The Barbed Wire - February 19, 2021

February 19, 2021
Status Update State and Local Funding in Coronavirus Relief Package
Bill of the Week: AB 431 (Patterson) -- Forestry: Timber Harvesting Plans: Defensible Space: Exemptions
RCRC 2020 Annual Report Now Available!
Law Enforcement in Rural California: A Hometown California Interview with Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon
Update on Board of Forestry Proposed Regulations
House to Consider Western Public Lands Package
CPUC Poised To Approve Frontier Communications Corporate Restructuring
Expanded E-Rate Program
Rural Broadband Deployment
Return of Earmarks
Coming March 5th - Redistricting Webinar Series- Part 1

Status Update State and Local Funding in Coronavirus Relief Package

Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a mark-up hearing to further consider the coronavirus (COVID-19) legislative package to provide states and local governments direct financial aid. Following the passage of the Committees’ section of the bill, counties will not be able to see their allocations just yet. The bill will now go to the House Budget Committee who will reconcile all pieces of the various texts from the other House committees of jurisdiction this week. From there, the bill is expected to go to the House Floor for a vote by the end of next week. It is unclear on how this will proceed in the U.S. Senate. The chamber is unlikely to act on the bill within the next week and it is likely that the final, fully-reconciled bill could reach President Biden’s desk for signature in mid-March. Earlier this week, RCRC sent letters of support for the Committee’s allocation plan to members of Congress representing RCRC-member counties. A copy of this letter can be found here.

Bill of the Week: AB 431 (Patterson) -- Forestry: Timber Harvesting Plans: Defensible Space: Exemptions

RCRC has expressed support for Assembly Bill 431, authored by Assembly Member Jim Patterson (R-Fresno). Currently, state law exempts tree removal for the purposes of complying with defensible space requirements from state timber harvesting plan (THP) provisions. The exemptions are slated to expire on January 1, 2022, which would make it more difficult for residents in high fire risk areas to safeguard their homes from high severity wildfires.

AB 431 seeks to extend the THP exemption to January 1, 2026 to allow private residents to continue to safeguard their homes and property by easing their ability to comply with defensibly space requirements without the burden going through the THP process. RCRC’s letter is available here. For more information, contact Staci Heaton, RCRC Senior Regulatory Affairs Advocate, by email or call (916) 447-4806.

RCRC 2020 Annual Report Now Available!

RCRC’s 2020 Annual Report is now available online! The annual report is prepared for the RCRC Board of Directors to highlight many of the significant actions taken on issues impacting California’s rural counties, and to outline the wide array of advocacy efforts RCRC staff engaged in on behalf of California's rural communities. And, 2020 was a year unlike any other in recent memory. During the year, RCRC and its affiliate organizations faced challenges head-on and worked tirelessly. Read about RCRC’s work during 2020, and learn more about the many facets of RCRC’s advocacy and community enrichment efforts in the 2020 Annual Report available here.

Law Enforcement in Rural California: A Hometown California Interview with Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon

In the latest episode of Hometown California, RCRC Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs, Paul Smith, speaks with Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon about the realities of being a peace officer in rural California. In the small and remote County of Lassen, Sheriff Growdon serves as both Sheriff and Coroner, as do many of his counterparts in other rural areas of the State. Home to two state prisons, one federal prison, and a military base, Lassen County has some unique law enforcement challenges.

Hear how law enforcement in a rural county-- and particularly is a very, very rural county-- is different than other areas of the State. Sheriff Growdon discusses the importance of mutual aid and explains how customer service and community assistance are keys for successful crime prevention. Listen as Sheriff Growdon talks about the challenges of some state mandates and how COVID-19 has impacted law enforcement and community support in Lassen County during the pandemic. Listen here.

Update on Board of Forestry Proposed Regulations

This week RCRC, along with the California State Association of Counties and the Urban Counties of California, submitted comments to the Board of Forestry (BOF) on its latest draft of the State Fire Safe regulations, released February 8th.  The revised proposal was intended to address concerns expressed during regulatory workshops and in comment letters submitted to the BOF.  All public comments received by the BOF since the first workshop in November are now available for viewing on the BOF website and will be updated weekly.

The State Fire Safe regulations set forth basic wildfire protection standards for development in the State Responsibility Area and, beginning July 1, 2021, the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones of the Local Responsibility Area.  As reflected in our comments, the BOF proposal will have extremely detrimental impacts on rural areas of the state, essentially creating “no-build zones” in some communities, prohibiting all residential and commercial building construction, including disaster rebuilds.

The BOF has scheduled a public workshop for February 24 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the revised draft rulemaking language.  For updates from the BOF on the Fire Safe Regulations and other activities of the BOF Resource Protection Committee, subscribe to email updates here.  And, for more information, please contact Tracy Rhine.

House to Consider Western Public Lands Package

According to a statement from House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona), the House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on a Western public lands package that would provide new protections for nearly 1.5 million acres of public lands and withdraw land from consideration for oil, gas, and mining leasing.  The bill, the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, includes eight previously individual measures that address key public lands and waters in Arizona, Colorado, California, and Washington. For California, a measure from Representative Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) — H.R. 973 — would protect areas in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument from mineral extraction and new road construction as well as designate two new scenic areas.  Additionally, a measure from Representative Jared Huffman (D-Marin) — H.R. 878 — would establish wilderness and recreation areas in Northern California.

CPUC Poised To Approve Frontier Communications Corporate Restructuring

On May 22, 2020, Frontier Communications filed an application to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to transfer the control of its California companies, restructure its ownership, and resolve over $17 billion owed to major financial institutions.  Frontier offers broadband, video, phone and other services and is one of the two largest Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) in California, servicing 45 counties.  California law requires the CPUC to authorize large electrical, gas or telephone corporation restructurings, mergers and acquisitions and determine if it is, among other things, in the best interest of ratepayers, would not stymie competition, would improve quality of service, and would be beneficial overall to the state and local economies. 

In the next month, the CPUC is poised to vote on a Proposed Decision with Settlement Agreements and approve Frontier Communications corporate restructuring so the company can exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The Proposed Decision seeks to condition the corporate restructuring based on a variety of operational, financial, service, pricing, and employment matters thus necessitating a Compliance Monitor, funded by Frontier, to assist the CPUC with future enforcement efforts.  Further, tribal and local governments will be given a “right of first offer” to purchase property that Frontier proposes to sell or dispose of. Also, Frontier will be able to retain its Carrier of Last Resort status. 

The CPUC’s Proposed Decision can be found in full here, and public comments can be submitted here. More information about Frontier, including maps of Frontier’s service territory, can be found here.

Expanded E-Rate Program

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a markup hearing for its part of the budget reconciliation bill, which includes $7.6 billion for a new Emergency Connectivity Fund within the e-rate program. This will provide funding for rural elementary and secondary schools and for libraries to buy devices and connectivity services for students and individuals to use for remote learning. The e-rate program currently does not pay for devices, Wi-Fi hotspots, or other connectivity to be used except at schools or libraries, and this new funding allows people to get connectivity elsewhere.

Rural Broadband Deployment

On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology within the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing entitled, "Connecting America: Broadband Solutions to Pandemic Problems." The hearing focused on the broadband digital divide, which has disproportionately affected rural communities and communities of color, with cost being the driving factor for the lack of broadband internet service among low-income and rural families. Last week, the full committee advanced its provisions of COVID-19 budget reconciliation package, which included language that would direct $7.6 billion towards the Emergency Connectivity Fund to support remote learning during the pandemic by providing computers and tablets, internet service and Wi-Fi hotspots for students and teachers.
During the hearing, lawmakers on the subcommittee called for both expanding service access in rural areas and creating more affordable service access in urban areas of the country. “We all know that our nation needs to invest in deploying new networks, particularly in rural communities, if we’re going to ensure that everyone can get online,” Chairman of the subcommittee Representative Michael Doyle (D-Pennsylvania) said. 
Additionally, on the eve of the hearing, House Energy and Commerce Republicans released a proposed package of 28 bills as part of a renewed effort to expand broadband internet infrastructure and connectivity in rural communities and public lands. The package includes 28 individual Republican bills, the majority of which are being reintroduced from a similar broadband package in the 116th Congress, and every Republican on the full committee has sponsored at least one of the bills.

Return of Earmarks

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are reportedly planning on returning earmarks to congressional spending bills. Earmarks, sometimes referred to as “congressional pork,” are federal monies requested by lawmakers that are added onto legislation for special local projects in their districts/state.  This system of spending was banned in 2011 after several high-profile corruption scandals. Democrats have not specified what restrictions they will put around earmarks, however, the funding will likely be limited to nonprofits and localities. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), who Chairs the Appropriations Committee, is expected to make an announcement in the coming weeks.

Coming March 5th - Redistricting Webinar Series- Part 1

CSAC and RCRC have teamed up to bring you a two part webinar series that will break down all you need to know about redistricting for your county. The Redistricting Webinar Series – Part 1  focuses on legal requirements, including the Voting Rights Act and changes as a result of AB 849 (2019), and will be of interest to county counsel, redistricting staff, and others who need a working knowledge of the technical aspect of redistricting. The webinar series is open to all supervisor and county staff. Register now for Part 1, occurring on Friday, March 5, 10am-12pm


  • Chris Skinnell, Nielsen Merksamer
  • Marguerite Leoni, Nielsen Merksamer
  • Douglas Johnson, National Demographics Corporation

Date: Friday, March 5, 2021
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Register now!

Part two (date to be announced) will be a conversation with county supervisors and staff on best practices and what you can expect the redistricting process to look like on the ground. If you have any questions please reach out to Dorothy Poole (RCRC) or Ada Waelder (CSAC).


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


CPUC Announces Public Meeting on Energy Rates and Costs

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)—along with the California Energy Commission, California Independent System Operator, and Legislative Leaders—will hold an Electric Rates and Costs En Banc. These key decision-makers will hear from experts on utility rates, clean energy programs, wildfire mitigation measures, modernizing the energy system, and affordability issues.

WHAT: CPUC Electric Rates and Costs En Banc 
WHEN: Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 9:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. 
WHERE: Remote access via webcast or conference line. See here for participation information and a draft agenda.

Save the Date for Forest Stewardship Workshop

The University of California Cooperative Extension has announced upcoming training opportunities to help landowners develop sustainable plans to improve and protect their forest lands. Online workshops will be offered weekly from March 22, 2021 through May 27, 2021, with an in-person session scheduled in Humboldt County on Saturday, April 24, 2021. For more information, see here.


Career Opportunities

  • Shasta County Seeks Assistant County Executive Officer

Shata County is seeking an Assistant County Executive Officer to assist the County Executive Officer (CEO) in accomplishing countywide strategic planning, alignment and regional partnerships to achieve the Board and Public Safety goals. This position will also assist in strategic financial planning, to further resiliency, leveraging resources locally and ensuring existing allocations further CEO, Board and department goals. The application filing deadline is March 8, 2021. Apply online or view additional details here.

  • County of Del Norte Seeks County Administrative Officer

Del Norte County is seeking a dynamic professional who can lead County Administration and improve the services it provides for the community. The "Results Based Accountability" model of delivering and assessing services will be the primary tool by which the new County Administrative Officer will be evaluated. ln addition, the successful candidate should have excellent team building skills and be adept at forging and strengthening partnerships with all other community development agencies in the community. For more information,see the job bulletin here.

Applications are due by March 4, 2021. Application materials are found here.


  • County of Del Norte Seeks Local Transportation Commission Executive Director 

The Del Norte County Local Transportation Commission (DNLTC) seeks proposals to provide the services of an Executive Director. The Executive Director provides services in transportation administration, planning, coordination, and has training and experience to perform all aspects of the job. The DNLTC expects an agreement with the successful candidate to be entered into on or before June 30, 2021. The contract will be for a term of five years commencing on July 1, 2021. Submission deadline is March 5, 2021. For more information, see here.


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.


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

ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry): Local Government Financing: Affordable Housing. ACA 1 would lower the vote threshold to 55 percent for approval of local bonded-indebtedness and specially dedicated taxes imposed for specified uses. Status: ACA 1 has been recently introduced and awaits consideration from the Assembly.  RCRC Status: Support

AJR 5 (L. Rivas): Wild and free-roaming horses and burros. AJR 5 would urge the federal government to declare a moratorium on all further wild horse and burro round-ups and would urge the United States Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service to introduce and support populations in areas of California where wild horses and burros were historically present.  Status: AJR 5 has been recently introduced and has not yet been referred to an Assembly policy committee.  RCRC Status: Pending

Assembly Bill 1 (C. Garcia): Hazardous Waste: Assembly Bill 1 Establishes several new governance, policy, and fiscal reforms to improve the Department of Toxic Substances Control, including significantly increasing several fees and repealing several important fee exemptions. Status: AB 1 is awaiting consideration by the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee. RCRC Status: Pending

Assembly Bill 33 (Ting): Natural Gas: Prohibits new public buildings from having natural gas connections and utilities from subsidizing natural gas line connections. Status: AB 33 is awaiting consideration in the Assembly Utilities and Energy and natural Resources Committee.  RCRC Status: Watch

Assembly Bill 318 (Levine): Hazardous waste: Assembly Bill 318 excludes from classification as hazardous waste green waste that has not been contaminated by a hazardous or toxic chemical during production, harvest, or processing.  Allows those green wastes to be disposed in a permitted solid or hazardous waste landfill or composting operation.  Status:  AB 318 is awaiting consideration by the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee. RCRC Status:  Pending

Assembly Bill 322 (Salas): Energy: Electric Program Investment Charge program: Assembly Bill 322 requires the Energy Commission to allocate at least 20% of all funds appropriated for the Electric Program Investment Charge program (roughly $25 million annually) to bioenergy projects for biomass conversion. Status: AB 322 is awaiting consideration in the Assembly Utilities and Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  RCRC Status: Pending 

Assembly Bill 332 (ESTM): Hazardous waste: treated wood waste: Assembly Bill 332 seeks to reestablish a statutory pathway for the alternative management and disposal of treated wood waste in a landfill.  STATUS:  AB 332 is awaiting consideration by the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee.  RCRC Status:  Support.

Senate Bill 30 (Cortese): Building Decarbonization: Senate Bill 30 prohibits state agencies from designing or constructing a state facility that is connected to the natural gas grid and prohibits state agencies from funding projects for the construction of residential and nonresidential buildings that are connected to the natural gas grid. Status: Senate Bill 30 awaits consideration by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. RCRC Status: Watch

Senate Bill 38 (Wieckowski): Beverage Containers: Senate Bill 38 replaces the existing Beverage Container Recycling Program (Bottle Bill) with a new recycling program administered by beverage container manufacturers, increases the CRV from $0.05 to $0.10 per container if the state fails to achieve specified recycling rates, and expands the program to include many types of containers not currently subject to CRV. Status: SB 38 awaits consideration by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. RCRC Status: Pending

 Senate Bill 42 (Wieckowski): Department of Toxic Substances Control:  Senate Bill 42 establishes a new Board of Environmental safety to oversee the Department of Toxic Substances Control, consider permit appeals, and propose regulatory changes and establishes an ombudsperson to make and receive public complaints and suggestions.  SB 42 is anticipated to be amended to also include many of the fiscal changes suggested by the Administration to address DTSC’s structural deficit. Status: SB 42 awaits consideration by the Senate Environmental Quality committee. RCRC Status: Pending

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

Senate Bill 55 (Stern): Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone: Development. Senate Bill 55 would prohibit all retail, commercial, industrial, or residential development in specified fire-prone areas of the state. Status: SB 55 awaits consideration by the Senate Rules Committee.  RCRC Status: Oppose

Senate Bill 207 (Dahle): Photovoltaic Recycling Advisory Group: Senate Bill 207 seeks to spur the recycling and reuse of solar photovoltaic panels by requiring an advisory group to make recommendations to ensure that, to the extent possible, all solar photovoltaic panels in the state are reused or recycled at the end of their lives in a safe and cost-effective manner. Status: SB 207 awaits consideration by the Senate Rules Committee. RCRC Status:  Support

Senate Bill 244 (Archuleta): Lithium-ion batteries: illegal disposal: fire prevention: Senate Bill seeks to prevent lithium-ion battery fires by requiring the state to develop training and best practices for the detection, safe handling, and suppression of fires that originate from discarded lithium-ion batteries in solid waste collection vehicles, transfer and processing stations, and disposal facilities.  Status: SB 244 awaits consideration from the Senate Environmental Quality and Natural Resources and Water Committee. RCRC Status: Support