The Barbed Wire - December 4, 2020

December 4, 2020
2021-22 Legislative Session Convenes
RCRC Participates in Press Event on Broadband Deployment with Senator Lena Gonzalez
ICYMI: Catch up on Hometown California Episodes this Week
Insurance Commissioner Again Exercises Emergency One-Year Nonrenewal Moratorium After Wildfires
RCRC Helps Coordinate Coalition Urging CalEPA to Address Concerns with New Standards for Management of Treated Wood Waste
Nevada County Participates in Legislative Committee Hearing on Emergency Response
RCRC Comments on Draft U.S. EPA National Recycling Strategy
RCRC Urges Public Utilities Commission to Improve Public Safety Power Shutoff Guidelines
Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Continue
Congressional Funding - Looming Federal Government Shutdown
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Race
Bill of the Week on Hiatus through December 7

2021-22 Legislative Session Convenes

On Monday, December 7th, the Legislature will convene the 2021-22 Legislative Session by swearing-in new Senators and Assembly Members and introducing legislative measures (bills, resolutions, constitutional amendments, etc.).  The Organizational Session, which traditionally lasts about four days, allows both houses to adopt legislative rules and introduce key legislation before the winter holiday.  In an unprecedented move due to COVID-19, the Assembly will hold its swearing-in/organization meeting at the Golden 1 Center, home of the National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings.  The Senate will convene in its traditional chambers.  

The Legislature is slated to reconvene on January 4, 2021.  The 2021 tentative legislative calendar for the Senate can be accessed here; the Assembly can be accessed here.  
As legislative measures are introduced, RCRC’s Government Affairs staff will review the bills to assess their impact on RCRC member counties.  During the 2021 Legislative Session, RCRC member counties are encouraged to share letters addressed to state and federal representatives and regulatory bodies with RCRC staff. For more information regarding state legislative activities, please contact the RCRC Governmental Affairs staff at (916) 447-4806.

RCRC Participates in Press Event on Broadband Deployment with Senator Lena Gonzalez

On Thursday, Alpine County Supervisor David Griffith participated in a virtual press conference to unveil a new broadband measure by Senator Lena A. Gonzalez (D-Long Beach).  The  “Broadband for All” legislative proposal outlines needed changes to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) and will be introduced Monday, December 7th for the 2020-2021 Legislative Session.  Senator Gonzalez’s proposal provides continued funding for the CASF program, the state’s broadband infrastructure funding program, as well as provisions that will empower local governments to leverage state funding to create municipal broadband systems in communities that have been historically denied access to high-quality broadband connectivity. 

Senator Gonzalez’s proposal will receive a bill number upon introduction next week, and will begin to move through the legislative process early next year.  For more information, please contact Tracy Rhine at

ICYMI: Catch up on Hometown California Episodes this Week

Another episode of Hometown California will be coming your way before the holidays. Until then, take a moment to catch up on some of our previous episodes.

Episode 14- Managing California’s Forests in Trying Times
(About | Download)

Episode 13- Advocating for America’s Counties, A Discussion with NACo CEO Matt Chase 
(About | Download)

Episode 4- Criminal Justice Reform in California, An Interview with Magnus Lofstrom from the PPIC 
(About | Download)

Episode 3-  Railroads in California, An Interview with Union Pacific
(About | Download)

Find all of these episodes and more on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast listening app, and subscribe today!

Insurance Commissioner Again Exercises Emergency One-Year Nonrenewal Moratorium After Wildfires

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced on Thursday additional communities that will be protected under Senate Bill 824 from residential insurance cancelations and nonrenewals for one year in wildfire-impacted areas.  Commissioner Lara authored SB 824 in 2018 while he was still a member of the California State Senate.  Under SB 824, the Commissioner may prohibit insurers from canceling or nonrenewing homeowners policies for a full calendar year in areas that have had a state of emergency declared due to a high severity wildfire.  Due to the catastrophic nature of 2020’s wildfire season, large portions of California have been severely impacted by wildfires and can be offered protection from policy nonrenewals under SB 824.  This week’s moratorium is in addition to a number of communities protected under SB 824 in early November. 

The Commissioner’s Bulletin which contains all of the zip codes protected under the moratorium can be viewed on the Department of Insurance’s website here.

RCRC Helps Coordinate Coalition Urging CalEPA to Address Concerns with New Standards for Management of Treated Wood Waste

On Tuesday, a broad coalition of more than 60 local government and solid waste organizations, including RCRC, sent a letter to the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) outlining concerns about new standards for treated wood waste (TWW) that go into effect on January 1, 2021.
The existing standards for managing TWW, including authorizing landfill disposal, have been in place since 2004, but will expire on December 31, 2020 as a result of Governor Newsom’s recent veto of Senate Bill 68 (Galgiani).  This means that all TWW, including fence posts, sill plates, landscape timbers, pilings, guardrails, and decking, will have to be managed as hazardous waste, hauled by a registered hazardous waste transporter, and disposed in hazardous waste landfills beginning January 1, 2021.  These changes will exponentially increase management and disposal costs and could lead to a significant increase in illegal dumping of TWW.

The veto of SB 68 leaves the solid waste industry, the business community, and local governments with significant management challenges, exorbitant costs, and exponentially increased risk of illegal TWW disposal.
The coalition is urging CalEPA, Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and the Governor’s Office to consider several options, including issuance of variances, that would allow TWW to be managed under the current standards for collection and disposal. The variances would be temporary, providing the coalition time to either 1) develop legislation that can be supported, quickly passed, and signed into law, or (2) in the event legislation is not feasible or successful, develop plans and a procedure in accordance with the necessary requirements by July 1, 2021. 
To better assist rural communities and solid waste enterprises, the coalition adopted RCRC’s suggestion that DTSC create a standard template for issuing TWW-related variances, thereby reducing the workload for DTSC’s review of the applications and the burden placed on each individual applicant.

Nevada County Participates in Legislative Committee Hearing on Emergency Response

On Monday, the Joint Committee on Emergency Management held an informational hearing on emergency response to disasters and the ongoing efficacy concerns with local government emergency alert and notification systems.  RCRC was represented by Nevada County Office of Emergency Services Program Manager Paul Cummings, who was joined by several other local representatives from cities, counties and emergency response.

The hearing, held at the State Capitol, centered around the California Office of Emergency Services alert and warning guidelines that set forth local government best practices in emergency alert and notification. Despite recent statutory changes making resident contact information more accessible, local warning systems continue to be undersubscribed, putting many vulnerable community members at risk during a disaster.

Legislative materials on the hearing can be found here.  For more information, please contact Tracy Rhine at

RCRC Comments on Draft U.S. EPA National Recycling Strategy

On Thursday, RCRC submitted comments (along with CSAC and the League of California Cities) on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Draft National Recycling Strategy.  The National Recycling Strategy seeks to identify “strategic objectives and actions needed to create a stronger, more resilient U.S. municipal solid waste recycling system.”

RCRC noted that local governments are the backbone of solid waste management and recycling efforts in California and are charged with diverting 50% of solid waste from landfills through source reduction, recycling, and composting.  Furthermore, RCRC highlighted the fact that local governments and the solid waste industry have no control over which products will be introduced into the marketplace and for which they will ultimately be responsible for disposal.  At the same time, the solid waste industry is generally good at “mining” the waste stream to find and extract materials of value when there are entities interested in purchasing those materials.

Noting that U.S. EPA is uniquely positioned to facilitate national and global cooperation among manufacturers in a way that individual states and local governments are not, RCRC urged focusing on encouraging manufacturers to design products that are readily recyclable (not just theoretically recyclable) and for which there are end markets.  

Equally important, RCRC also urged U.S. EPA to improve markets for recyclable materials.  With the decline of foreign markets, there is a vital need to develop domestic and local markets for recycled materials.  In addition to environmental benefits, creation of domestic markets will also in job creation and economic development.

RCRC Urges Public Utilities Commission to Improve Public Safety Power Shutoff Guidelines

On Wednesday, RCRC submitted comments to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) urging them to refine and improve the guidelines governing how electrical utilities conduct Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events.  Adopted in June 2019, the PSPS Guidelines were modified in June 2020 based on experiences from the 2019 events.  While utilities have made significant improvements and 2020 PSPS events have been reduced in terms of their size and scope, these events still have an impact on many rural communities, residents, and businesses.  While RCRC does not underestimate the risk of wildfire danger and appreciates the role that well-tailored PSPS events play in avoiding catastrophic wildfires, this option should only be used as a last resort and that utilities should make infrastructure improvements to provide local energy resiliency.

In its comments, RCRC suggested the CPUC act to:

  • Regularly review whether utilities’ decisions to deenergize and the conduct of PSPS events were reasonable 
  • Require utilities to identify areas at greatest risk of PSPS events and harden infrastructure and improve resiliency of those circuits
  • Require utilities to work with communications providers and the Commission to identify communities served predominantly or exclusively by landline phone service and prioritize strategies to reduce the risk of power loss to those communities
  • Place a stronger emphasis on mitigating PSPS impacts for medically sensitive residents rather than merely providing notifications to those individuals
  • Prohibit utilities from directing customers to first responders for PSPS mitigation and transportation assistance.
  • Develop a standard template and refine content required in utility post-event reports
  • Clarify notification expectations
  • Add county elections offices and food banks to the list of critical facilities for which utilities must provide 
  • Require regular reconciliation between utility and local government lists of critical facilities and infrastructure

Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Continue

On December 1st, a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion coronavirus (COVID-19) relief proposal.  The proposal would provide $160 billion for states and local governments “of all sizes,” $180 billion for unemployment insurance, and $288 billion for more small business assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program.  The unemployment benefits would break down to $300 a week for 18 weeks, retroactive to December 1st.  It also includes assistance for transportation-related industries, $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution and more money for schools, childcare and the U.S. Postal Service.  The proposal would also provide a short-term liability protection from COVID-19-related lawsuits until states could come up with their own protections. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) also circulated a new coronavirus relief proposal on December 1st that he claims could garner support from the White House and Senate Republicans.  Senator McConnell noted that he has been speaking with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about what President Trump would be willing to sign.  Senator McConnell has twice previously offered a roughly $500 billion COVID-19 relief bill that was rejected by Democrats.  The price tag for this newest proposal looks to be around the same amount, but Senator McConnell has yet to provide details of any substantive differences between that and the new bill. 
In a joint statement on Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) said the $908 billion bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal offered on Tuesday should serve as a basis for immediate negotiations.  “We and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good faith negotiations we could come to an agreement,” the pair stated.

Congressional Funding - Looming Federal Government Shutdown

Negotiators are making progress on the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bills, with several of the 12 bills being close to finished.  Adoption of these spending bills would provide a blueprint for federal spending for the remainder of the 2021 Fiscal Year.  The biggest sticking points in talks remain how to classify funding for veterans medical care and whether to allocate the money for southern border wall construction that President Trump requested.  Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) stated that if appropriators have not reached a deal on December 9th, then lawmakers will need to pass another continuing resolution (CR) to give them more time to try and broker a deal.  The current CR expires on December 11th and absence a deal or CR, there would be a federal government shutdown.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) also noted that tax extenders probably will not make it into the final package due to opposition from Democrats and Republican Members on the House Ways & Means Committee. 

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Race

On Tuesday, the House Democratic Steering Committee finalized its recommendations for contested committee chairmanships. Subsequently, Democratic members of the House of Representatives ratified those recommendations.  Of importance to RCRC, Representative David Scott (D-Georgia) will serve as the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, thus defeating Representative Jim Costa (D-Fresno) who had also campaigned for this position.  For the 117th Congress, the chair of the House Agriculture Committee will have great influence in conducting the preliminary work on the next all-important Farm Bill, which expires in 2023.

Bill of the Week on Hiatus through December 7

On September 30th, Governor Newsom met the constitutional deadline to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature, officially bringing the 2019-2020 Legislative Session to close.  The 2021-22 Legislative Session is scheduled to convene on December 7th.  During this period, RCRC’s “Bill of the Week” will go into hiatus. For more information regarding state legislative activities, please contact the RCRC Governmental Affairs staff at (916) 447-4806.


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


Upcoming Webinar on Local Government Funding for Improving the Environment

The California Air Resources Board announced a webinar series, beginning in November, on applying for California Climate Investments, also known as cap-and-trade dollars. On December 9th from 1:30-2:30pm, a webinar will be specifically tailored for Local Government Funding. Grant opportunities can range from affordable housing to restoration of wetlands. To register, see here or contact with questions.


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.) 

Southeastern California (Colorado River, South Lahontan) – Tuesday, December 8, 2020 (registration open now)

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


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.