The Barbed Wire - December 11, 2020

December 11, 2020
California Board of Forestry Unveils New Draft Fire Safe Regulations
Bill of the Week: Senate Bill 4 (Gonzalez) - Broadband for All Act
Hometown California – The Episode That Started It All
Water Resources Development Act Passes House – Passage in the Senate Likely
Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Appear To Be At An Impasse – State and Local Aid In Jeopardy
Online Tool Connects Residents in High Risk Areas with a Pathway to Home Insurance
Marijuana Legalization Passes the House

California Board of Forestry Unveils New Draft Fire Safe Regulations

This week, the California Board of Forestry (BOF) released proposed revisions to its State Fire Safe regulations. These rules set forth basic wildfire protection standards for development in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones of both the State Responsibility Area (SRA) and the Local Responsibility Area (LRA) beginning July 1, 2021.

The draft rulemaking, presented at the BOF Joint Committee on Tuesday, provided the first opportunity for the public to evaluate the specific changes being proposed to the fire safe standards.  At the meeting, RCRC staff conveyed serious concerns regarding the scope of the changes, and the extraordinary impacts this proposal will have on housing production, not only in rural areas of the state, but also in more urbanized regions of California. For instance, the draft regulations would prohibit any future building construction on property served by a road that has not been upgraded, or that cannot be upgraded to meet current standards, such as dead-end roads. These upgrade requirements include road widening, re-surfacing, leveling grades and curves, and bridge improvements, from the property line to the nearest fire station, and apply to the building of a single residential unit or any business increasing its "service capacity."  All required upgrades would be at the expense of the property owner. 

RCRC staff has been in discussions with the BOF since April of this year on proposed revisions to the State Fire Safe regulations and have offered both written and oral comments on the preceding emergency rulemaking that ultimately made more minor changes to the regulations.  RCRC has formed a working group of local government partners and other interested stakeholders, to provide coordinated comments on the current draft regulation, which are scheduled to be considered at the January, 2021 BOF meeting.   

The proposed rulemaking can be found here.  For more information, please contact Tracy Rhine at

Bill of the Week: Senate Bill 4 (Gonzalez) - Broadband for All Act

On the first day of the 2021 Legislative session, Senator Lena A. Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), introduced Senate Bill 4, the Broadband for All Act, which would make significant changes to the way the state funds broadband infrastructure projects.  SB 4 is a retooling of Senator Gonzalez’s similar proposal last year which failed passage in the Assembly.

The Broadband for All Act revises the State’s broadband funding mechanism, the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) program, to create a more equitable broadband funding stream that prioritizes those areas of the state that lack the most basic broadband service.  For instance, currently local governments are only eligible for CASF funding if no other service provider applies to fund a project in that area.  SB 4 would not only make local governments eligible for CASF but would also enable those jurisdictions to utilize state funding to leverage other public and private funding opportunities.

RCRC staff has worked collaboratively with Senator Gonzalez throughout the interim on finding innovative solutions to closing the digital divide, including supporting local governments that are interested in providing high-quality, reliable internet service to their constituents.  Bringing robust, high-speed internet access to RCRC member counties is essential to, not only economic growth, but to the basic health and safety of our communities. 

RCRC joined a large coalition supporting SB 4 at introduction.  The coalition letter can be found here. For more information, please contact Tracy Rhine at

Hometown California – The Episode That Started It All

Launched in late July, the Hometown California podcast has been telling California’s rural story through some of the most challenging months of the year. During a political season oversaturated with rhetoric and propaganda, RCRC’s interviews with Jeremey White (co-writer of Politico California’s Playbook newsletter) and Leah Askarinam (Editor-in-Chief of the National Journal’s Hotline publication) cut through the noise and delivered relevant information to voters, with an emphasis on the impact on California’s rural counties. In other episodes, Hometown California has offered a look into issues and industries impacting rural communities. This week, listen again to the episode that started it all: An Interview with Daron McDaniel, Merced County Supervisor. Supervisor McDaniel has been the RCRC Chair in this tumultuous year. In the first episode, he shares his story and reflections on what it has been like to lead during a worldwide pandemic.
Coming next week: The Intersection of the UC and Rural California, An Interview with Michael V. Drake, M.D.- The 21st President of the University of California. Stay tuned, and spread the word!
All past episodes of Hometown California can be found here.

Water Resources Development Act Passes House – Passage in the Senate Likely

On Tuesday, the House approved the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020.  The bill would approve 46 new flood control, harbor, ecosystem and lock and dam projects on waterways across the country and would authorize the study of 27 more. For California, the bill includes projects in:

  • The Sacramento River, Yolo Bypass, California
  • Lake Isabella, California
  • Lower San Joaquin River, California
  • Sacramento River, Glenn-Colusa, California
  • San Diego River and Mission Bay, San Diego County, California
  • San Francisco, California, Waterfront Area
  • Western Pacific Interceptor Canal, Sacramento River, California

Both the House and the Senate had originally planned to include additional water legislation to boost clean water and drinking water programs in the final package, however those efforts were scrapped amid cost objections from Republicans and disputes over the stringency of drinking water regulations. The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the unaccompanied WRDA 2020 measure as part of year-end legislation. 
Click here for the WRDA Section-by-Section; Click here for the WRDA Bill Text; Click here for a detailed interactive map of authorized projects and studies.

Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Appear To Be At An Impasse – State and Local Aid In Jeopardy

As of early Friday, it appeared that passage of a second comprehensive COVID-19 relief package is unlikely before the end of the year.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) indicated that Republican members of the U.S. Senate will not support a package that contains $160 billion in aid for state and local governments.  State and local assistance and provisions for COVID-19 liability relief for businesses remain the biggest stumbling blocks to reaching a deal.  Both state and local aid and liability relief were included in a $908 billion package put forth by a group of bi-partisan/bi-cameral lawmakers; however, the liability relief section, albeit much more limited, warranted further construction to satisfy top Congressional Republicans.   The bi-partisan/bi-cameral plan also includes a number of other important aspects such as increased unemployment benefits, monies for vaccine development and distribution, monies for small business relief, among others.  Complicating matters was Majority Leader McConnell support for a $916 billion proposal released by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin which differed with the bi-partisan package by resurrecting direct relief to many U.S. residents.  The bi-partisan package focuses on enhanced unemployment benefits.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and most Congressional Democrats view the bi-partisan $908 billion plan as the best path to a deal.  During the week, Majority Leader McConnell expressed willingness to set aside his top priority of business liability relief in exchange for the elimination of state and local government aid.  This was rejected by the House Speaker.

Online Tool Connects Residents in High Risk Areas with a Pathway to Home Insurance

As a result of the work of the California Tree Mortality Task Force, in 2018, the California Insurance Commissioner issued a report containing recommendations to address homeowners’ insurance cancellations and non-renewals in tree mortality and other high fire risk areas. The report identified Yapacopia, a public benefit corporation, as the provider of a free online service connecting homeowners in high risk areas—even those who have been denied previously— with insurers, insurance agents, and brokers. The MatchUP Insurance Finder connects county residents with insurance providers quickly. A unique webpage has been created for each county, providing information, links, and useful tools. In addition, Yapacopia will provide a webinar for any county to discuss wildfire preparation and recovery, and insurance issues. More information about Yapacopia and the MatchUP Insurance Finder is available here.

Marijuana Legalization Passes the House

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize cannabis at the federal level.  While the vote was mostly along party lines — approved 228 to 164 — five Republicans supported the reform (including Representative Tom McClintock of Placer County) and six Democrats opposed it.  Under the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act, cannabis would become federally de-scheduled and those with prior convictions would have their records expunged.  The bill would also authorize a 5 percent tax on marijuana that would fund community and small business grant programs to help those most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana.  However, the legislation is almost certainly destined to fail in the current Republican-led U.S. Senate, where GOP leaders have disparaged the legislation as a superficial distraction from the work of passing coronavirus relief.  RCRC did not offer comment on this latest cannabis-related legislation; however, liberalizing the federal banking laws for cannabis remains a top Congressional priority. 


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


Workshop Registration is Open For 2021 Off-Highway Vehicle Grants and Cooperative Agreements

Mark your calendars for upcoming grant opportunities for local governments and other entities to manage off-highway vehicle recreation.  On January 6-7, 2021, a virtual workshop will be held to offer technical assistance on applying for and/or learning about projects.  These grant dollars support planning, acquisition, development, maintenance, administration, operation, enforcement, restoration, and conservation of trails, trailheads, areas, and other facilities associated with the use of off-highway motor vehicles, and programs involving off-highway motor vehicle safety or education.  Applications are due March 1, 2021 and will be awarded mid-summer 2021. For more information and how to register, see here


GO-Biz Announces Cannabis Equity Grants Available for Local Jurisdictions

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has announced $15 million is available in Fiscal Year 2020-21 for cities and counties to promote equity and eliminate barriers to populations and communities that were disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition.  Local Jurisdictions may be awarded up to $75,000 for assistance on cannabis equity program development, or up to $5 million in assistance for cannabis equity program applicants and licensees to gain entry to the state’s regulated cannabis marketplace.  Grant applications must be submitted by February 1, 2021.  Grants will be awarded no later than May 14, 2021. For more information on this grant and how to apply, see here.


California Water Commission Water Conveyance Public Workshops

The California Water Commission is conducting a series of public workshops as part of its efforts to assess a potential state role in financing conveyance projects that could help meet needs in a changing climate. The Commission encourages broad participation, with the goal of learning from diverse voices across the state. For more information, visit the Programs and Topics page.

Workshop Schedule

All workshops are from 2:45-5 p.m. (entry to meeting site opens at 2:30 p.m.) 

Southern California – Thursday, December 10, 2020 (registration open now)

Northern California – Tuesday, January 12, 2021 (registration open December 14, 2020)

Central California – Tuesday, January 26, 2021 (registration open December 14, 2020)


Public Comment Open for Madera Groundwater Sustainability Plans

Four groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) for the Madera subbasin are online at DWR’s SGMA Portal and are open for public comment through December 23, 2020.

Public comments on the GSPs are welcomed and encouraged – a SGMA Portal account is not necessary.  Information about how to comment on a plan can be found in a fact sheet in English and Spanish.

For questions, email


DWR Offers $26 Million in Competitive Grants for COD Basins

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the final Proposition 68 Implementation Proposal Solicitation Package for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program. The program will award $26 million to critically overdrafted groundwater basins for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation projects that address drought and groundwater challenges, groundwater recharge projects, or projects that prevent or clean up contaminated groundwater used for drinking water. Round 1 grant applications must be submitted using DWR’s online submittal tool and will be accepted through January 8, 2021. A Round 2 solicitation is expected to open in Spring 2022, and will offer at least $77 million in additional grants for medium priority, high priority, and critically overdrafted basins. For more information visit the Grants and Loans webpage, or email



USDA Launches AskUSDA to Improve and Streamline Customer Experience

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched AskUSDA, a centralized contact center that offers customer service and consistent information for the public. If you are looking for USDA information, the AskUSDA site makes it easy, providing information from across the organization all in one place. With a unified search function that provides the top 10 results from across the USDA, and access to live chat agents on weekdays between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. EST, AskUSDA assures that farmers, researchers, travelers, parents, and more have efficient access to the information and resources they need. Representatives are also available by phone on weekdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at (833) ONE-USDA. Inquiries can also be sent via email at any time to


Matt LaVere, of Ventura, has been appointed Supervisor for the 1st District of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. LaVere has been Mayor of the City of Ventura since 2018 and a Principal at LaVere Huff LLP since 2018. He was Of Counsel at Jones & Lester LLP from 2013 to 2017 and an Associate at Goldenring & Prosser APLC from 2010 to 2013 and at Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones & Schneider LLP from 2006 to 2010. LaVere is a member of the Ventura College Foundation and the Ventura City Council Homeless and Affordable Housing Subcommittee. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law. This position does not require Senate confirmation. LaVere is a Democrat.

Dee Dee Myers, of Los Angeles, has been appointed to serve as Senior Advisor to the Governor and Director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), a cabinet-level position. Myers joined the Newsom Administration in May as a volunteer at the peak of the COVID-19 public health crisis working to support the Governor and his team, including the Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery. Prior to joining the Newsom Administration, Myers served as Executive Vice President of Worldwide Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for Warner Bros. Prior to that, she was a Managing Director of the Glover Park Group, where she counseled corporate and non-profit clients on strategic and crisis communications, reputation management and strategic positioning. Myers also served as White House Press Secretary during President Bill Clinton’s first term and was the first woman to hold the position. After leaving the White House, she worked as a Political Analyst, Commentator and Writer as well as a Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair. She is Author of the New York Times best-selling book “Why Women Should Rule the World.” She also co-hosted the CNBC political talk show “Equal Time” and was a consultant on the Emmy Award-winning drama series “The West Wing.” Before joining the Clinton presidential campaign in 1991, Myers worked on a number of local, state and national campaigns. She served as Press Secretary for Dianne Feinstein in her 1990 bid for governor of California and worked on the presidential campaigns of Governor Michael S. Dukakis and Vice President Walter F. Mondale. Myers also worked on the staffs of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and California State Senator Art Torres. Myers is a Director of Wynn Resorts, Ltd. and serves on the boards of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $200,000. Myers is a Democrat.

Liane Randolph, of Oakland, has been appointed Chair of the California Air Resources Board. Randolph has been a Commissioner at the California Public Utilities Commission since 2105. She was Deputy Secretary and General Counsel at the California Natural Resources Agency from 2011 to 2014 and an Attorney at Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman from 2007 to 2011. She served as Chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission from 2003 to 2007, where she also served as a Staff Attorney from 1996 to 1997. Randolph served as San Leandro City Attorney and was a Principal at Meyers Nave from 2000 to 2003, where she was an Associate from 1997 to 2000. She was an Attorney at Remcho, Johansen and Purcell from 1994 to 1996 and an Associate at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips from 1993 to 1994. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $183,552. Randolph is a Democrat.

John Balmes, of Berkeley, has been reappointed to the California Air Resources Board, where he has served since 2008. Balmes has been a Professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine since 1986 and a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health since 2002. He was Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California School of Medicine from 1982 to 1986. He is a member of the American Thoracic Society and American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Balmes earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $50,497. Balmes is a Democrat.

Davina Hurt, of Belmont, has been appointed to the California Air Resources Board. Hurt has been a Belmont City Councilmember since 2015 and an Attorney at Davina Hurt, Esq. since 2005. She was Campaign Manager at the Democratic Volunteer Center from 2014 to 2015, Securities Litigation Case Assistant at Heller Ehrman White and McAuliffe LLP from 2004 to 2005 and a Law Clerk at Bay Area Legal Aid from 2002 to 2004. Hurt was a Law Clerk at Gardere, Wynne and Sewell LLP in 2001, Judicial Clerk Extern for the Honorable James Ware at the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California from 2002 to 2003 and a Summer Associate at Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach LLP in 2002. She is a member of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $50,497. Hurt is a Democrat.

Gideon Kracov, of Los Angeles, has been appointed to the California Air Resources Board. Kracov has been Owner of the Law Office of Gideon Kracov since 2004. He was a Deputy City Attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office from 2002 to 2004, an Associate at Rose, Klein & Marias LLP from 1997 to 2002 and Associate at Weston Benshoof LLP from 1995 to 1997. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Kracov is a member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $50,497. Kracov is a Democrat.

Tania Pacheco-Werner, of Sanger, has been appointed to the California Air Resources Board. Pacheco-Werner has been Assistant Co-Director at the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at California State University, Fresno since 2019, where she has held multiple positions since 2015, including Research Scientist and Postgraduate Fellow. She was a Lecturer at the California State University, Fresno Department of Sociology from 2011 to 2017 and a Diocesan Administrator at the Diocese of San Joaquin in 2013. Pacheco-Werner is a member of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the American Public Health Association's Latino Caucus for Public Health. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in sociology from the University of California, San Francisco. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $50,497. Werner is a Democrat.

Tomás Aragón, of San Francisco, has been appointed Director of the California Department of Public Health. Aragón has been Health Officer for the City and County of San Francisco and Director of the Population Health Division for the San Francisco Department of Public Health since 2011. He has been Volunteer Faculty for the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health since 2004. He earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School, a Doctor of Public Health Degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health and a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $275,650. Aragón is a Democrat.

Elizabeth Landsberg, of Sacramento, has been appointed Director of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Landsberg has been Deputy Director of the Help Center for the California Department of Managed Health Care since 2016. She was Director of Policy Advocacy for the Western Center on Law and Poverty from 2006 to 2016, Supervising Attorney for the Health Rights Hotline at Legal Services of Northern California from 2000 to 2006 and a Law Clerk at the U.S. District Court, District of New Mexico from 1999 to 2000. She was a Ruth Chance Law Fellow for Equal Rights Advocates from 1998 to 1999. Landsberg earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $192,402. Landsberg is a Democrat.

Mary Watanabe, of Roseville, has been appointed Director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, where she has served as Acting Director since 2020 and as Acting Chief Deputy Director since 2019. She was Deputy Director for Health Policy and Stakeholder Relations for the California Department of Managed Health Care from 2015 to 2019 and Deputy Director of the Sales Division for Covered California from 2013 to 2015. Watanabe was Staff Services Manager I at the California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board from 2012 to 2013, where she was a Research/Health Program Specialist I from 2008 to 2012. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $186,389. Watanabe is registered without party preference.


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.

  • 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.