The Barbed Wire - January 22, 2021

January 22, 2021
RCRC and County Partners Send Urgent Local Vaccine Recommendations to Governor Newsom
Bill of the Week: SB 29 (Umberg) – Elections: Vote by Mail Ballots
State Auditor Finds Smaller Counties Did Not Receive Their Fair Share of Coronavirus Relief Funds
Board of Forestry Fire Safe Regulations Update
Hometown California Interviews Bob Stern, An Influencer of California Politics
Governor Newsom Lays Out California Wish List For Incoming Biden Administration
USDA Issues Final Rule on Hemp Production, CDFA Finalizes State Regulations
Permits Required for Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2021

RCRC and County Partners Send Urgent Local Vaccine Recommendations to Governor Newsom

This week, RCRC along with our county partners the California State Association of Counties, the Urban Counties of California, County Health Executives Association of California, and the Health Officers Association of California sent a letter to Governor Newsom which outlined the challenges local health jurisdictions are facing in the administration of vaccines.  The letter also provided urgent recommendations that will aid in a more efficient and coordinated effort – and thus result in vaccinating as many Californians as quickly as possible. 

From the local perspective, counties believe the most critical issues for the state to address are data transparency and timely reporting.  Local health departments believe there are significant data lags and reporting challenges that result in a significant underreporting of California’s progress.  California’s vaccination efforts are coordinated between multiple vaccination partners, including the Federal Pharmacy Partnership, multi-county entities, and local health departments.  Some of California’s challenges arise from the lack of transparency between these various entities. With all of this in mind, the recommendations provided by RCRC and our county partners focus on addressing issues of:

  • timely and accurate reporting by providing staff to support the California Immunization Registry (CAIR2) system; auditing the system to address issues causing increased workload for providers; providing additional system training to vaccinating entities; and instituting state level enforcement strategies to help ensure data is entered within 24 hours.
  • data transparency by providing local health jurisdictions with access to additional data from the CAIR2 system so they can see the doses being allocated, received, and administered throughout the state, in order to assess whether they are being provided enough vaccine.
  • dependable vaccine allocation by making the supply predictable, providing allocation amounts one month in advance, and increasing allocations to keep up with local health department plans to ramp up vaccination efforts.
  • accountability for all vaccination partners by holding CVS/Walgreens and multi-county entities accountable for timely reporting at the local jurisdiction level, and by supporting the redirection of vaccines from the Federal Pharmacy Partnership to local health departments, where feasible, if implementation is otherwise delayed.

The full list of recommendations can be viewed in the letter here. For more information, contact Sarah Dukett, Legislative Advocate at (916) 447-4806 or

Bill of the Week: SB 29 (Umberg) – Elections: Vote by Mail Ballots

RCRC has expressed support for Senate Bill 29, authored by Senator Tom Umberg (D–Santa Ana).  Last year, in response to the health and safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State enacted Assembly Bill 860 (Berman) which required county election officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter and to operate an acceptable vote-by-mail tracking system for the November 2020 General Election.  SB 29 would simply extend these requirements to all elections proclaimed or conducted prior to January 1, 2022.  

For many rural areas, voting by mail has been the predominant method of voting for several years and RCRC has long supported expanding the ability of counties to conduct all of their elections via vote-by-mail balloting.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present significant health and safety risks to voters and to those tasked with conducting the election.  SB 29 would ensure that every Californian has the option to vote from the safety of their home.

RCRC’s letter of support is available here. For more information, contact Sarah Dukett, RCRC Legislative Advocate, at (916) 447-4806 or

State Auditor Finds Smaller Counties Did Not Receive Their Fair Share of Coronavirus Relief Funds

The State Auditor released a report on Tuesday noting that a funding formula proposed by the Newsom Administration disadvantaged smaller counties out of receiving their fair share of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds. This resulted in providing California’s 16 largest counties nearly double the economic relief per person than lower population counties to respond to the global public health emergency brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the California Department of Public Health, COVID-19 case rates were just as high, and in some cases higher, in smaller counties than in the state’s largest counties. 

In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed Congress, providing $9.3 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds to California, plus $4.5 billion in direct assistance to counties with populations greater than 500,000. While the Legislature approved $1.3 billion to counties, a formula devised by the Department of Finance allocated only half of this earmarked money for the remaining 42 lower population counties. Overall, urban counties received $190 per resident while rural and suburban counties were left with $102 per person from the Department of Finance to address public health and safety needs associated with the pandemic.

RCRC has advocated, and will continue to advocate, that Congress provide direct and equitable local assistance payments to all counties. See RCRC's related advocacy letters below.  To view the complete findings by the State Auditor, see here.

RCRC Letters


Board of Forestry Fire Safe Regulations Update

This week at the California Board of Forestry (BOF) joint committee meeting, staff provided a brief update on the State Fire Safe regulations process, including a commitment to hold additional stakeholder discussions before submitting the rulemaking package to the Office of Administrative Law.  The joint committee did not take any further formal action on the proposal.  RCRC staff testified during public comment, expressing appreciation to the BOF for accepting RCRC’s recommendation to hold additional, multidisciplinary stakeholder meetings. 
The next stakeholder workshop will occur on January 27th, focusing on revisions to Articles 4 and 5 of the proposed regulations.  Registration for the meeting can be found here.  Staff stated during the joint committee meeting that the BOF intends to hold an additional meeting, tentatively scheduled for February 9th.   All public comment received by the BOF since the first workshop in November is 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. The changes made in the draft rulemaking, will have extraordinary impacts 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, 2020 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.  

For updates from the BOF on the Fire Safe Regulations and other activities of the BOF Resource Protection Committee, subscribe to email updates here. For more information, please contact Tracy Rhine at

Hometown California Interviews Bob Stern, An Influencer of California Politics

In the latest episode of Hometown California, RCRC’s Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs, Paul A. Smith, holds a conversation about political reform, the state of California politics, and influential ballot measures in an interview with Bob Stern, J.D., a man with a long history of influence in California politics.

Bob Stern made his mark on California politics In the 1970's, as the co-author of California's Political Reform Act (1974). And, his influence does not stop there. When former Governor Jerry Brown was Secretary of State, Stern served as his Elections Counsel. He served as the first General Counsel of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and was the former President of the Center for Governmental Studies (a non-profit research organization). He has been a mover-and-shaker of California politics for many decades. Listen in as Paul and Bob discuss the impact of political reform in California, what's working, and what could be better. Hear Bob's insights about influential ballot measures of the past as well as the present. And, listen as Bob shares his thoughts about the impact COVID-19 is having on the state, and about the political divisions-- both in the state and the nation-- that have become prominent in recent years. Listen now.

Governor Newsom Lays Out California Wish List For Incoming Biden Administration

On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden, outlining his wish list of California-specific policy priorities for the incoming Biden Administration.  Specifically, the Governor asked for additional support on housing vouchers to combat homelessness, forest management to reduce wildfire risk, and restoring California's ability to set greenhouse gas standards for cars, which the Trump Administration revoked. On infrastructure, Governor Newsom mentioned water, broadband, housing, renewable energy, schools, and "restoring the federal commitment" to the state's high-speed rail project, which lost nearly $1 billion in federal funding last year.

USDA Issues Final Rule on Hemp Production, CDFA Finalizes State Regulations

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the Final Rule for industrial hemp production, which will go into effect on March 22, 2021.  The USDA made many notable changes to their Interim Final Rule based on public comments, including extending the harvest period up to 30 days from the time of sampling to measure the acceptable tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit (the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis), and removed burdens on law enforcement to dispose of non-compliant hemp that tests above acceptable THC limits.  While the USDA subsequently delayed interim requirements to test hemp through laboratories registered with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Final Rule maintains this requirement.  As it stands, there are an insufficient amount of these DEA-registered laboratories to process hemp samples not only in the state, but also nationwide.  However, the DEA will delay enforcement of this requirement until January 1, 2022 while they attempt to process laboratory registration applications and attempt to prevent significant testing backlogs from occurring. 

On Wednesday, the Office of Administrative Law approved California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) industrial hemp cultivation regulations, which went into effect immediately.  These new requirements will, among other things, require County Agricultural Commissioners to conduct random, annual inspections of hemp registrants to verify information, confirm crop destruction and ensure proper recordkeeping.  CDFA will open a new rulemaking in the future to ensure California’s regulatory plan complies with the USDA’s Final Rule.  More information on USDA’s Final Rule can be viewed here. RCRC’s letter to USDA can be viewed here.

Permits Required for Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2021

RCRC’s partner, the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), will be issuing permits for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2021.  The Pacific Crest Trail Association had discussions with State Parks and the USDA Forest Service before deciding to issue permits.  As such, the PCTA announcement was released several days ago.

The PCTA decision to issue permits is in concert with a multi-faceted public education campaign about the risks and dangers of COVID-19. Of particular note to counties, those planning a trip on the Pacific Crest Trail must follow all local, state, and federal regulations related to COVID-19. Individuals may apply for a permit online, starting on January 19, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time. Learn how to apply for a permit here.

The PCTA has the highest expectation that the PCT community will carefully consider the many risks and will make smart decisions that minimize risks to themselves, other hikers, and communities along the trail. The PCTA is recommending that trail users seriously consider postponing long-distance travel on the PCT until 2022. 

For questions or additional information, please contact:

U.S. Forest Service PCT Administrator Beth Boyst

Pacific Crest Trail Association’s Director of Trail Operations Jennifer Tripp


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


CARB Announces Annual Reporting for Off-Road Diesel Fleets

As of January 1, 2021 annual reporting begins for the In-Use Off-Road Diesel-Fueled Fleets—also called the Off-Road Regulation. This Off-Road Regulation requires fleets to report their off-road diesel equipment to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) by March 1, 2021. Annual reports must also include up to date contact information and engine hour meter readings for low-use vehicles. General information about the Off-Road Regulation is available here.  For guidance on how to submit an annual report, see here or contact the DOORS hotline for more information, 1-877-593-6677 or  

Rural Regions Connect Virtual Conference - Sponsored by RCRC

RCRC is a proud sponsor of the Rural Regions Connect Virtual Conference taking place on Thursday, January 28th from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. This inaugural, daylong event is designed to help businesses in the 37 rural counties of California access leading experts in top industries to help them capitalize on disruptions and transformations begun in 2020 and accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a free, virtual event designed to work around your schedule and interests - you can select the sessions that most interest you and design a conference agenda that meets your needs. For more information, see the event flyer or go directly to the conference website.

The goal of the conference is to provide key information to assist with the business decision-making process, deliver sound advice on how to leverage new opportunities, and provide direct access to state, federal and international business services.  Speakers include key representatives from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, U.S. Department of Commerce, California Restaurant Association, U.S. Small Business Administration, and McKinsey & Company, among many others.  You can also sign up for individual no-cost consulting sessions with experts from the California Small Business Development Center Network, Sacramento Business Connect and SF Business Connect to discuss your particular business situation and opportunity. 

Register now!


CARB Announces One-Stop Regulatory Compliance Webinar For Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles

On January 25, 2021 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is hosting a free virtual event, with one-on-one assistance available, on regulatory compliance, financial assistance, and new technologies. Presentation topics include: 

  • On-Road and Off-Road Regulations
  • Vehicle and Engine Certification and Compliance Program
  • Reporting into TRUCRS
  • Heavy-Duty Inspection and Maintenance Program
  • Department of Motor Vehicles' Commercial Registration
  • CARB Enforcement Inspection Demonstration
  • California Highway Patrol's Basic Inspection of Terminals
  • New Vehicle Technology
  • Funding Opportunities

To register for this one day event, please 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. Workshops have already occurred for Southeastern California and Southern California have already.  For more information, visit the Programs and Topics page.

Remaining Workshop: Central California – Tuesday, January 26, 2021 (register now)

Workshop is  from 2:45-5 p.m. (entry to meeting site opens at 2:30 p.m.) 


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.


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.