive a full update on the status of key bills at the September RCRC Board of Directors meeting. Unless a Special Session is called within 72-hours of Tuesday’s adjournment, the Legislature will reconvene in early December to kick-off the 2021 Legislative Session. What reconvening will look like in 2021, remains to be seen.

For more information regarding state legislative activities, please contact the RCRC Governmental Affairs staff at (916) 447-4806.

Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 1659 (Bloom)- Wildfire Mitigation: Revenue Bonds

RCRC has offered support for Assembly Bill 1659, authored by Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), which establishes a robust, continuous funding source to improve the health and resilience of California’s forest and wildlands to help prevent future catastrophic wildfire events. This recently-crafted bill would also bolster the state’s emergency response capabilities to fire events and helping residents safeguard their homes.

RCRC believes that AB 1659 could finally provide the sorely needed funding stream to make a significant difference in the state’s wildfire prevention and emergency response goals. By utilizing and continuing an existing surcharge on the “big three” investor-owned utilities (PG&E, SoCal Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric), the bill also fairly targets the areas suffering from the highest rate of catastrophic fires and, in turn, focuses prevention efforts in those areas. RCRC has requested an amendment to specifically empower counties with the ability to contribute to wildfire prevention and response efforts. Additionally, RCRC has requested funding to support the state network of fair facilities in their role in wildfire emergency response efforts, including as emergency evacuation centers and fire staging areas.

The bill is slated to be reviewed over the weekend in both the State Senate and the State Assembly.

Read RCRC’s letter of support here.

RCRC Speaks with Politico’s Jeremy B. White for a Nonpartisan Look at the 12 Propositions Slated for California’s November Ballot

In this week’s episode of RCRC’s Hometown California podcast, our host, Paul A. Smith, speaks with Jeremy B. White of Politico about the twelve ballot measures California voters will decide this November. Jeremy B. White co-writes Politico's California Playbook and covers politics in the Golden State.

Together, Paul and Jeremy provide a nonpartisan look at each ballot measure. They discuss the support and opposition arguments and financing behind the propositions, and provide insight about the impact of each measure on rural counties. (Download now)

This is the first of two episodes in a series about California's November 2020 ballot initiatives and covers.

  • Proposition 14: California Stem Cell Research, Treatments, and Cures Initiative of 2020 Act
  • Proposition 15: The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act (Split Roll)
  • Proposition 16: Repeal of Proposition 209 of 1996
  • Proposition 17: Voting Rights of Convicted Felons
  • Proposition 18: Age of Voting

For a look at the remaining seven ballot measures, be sure to listen to Hometown California Episode 6, coming soon!

And be on the lookout for this episode of Hometown California coming soon in Spanish.

Visit Politico on the web at
Follow Politico California on Twitter @politicoca
California Playbook: Subscribe Here
More from Politico about the California November 2020 Ballot Initiatives: Available Here

Internal Revenue Service Tax Extension for Wildfire Victims

On Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it has given victims of the California wildfires until December 15, 2020 to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments. The IRS is offering this relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as qualifying for individual assistance. Currently, this includes Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo Counties in California, but taxpayers in localities added later to the disaster area will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief.

State Senate Confirms Board of Forestry Members

The second of two California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection members was confirmed earlier this week as current Board Chair, J. Keith Gilless, received approval from the State Senate. Gilless, who has served on the Board since 2011, has established a strong working relationship with RCRC through his work with the Governor’s Forest Management Task Force and the California Climate Action Team, and his willingness to work with local governments on planning and timber harvest issues. As Chair of the Board, Gilless has shepherded the Board through such large-scale undertakings as adoption of the Programmatic Vegetation Treatment Program and the related Environmental Impact Assessment, which will be vital to the State achieving its vegetation management and wildfire prevention goals.

The confirmation of Gilless follows last week’s confirmation of fellow Board member Katherine Delbar. Delbar has served on the Board since 2016, bringing her experience as both a timberland owner and a rancher living in an RCRC member county (Mendocino) to the Board’s decision-making process, which is vital to the Board’s understanding of timber management in rural communities. RCRC supported the confirmation of both Mr. Gilless and Ms. Delbar.

Supreme Court Sides With Trinity County in Case Supported by RCRC

On Thursday, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Trinity County in a closely-watched case concerning liability for injuries sustained by civilians who assist law enforcement. RCRC, joined by the League of California Cities, had filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Trinity County, arguing that civilians injured while assisting law enforcement officers in responding to 911 calls should receive compensation guaranteed through the workers’ compensation system, rather than suing the law enforcement agency in civil court, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident. The Supreme Court agreed with these arguments, and specifically acknowledged RCRC's contribution in its decision.

The issue is of special interest to rural counties, as the large geographic areas and scarce law enforcement resources increase the opportunities for civilian assistance in law enforcement. Thursday's decision will both protect counties and cities from substantial liability exposure, but will also ensure that injured civilians are certain to receive workers’ compensation benefits regardless of the nature of the assistance provided to law enforcement.

The Supreme Court’s decision can be accessed here, and RCRC's friend-of-the-court brief can be accessed here.

United States Postal Service Funding

On Saturday, the House of Representatives convened for a rare weekend session to pass a $25 billion emergency funding package for the United States Postal Service (USPS), including provisions to block major changes by President Trump’s Postmaster General that could cripple the agency’s ability to handle a surge of mail-in ballots this Fall. The measure passed 257-150, with 26 Republicans joining Democrats in favor of the bill. However, the bill is not likely to see any movement in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate, and the White House has vowed to veto the legislation as well. Closed-door negotiations toward a deal on the USPS crisis and coronavirus relief are ongoing, yet little progress has been made in recent weeks.

Federal Communications Commission Connection Support

Last week, three California members of the House of Representatives - Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton), Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), and Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) – sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, expressing their concern about how the wildfires and rolling blackouts may be impacting the ability of Californians to stay connected in these emergencies, especially given that these events are taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RCRC Renews Calls for Wireline Communications Resiliency During Power Outages

Last Friday, RCRC submitted extensive reply comments to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Emergency Disaster Relief Program Proceeding, which is currently considering requirements for wireline communications resiliency during Public Safety Power Shut-off (PSPS) events.

RCRC countered various wireline providers’ objections to increasing the resiliency of their facilities located in needs in High Fire Threat Districts and disputed many of their assertions that the costs of upgrading their systems would far outweigh the few benefits that may accrue from keeping their infrastructure operational during a power outage. For instance, wireline providers are largely seeking to abandon reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services for residential customers and most critical facilities, instead focusing on maintaining service for police stations, fire stations, hospitals, and emergency dispatch centers. RCRC objected to this industry proposal and emphasized the need for reliable wireline communications during power outages and emergencies, especially for those communities that have no (or limited) wireless coverage.

As a result, RCRC renewed our calls for the CPUC to establish systemwide resiliency targets and set clear expectations for communications system performance. Without adopting minimum standards for wireline providers, public health and safety are put at risk by leaving rural and disadvantaged communities without reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services during disasters, such as PSPS events.

RCRC Urges CPUC to Make Residents in Communities with Limited or No Wireless Communications Coverage Eligible for SGIP Subsidies and Comments on Potential Income Cap for Existing PSPS Mitigation Subsidies

On Monday, RCRC submitted comments to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as part of the new Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) proceeding.

Earlier this year, the CPUC voted to set aside 63% of SGIP ratepayer funds for community and individual energy resiliency projects to mitigate the impacts of PSPS events. The SGIP program is funded by ratepayers from the three largest investor owned utilities and provides incentives for customers to install energy storage devices. The program has devoted $600 million through 2024 to an equity resiliency budget, which will nearly completely subsidize the cost to install energy storage systems for critical facilities and certain residential customers in in Tier 2 or Tier 3 High Fire Threat Districts or that have experienced two or more PSPS events. Residential customers may qualify if they: 1) are eligible for the equity budget; 2) have participated in the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing or Single Family Affordable Solar Homes Programs; 3) are on a medical baseline rate program or have reported a serious medical condition to their utility; or, 4) rely on electric well pumps for water supplies.

Due to an unexpected volume of funding applications from individuals who rely on electric groundwater well pumps, the CPUC requested stakeholder comments on whether they should adopt an income cap for groundwater well applicants and those that have reported a serious medical condition to their utility. RCRC provided feedback supporting eligibility for those customers and urging the CPUC to carefully craft any changes in order to avoid making the program overly restrictive.

In light of significant wireline communications provider push back to increasing the resiliency of their systems that serve communities with little or no wireless coverage, RCRC also suggested that the CPUC expand SGIP eligibility to help any residents who live in wireline-dependent communities. Wireline providers argued that they should not be required to upgrade their infrastructure in high fire risk areas to maintain service during a power outage because few residents have their own energy sources that are necessary to power residential communications equipment. As the industry shifted from copper based telephone lines to newer technology, the infrastructure has become far more dependent on utility- (or customer-) provided electricity. Expanding SGIP eligibility to customers living in areas dependent on wireline communications systems will allow those residents to tap into significant subsidies to install energy storage systems so that they can mitigate the impacts of PSPS events and maintain access to emergency communications networks.


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

Upcoming Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Advisory Committee (FRRCC) Meeting Hosted by the U.S. EPA

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is holding a Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Advisory Committee (FRRCC) meeting September 10-11, 2020. The FRRCC is a policy-oriented committee that meets twice per year to provide policy advice, information, and recommendations to the U.S. EPA Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities. More info on FRRCC here.

Register here.


HCD Announces Help for Those Affected by Northern California Wildfires in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo Counties

On August 22, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the White House approved California's request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the state's emergency response to wildfires burning in Northern California and support impacted residents in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo Counties.

This declaration helps people in those counties through support and services that includes:

  • Crisis counseling
  • Housing and unemployment assistance
  • Legal services

If you sustained losses from the Northern California fires in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, or Yolo Counties, you can now apply for assistance.

To begin the process:

  1. Apply online with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) OR
  2. Call 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 (TTY).

HCD encourages the use of online applications whenever possible. For additional information and important details, see the entire HCD announcement here.


CARB to Host Regulatory Training for Public Agencies

The California Air Resources Board will be hosting an Air Regulatory Overview webinar for public agencies on September 3, 2020. This course is an overview of air regulations that public agencies in California have compliance requirements, including:

  • Idling Limitations;
  • On-Road Public Fleet Regulation;
  • In-Use Off-Road Diesel Vehicle Regulation;
  • Periodic Smoke Inspection Program; &
  • Portable Equipment Registration Program (PERP).

DATE:            September 3, 2020
TIME:             1:00 p.m.
WEBINAR:     Register

CARB will also provide a compliance overview of the Truck and Bus Rule, Off-Road Regulation, and Portable Equipment on October 8, 2020. Course topics include the following:

Truck and Bus Regulation:

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Engine Model Year Schedule
  • Exemptions & Extensions
  • How to Report for Regulation Flexibilities
  • Broker and Dispatcher Requirements
  • DMV Registration

Periodic Smoke Inspection Program (PSIP):

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Program Updates

In-Use Off-Road Diesel Vehicle Regulation:

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Requirements Currently in Effect
  • Future Compliance Deadlines

Portable Equipment Registration Program (PERP) & Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM):

  • PERP Eligibility
  • Program Requirements
  • ATCM Program & Updates
  • Enforcement & Inspections

DATE:            October 8, 2020
TIME:             1:00 p.m.
WEBINAR:     Register


SAFER Advisory Group Meeting and Question and Answer Webinar

The SAFER Adviory Group will meet on September 11, 2020 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This meeting is by remote participation only. A webcast will be available here. If you wish to comment on an agenda item or would like addiontal information, the notice is available in English or Spanish.


Bureau of Reclamation Seeks Public Input on Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement About Proposal to Raise Shasta Dam

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public input on the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) related to the proposal to raise the 600-foot-tall Shasta Dam by 3% (or an additional 18.5 feet). This proposed project would increase water storage capacity in the Shasta Lake reservoir by 634,000 acre-feet or more than 200 billion gallons—enough water to support two million people a year. The resulting dedicated environmental storage is anticipated to improve water quality in the Sacramento River below the dam by lowering water temperatures for anadromous fish survival, such as Chinook salmon and other fish that migrate from the ocean to rivers to spawn.

The supplemental EIS provides information relevant to Reclamation’s application of Clean Water Act Section 404(r), updates modeling to be reflective of the 2019 Biological Opinions, and provides an updated analysis on effects to the McCloud River. View the Draft Supplemental EIS here. Submit comments to David Brick, Bureau of Reclamation, CGB-152, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825, via telephone at 916-202-7158 (TTY 1-800-877-8339) or via email at dbrick@usbr.govComments are due by close of business on September 21, 2020.


State Water Board Now Accepting SAFER Advisory Group Applications

The State Water Board is now accepting applications for the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) Advisory Group, which provides the State Water Board with advice on the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund Expenditure Plan and other SAFER-related policies. Applications will be accepted through September 30, 2020.

There are 10 seats open for the 2020 application period. Applicants will be selected and notified by Winter 2020. County resource staff and other interested parties are encouraged to apply. The electronic application form is available on the SAFER Advisory Group website here.

The SAFER Advisory Group website will be updated with tools and resources regularly, so keep checking the website for more information.


HCD Announces the Release of the Homekey Notice of Funding Availability

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has announced the release of the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for $600 million in Homekey funds. The grant funding is available to cities, counties , or other local public entities within California to purchase and rehabilitate housing, as well as hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other buildings and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing. Prior to submitting an application, all applicants are required to engage in a pre-application consultationAll applications are due by September 29, 2020. Visit the Homekey webpage to learn more.


Career Opportunities

  • Colusa County Seeks Assistant Director of Public Works/Road Commissioner

The county of Colusa is accepting applications for the position of Assistant Director of Public Work/Road Commissioner. The position is open until filled. Details are available here.


Amendment to the Federal 2019-20 Community Development Block Grant

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has released an amendment to the federal 2019-20 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). The NOFA applies to state CDBG non-entitlement cities and counties applying for funding under Community Development activities, Special Allocations for Economic Development, Colonia, and Native American Communities.

This amendment only affects the Economic Development (ED) set-aside and:

  • Removes the competitive process, allowing all applications, both program and project, to be reviewed and approved on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Extends the ED program application deadline to September 15, 2020.
  • Makes other changes to program activity limits and requirements for proof of capacity, while providing more local flexibility in ED program design and implementation.

You can access the 2019-2020 CDBG NOFA amendment and links to the online application here.


RCRC Annual Meeting in Napa County Cancelled

The RCRC Annual Meeting 2020 has been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As a result, the RCRC September Board of Directors Meeting will take place on September 16, 2020 via Zoom.

The Annaul Meeting was scheduled to occur in Napa County this September. Planning is underway to hold a future Annual Meeting in Napa – most likely in 2022 – in order to enjoy the beauty of the County as well as contribute to its economic recovery. More information on the return to Napa will be forthcoming after consideration and action by the RCRC Board of Directors.


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

DWR Provides Tips for Holding Online Meetings to Address Groundwater Sustainability Plans

As Groundwater Sustainability Plans are being developed to meet the January 2022 deadline, several counties (and water agencies) have asked for advice for engaging stakeholders and interested parties through online resources. In response to community interest, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Sustainable Groundwater Management Office has put together examples, tips, and tactics to consider. The DWR tips are available here.


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.

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.