The Barbed Wire - February 14, 2020

February 14, 2020
RCRC Releases 2019 Annual Report
Senate Insurance Committee Looks at Wildfire Insurance Issue
Infrastructure Update
Rural Broadband Update
Hemp Update

RCRC Releases 2019 Annual Report

RCRC released its 2019 Annual Report earlier this week.  The Annual Report provides a high-level overview of some of the important advocacy and economic development work that RCRC and its affiliate organizations have executed throughout the year.  

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the RCRC Board of Directors on executing our mission to improve the quality of life in California’s rural communities,” stated Greg Norton, President and CEO.

RCRC’s 2019 Annual Report can be accessed here.

Senate Insurance Committee Looks at Wildfire Insurance Issue

On Wednesday, the Senate Insurance Committee held an informational hearing to once again look at the issue of residential insurance non-renewals in high wildfire risk areas throughout California.  Representatives from the California Department of Insurance and the insurance industry sparred back and forth over what would best fix the problem – a mandate to write policies versus allowing insurers to raise rates statewide to a more nationally competitive average.  The hearing also featured representatives from the reinsurance industry and the companies that provide catastrophe modeling for the insurers.  

RCRC testified at the hearing, noting that all parties have been discussing the non-renewal issue for several years with little movement on a real solution, leaving rural residents caught in the middle.  The hearing offered little resolution, but Committee Chair Senator Susan Rubio noted that more hearings on the topic would be scheduled in the near future.

Infrastructure Update

On Monday, the Trump Administration released its proposed fiscal 2021 budget.  Included in the proposal is $1 trillion set aside for infrastructure, over the next decade, offset by savings in mandatory spending.  That's $190 billion from 2021 to 2030 to "support major investment in infrastructure" plus a 10-year, $810 billion reauthorization of the surface transportation programs.  

This would replace a five-year transportation bill, known as the FAST Act, set to expire later this year.  Like many other past Presidential budget proposals, this infrastructure plan is likely to be abandoned altogether when it comes time for the Congressional appropriations process later this year.  As such, the White House has continued to maintain its support for the Senate’s surface transportation bill that rolled out last year (S. 2302).

Rural Broadband Update

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) for faster broadband speeds in order to help close the digital divide in rural areas.  Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions more American homes and businesses to digital opportunity.  

Last month, the FCC released a breakdown of how many homes and businesses are estimated to get connected in each state, with California, Texas, and Michigan expected to benefit most.  The vote to set rules surrounding the program proceeded over objections from four House Democrats from California  - Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), and Tony Cardenas (D-San Fernando), who wrote to FCC Chair Ajit Pai on Wednesday seeking postponement “to ensure that federal and state mechanisms for investing in broadband are better coordinated.”  That letter echoes the concerns of California state regulator.

Hemp Update

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week that it is expanding insurance options for hemp farmers, launching two programs that protect the crop from natural disasters.  To be eligible, growers must have planted hemp for at least a year and have a contract for its sale.  There also is a minimum requirement of five acres for hemp grown for CBD and 20 acres for hemp harvested to be used as grain or fiber.  These new programs will reduce some of the risks of farming a brand-new crop.  

As part of the same announcement, the USDA also announced that it will not be amending its proposed rules for hemp to increase the allowable THC limit, arguing that only Congress can change that specific policy.  Lawmakers and industry stakeholders have made numerous appeals to the USDA to change its regulations on how much THC is allowed to be present in the crop.  As it stands, hemp is defined under the 2018 Farm Bill as having no more than 0.3 percent THC, with a negligence threshold of 0.5 percent.  The USDA will also be opening a second public comment period following the 2020 harvest season to solicit more input on the current interim final rule before issuing final regulations.


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


Western Interstate Region Conference Coming to California

Join RCRC, Mariposa County, and the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) for the 2020 National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Western Interstate Region (WIR) Conference at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite!  Mariposa County Supervisor Kevin Cann serves as WIR President, and is looking forward to hosting his colleagues from the 15 western states in Mariposa County.  Read More…


Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) Drinking Water Fund Advisory Group Meeting

Click here


CalPERS Releases “Pension Outlook” Tool to Assist Employers with Budgeting Details

Many county employers offer the CalPERS defined benefit plan, providing retirement benefits to employees who serve California.  To help manage the employer’s budgeting details, CalPERS has developed a new software application called Pension Outlook.  This tool, which recently became available on myCalPERS to employers with non-pooled plans, provides powerful capabilities to model future events, understand risks, and plan for the future.  In a volatile financial environment, it can make budgeting more predictable. 


Fish and Game Commission Proposes Public Use Changes to Wildlife Areas, Public Lands, and Ecological Reserves

The California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) is a Gubernatorially-appointed body with regulatory authority over the state’s public lands and wildlife conservation.  In January, the Commission released a regulatory proposal to make public use changes to California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s lands, including designating recently acquired lands and removing properties the Department no longer possesses or manages.  


The proposal includes designating one property as a wildlife area, seven properties as ecological reserves, and making other site-specific changes that generally impact public access and/or public safety on these managed lands in various RCRC member counties, including Inyo, Mono, San Luis Obispo, Napa and Sonoma counties.

The Commission is holding two public hearings on this proposal and will accept comments orally or in writing no later than April 16, 2020.  The public hearings are scheduled for Friday, February 21st at 8 a.m., and Thursday, April 16th at 8 a.m. in Sacramento.

Click here  


GO-Biz Announces Cannabis Equity Grants for Local Jurisdictions

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has announced $30 million is available for cities and counties to promote equity and eliminate barriers to populations and communities that were disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition. Grant applications must be received by March 9, 2020 and will be awarded no later than May 1, 2020 for assistance in Cannabis Equity Assessment and Program Development, or Assistance for Cannabis Equity Program Applicants and Licensees.

Click here.


Alpine County Seeks Director of Finance

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RCRC members are encouraged to share letters addressed to state and federal representatives and regulatory bodies with RCRC’s Government Affairs staff.  Click “Read More” to access information related to the current status of legislation and regulations impacting California’s rural counties.  

Assembly Bill 19 (Waldron): Forestry and Fire Protection: Grant Program: Assembly Bill 19 Appropriates monies from the General Fund to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to be used to provide the local assistance grants for fire prevention activities. Requires the Department to prioritize projects that manage vegetation along streets and roads to prevent the ignition of wildfire and that need the funds for purposes of purchasing equipment necessary for the project. Status: AB 19 failed passage in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 352 (Garcia): Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water.  Assembly Bill 352 enacts the Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020, which, if approved by the voters, would authorize the issuance of bonds in the amount of $3,920,000,000 pursuant to the State General Obligation Bond Law to finance a wildlife prevention, safe drinking water, drought preparation, and flood protection program. Status: AB 352 awaits consideration in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. RCRC Status: Watch

Assembly Bill 464 (Garcia): State Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Assembly Bill 464 Defines district under the State Global Warming Solutions Act to mean an air pollution control or an air quality management district. Specifies that the definition of contribution of natural sources under the Act includes contribution from catastrophic wildfires. Status: AB 464 has passed in the Assembly and awaits consideration from the Senate. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1071 (Limon): Climate Change: Agriculture: Agricultural Climate: Assembly Bill 1071 requires the council to provide guidance in the development of, and to coordinate the activities of member agencies of the council for, a grant program, known as the Agricultural Climate Adaptation Tools Program, as specified, to provide funding for activities that include development of specified planning tools for adapting to climate change and developing resiliency strategies in the agricultural sector, using the best available science. Status: AB 1071 has passed in the Senate and awaits consideration in the Assembly. RCRC Status: Watch

Assembly Bill 1080 (Gonzalez)/Senate Bill 54 (Allen): Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction. Assembly Bill 1080/SB 54 requires the state to reduce the waste associated with single use packaging and products 75 percent by 2030, requires the state to set standards for what is considered recyclable and compostable, and promotes the development of in-state manufacturing that uses recycled materials. Status: AB 1080 and SB 54 awaits consideration in the Senate and Assembly; respectively (Inactive File). RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1509 (Mullin): Solid Waste: Lithium Ion Batteries: Assembly Bill 1509 establishes the Lithium Ion Battery Recycling Program in the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. It requires a covered entity to provide a list of covered products that it sells or offers for sale in the state to the department and the total number of each covered product it sold in the state during the prior year, and to update those lists annually. Status: AB 1509 awaits consideration in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. RCRC Status: Support in Concept

Assembly Bill 1840 (Ting): Recycling: Reports: Assembly Bill 1840 requires the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to make recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act to increase recycling of beverage container materials within the state and increase consumer redemption convenience. Status: AB 1840 awaits consideration from the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. RCRC Status: Pending

Assembly Bill 1847 (Levine): Electrical Corporations: Public Administrator: Assembly Bill 1847 authorizes the Public Utilities Commission, if the commission adopts a decision that includes findings that an electrical corporation is not complying with state law or rules, regulations, or other directives from the commission, to appoint a public administrator to the electrical corporation up to 180 days. Vests the public administrator with oversight authority over the electrical corporation's activities that impact public safety. Status: AB 1847 awaits consideration from the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee. RCRC Status: Watch

Assembly Bill 1907 (Santiago): California Environmental Quality Act: Shelters: Assembly Bill 1907 Exempts from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act certain activities approved by or carried out by a public agency in furtherance of providing emergency shelters, supportive housing, or affordable housing. Status: AB 1907 awaits consideration from the Assembly Natural Resources and Housing and Community Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1915 (Chu): Electrical Corporations: Deenergization Events: Assembly Bill 1915 requires the PUC to establish rules under which PSPS events can be undertaken and to do a post-event review of the duration and geographic range of an event.  If the utility failed to comply with the rules and customers incurred losses, the PUC shall order the utility to pay claims for losses. Status: AB 1915 awaits consideration by the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1916 (Chu): Deenergization Events: Notification: Languages:  Assembly Bill 1916 requires utilities to provide PSPS notifications in various languages, to survey customers to determine language preference and determine medical needs that require accommodation during a PSPS event, and to mitigate PSPS impacts for customers who rely on medical equipment or who have a medical condition that puts them at greater risk during a PSPS event. Status: AB 1916 awaits consideration by the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1919 (Bauer-Kahan): Pesticides: Enforcement Action. Assembly Bill 1919 allows the Director of Pesticide Regulation to determine that if violations of specified provisions of law relating to pesticides have been committed, the Director may levy a civil penalty for each violation. Status: AB 1919 awaits consideration from the Assembly Environmental Safety, Toxic Materials and Judiciary Committee. RCRC Position: Watch

Assembly Bill 1936 (Rodriguez): Price Gouging: Public Safety Power Shutoffs: assembly Bill 1936 provides that the state’s anti-price gouging laws apply upon the announcement of a public safety power shutoff. Status: AB 1936 awaits consideration from the Assembly Public Safety Committee. RCRC Status: Pending

Assembly Bill 1958 (Cooper): State Plan of Flood Control: Facilities: Assembly Bill 1958 would protect critical flood protection infrastructure by bolstering the maintenance of levees throughout California. Status: AB 1958 awaits consideration from the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 2033 (Wood): Deenergization: Spoilage Claims: Assembly Bill 2033 requires an electrical corporation that engages in a public safety power shutoff to compensate a customer for any qualified claim for spoilage of food or medication if the customer experienced an interruption in electrical service for greater than 8 hours and received less than 24 hours’ notice of the interruption. Status: AB 2033 awaits consideration in the Assembly RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 2168 (McCarty, Chiu, Reyes): Planning and Zoning: Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Permit Application Approval: Assembly Bill 2168 would require an application to install an electric vehicle charging station to be deemed complete if, 5 business days after the application was submitted, the city, county, or city and county has not deemed the application to be incomplete. Would deem an electric vehicle charging station approved if, 15 business days after the application was submitted, the local jurisdiction has not approved the application through the issuance of a building permit or similar nondiscretionary permit, and the building official has not made findings that the proposed installation could have an adverse impact on public health and safety. This is an urgency measure and would take effect immediately. Status: AB 2168 was recently introduced and awaits referral to a policy committee. RCRC Status: Oppose

Senate Bill 45 (Allen): Wildfire, Drought, and Flood Protection Bond Act 2020. Senate Bill 45 enacts the Wildfire, Drought, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020, which, if approved by voters, authorizes the issuance of bonds to finance projects to restore fire damaged areas, reduce wildfire risk, create healthy forests and watersheds, reduce climate impacts on urban areas and vulnerable populations, protect water supply and water quality, protect rivers, lakes and streams, reduce flood risk, protect fish and wildlife from climate impacts, and protect coastal lands and resources. Status: SB 45 has passed out from the Senate and awaits consideration from the Assembly. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 378 (Wiener): Electrical Corporations: Deenergization Events: Senate Bill 378 makes a number of changes to increase disclosure of electrical system infrastructure needs and to improve the implementation of PSPS events, evaluate their impacts, and compensate individuals and local governments for associated losses.  The bill also incentivizes well-constructed, surgical PSPS events that are no larger than necessary to avoid wildfire risk. Status: SB 378 has passed out from the Senate and awaits consideration from the Assembly. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 431 (McGuire): Mobile Telephony Service Base Transceiver Station Tower:  Senate Bill 431 requires the commission, in consultation with the Office of Emergency Services, to develop and implement performance reliability standards, as specified, for all mobile telephony service base transceiver station towers, commonly known as "cell towers," located within a commission-designated Tier 2 or Tier 3 High Fire Threat District. Status: SB 431 awaits consideration in the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee. RCRC Status: Pending

Senate Bill 596 (Stern): In-home Supportive Services: Senate Bill 596 requires a county human services agency to inform each applicant for benefits under the IHSS program that the applicant may be eligible to receive that higher energy allowance and any advanced notifications that may be provided by a utility in an emergency. Status: SB 596 has passed out from the Senate and awaits consideration from the Assembly. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 739 (Stern): Fire Prevention: Defensible Space and Home Hardening: Senate Bill 739 requires the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to develop and implement a training program to train individuals to support and augment the department in its defensible space and home hardening assessment and education efforts. Status: SB 739 has passed out from the Senate and awaits consideration in the Assembly. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 753 (Stern): Public Social Services: Emergency Notification: Senate Bill 753 permits elderly or disabled clients telephone numbers and e-mail addresses to be disclosed to the first responder and would specifically identify a public safety power shut-off as a public safety emergency. Status: SB 753 has passed out from the Senate and awaits consideration from the Assembly. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 755 (Rubio): Insurance: Residential Property Insurance: Senate Bill 755 requires specified insurers who fail to renew or offer renewal of a policy of residential property insurance to make certain notifications to a policyholder regarding other options the policyholder may have, including information about the FAIR plan. Status: SB 755 passed in the Senate and awaits consideration from the Assembly. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 799 (Dodd): Local Agency Services: Contracts: Napa & San Bernardino: Senate Bill 799 deletes the repeal date with regard to the pilot program under the Cortese Knox Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act in the Counties of Napa and San Bernardino. Status: SB 799 awaits consideration from the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.  RCRC Status: Watch

Senate Bill 801 (Glazer): Electrical Corporations: Wildfire Mitigation Plans: Senate Bill 801 Requires an electrical corporation to deploy backup electrical resources or provide financial assistance for backup electrical resources to a customer receiving a medical baseline allowance, if the customer meets specified conditions. Status: SB 801 awaits consideration from the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. RCRC Status: Watch

Senate Bill 807 (Nielson): Reclamation District No. 108: Hydroelectric Power: Senate Bill 807 Authorizes Reclamation District No. 108 to continue to exercise hydroelectric power authority until after January 1, 2021. Status: SB 807 awaits consideration from the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 862 (Dodd): Planned Power Outage: Public Safety: Senate Bill 862 clarifies that public safety power shutoffs are included in the California Emergency Services Act and expands the universe of medically sensitive individuals for whom electrical corporations must mitigate public safety power shutoff event impacts. Status: SB 862 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications. RCRC Status: Pending

Senate Bill 884 (Dodd): Education Finance: Emergencies: Power Shutoffs: Senate Bill 884 provides schools with funding to make up instructional days lost as a result of emergencies or other extraordinary conditions. Status: SB 884 awaits consideration in the Senate Education Committee. RCRC Status: Pending

Senate Bill 917 (Wiener): Consumer Energy and Conservation Financing Authority: Senate Bill 917 Renames the California Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority the California Consumer Energy and Conservation Financing Authority it to acquire, by eminent domain, the assets or ownership of PG&E and to break up the service territory if others want to take over the provisions of electricity in their over areas. Status: SB 917 has been recently introduced and awaits committee assignment. RCRC Status: Pending

Senate Bill 944 (McGuire): Fire Safe Home Tax Credits. Senate Bill 944 creates a personal state tax credit scheme to off-set costs of home hardening and vegetation management for homeowners. Status: SB 944 awaits action in the State Senate. RCRC Status: Support