The Barbed Wire - November 08, 2019

November 8, 2019
RCRC Chair and President Present Check to Southern Inyo Fire Protection District
RCRC Chair Outlines Specific Suggestions to Minimize Impacts from PSPS Events
Disaster Relief & Tax Extenders
Appropriations Update
Cannabis Banking Update

RCRC Chair and President Present Check to Southern Inyo Fire Protection District

Last week, Greg Norton, RCRC President and CEO, joined Matt Kingsley, RCRC Chair and Inyo County Supervisor, at an event in Shoshone, California to present a check in the amount of $12,300 to the Southern Inyo Fire Protection District. 

At RCRC’s Annual Meeting in September, RCRC member counties auction off a county-themed basket, and the proceeds from the basket auction are donated to selected charities within the county of the RCRC Chair. 

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the attendees of RCRC’s 2019 Basket Auction.  The impact that this gift will have in Inyo County and the deserving charities will be impactful and long-lasting,” said RCRC Chair and Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley.  “I am thankful and humbled by the opportunity to serve in a leadership role in RCRC, an organization dedicated to serving California’s rural communities.”

In September, rural community and business leaders from across the state raised $61,500 for five Inyo County charities, including the Southern Inyo Fire Protection District, United Methodist Social Services, Healthy Communities of Southern Inyo, Southern Inyo Hospital Salvation, and Lone Pine FFA.  The Southern Inyo Fire Protection District event was held in conjunction with Shoshone Old West Days.  The remaining checks will be presented at an event in Lone Pine, California on November 18th, and before the Inyo County Board of Supervisors the following day.

RCRC Chair Outlines Specific Suggestions to Minimize Impacts from PSPS Events

Earlier this week, RCRC Chair and Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley sent a letter to the California Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee outlining suggested changes to minimize impacts from utility Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events.  The letter includes 29 specific recommendations within seven categories to address the current notification and execution of PSPS events that endanger lives and property, and the operation of critical infrastructure.  

“Rural areas are hardest hit by PSPS events and often lack the resources to fully mitigate impacts on critical infrastructure and sensitive populations,” said Kingsley.  “Our communities are home to a higher percentage of elderly and low-income individuals who are least able to bear the impacts of PSPS events.”

The seven categories addressed include:

  • Improve notification and sharing of information with local governments;
  • Expand access to and services provided by community resource centers;
  • Improve notification and mitigation for baseline and Access and Fundamental Needs (AFN) populations;
  • Expand the definition of “critical facilities;”
  • Evaluate and mitigate PSPS costs and impacts;
  • Establish clear system restoration goals; and,
  • Improve the scrutiny and utility of post-event reports.

Supervisor Kingsley’s letter outlining RCRC’s 29 specific recommendations can be accessed here.

Disaster Relief & Tax Extenders

Representative Mike Thompson’s (D-Napa) Disaster Tax Relief Bill (H.R. 3301) was approved by the House Committee on Ways and Means in June, but has not yet passed the full House of Representatives.  The bill includes an extension of important disaster tax relief provisions to help regions hit by natural disasters, including California’s wildfires.  

With the latest outbreak of wildfires in California, the bills’ sponsor is working to include the bill as part of the 30 tax extenders House Democrats are looking to renew.  Republicans, including Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), have said that Democrats are asking for too much in return for movement on these extenders.  Senator Grassley’s office estimates that the Democrats’ package to make the tax extenders permanent could cost as much as $710 billion.  As part of a compromise to get these extenders passed, a possible deal could include Democrats agreeing to technical corrections to the 2017 tax law.  In addition to the disaster tax relief extender, the bill also includes the New Markets Tax Credit, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, the credit for biodiesel and biofuels, the credit for short-line railroad maintenance, and a number of other provisions.

The importance of getting these tax extenders passed promptly has only intensified for California with the recent threat from President Trump to possibly withhold California's federal aid for combating wildfires.  In 2017, California spent nearly $1.8 billion dollars fighting wildfires.  The federal government provides up to 75 percent of firefighting funds and, as per the 2018 federal spending bill, allows the US Forest Service to tap into up to $2 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to help fight California wildfires.

Appropriations Update

On Tuesday, The Trump Administration announced backing off demands for $8.6 billion in fiscal 2020 border wall spending in negotiations with top congressional leaders and appropriators.  This announcement reflects a realization that the Administration risks losing a substantial boost in military spending and other GOP priorities if current Continuing Resolution (CR) funds end up extended for the entire fiscal year.  

Congress has appropriated just $1.375 billion for the wall in each of the past two fiscal years.  The wall funding issue is the biggest hurdle to compromise on allocations for the 12 spending bills, but there are various other factors to consider as well.

On Tuesday, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Alabama) said that staff are working to set up a meeting next Tuesday or Wednesday with House Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-New York) to see if they can "ratchet up" negotiations to get the fiscal 2020 spending bills done before January.  A top Administration official reiterated on Tuesday that President Trump does not want to see a partial government shutdown if an agreement is not reached by November 22nd.

Cannabis Banking Update

Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said in an interview on Wednesday that he would like to hold a vote on a bipartisan marijuana banking bill “as soon as we can,” but also acknowledged that the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump may delay congressional action on cannabis reform.  

“I want to do it as soon as we can, but we’re working through the various [potential changes to a House-passed bill],” Crapo said in the interview.  The House approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in September, along largely bipartisan lines.  California and the entire cannabis industry are intensively waiting for Congress to further advance the bill, which would protect banks that service marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.


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


CalPERS Leadership Forums

Last week, RCRC staff and member county representatives from Tuolumne and Lassen counties participated in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Local Elected Officials forum in Oakland.  This session provided elected officials the opportunity to have an open dialog on top issues related to pension and health care benefits for public employers.  

Materials from the forum can be accessed here.  CalPERS has also announced details of their Employer Leadership Dialogues which will take place throughout 2020.  CalPERS is offering employer leaders and decision-makers the opportunity to engage with CalPERS senior leadership to discuss important topics in small venues.  Pension costs, strategies for pay down of Unfunded Accrued Unfunded Liabilities and health care costs are anticipated agenda items.  Details and registration information can be accessed here.

CalPERS Executives and Board members continue to provide RCRC member counties with opportunities to connect with senior leaders on important matters.


100M Available for Disadvantaged Communities and High Fire Threat Districts Through Self-Generation Incentive Program

The Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) started as a program for incentivizing natural gas fired Co-Generation installations, and was modified to include Energy Storage a few years ago.  When the program was modified, the California Public Utilities Commission also added an Equity Budget.  The Equity Budget is to ensure that economically disadvantaged ratepayer groups have a chance to access some of the funds by setting up a separate allocation.

The Equity Budget now has $110M in available funding, including $100M available for one of two uses: Energy Storage in Disadvantaged Communities; and, Energy Storage for Critical Resilience purposes in High Fire Threat Districts (HFTD), primarily in public sector applications.

The program is anticipated to start accepting applications beginning April 1, 2020, and the funds are expected to move extremely quickly.  Local governments that are interested in applying for these funds should plan to have completed applications ready for submission by late March 2020. 

On Wednesday, RCRC hosted a webinar to provide further information, and assist counties with understanding the tasks that need to be completed for an application, and the options available to help with application preparation.  A recorded version of the webinar can be accessed here.  For additional questions, please contact Michael Day at (916) 577-1114.


Siskiyou County Seeks County Administrator

The ideal candidate is an experienced county administrator/executive, or senior level executive from a comparable public sector organization; some relevant private sector experience may be helpful.

Details on the County Administrator position can be accessed here.


Shasta County Seeks County Executive Officer

Located at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley, nestled between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen, Shasta County covers over 3,800+ square miles of rivers, lakes, mountains, State Parks, and National Forests. Easily one of the most picturesque counties in all of California, Shasta County, population 180,000, has an economy based on agriculture, tourism, timber, medical services, and retail businesses. Shasta County has a wealth of resources in a business friendly atmosphere promoting thriving industries.

Shasta County offers all of the amenities of the big city while retaining a comfortable small town atmosphere. With its natural beauty, diversified culture, affordable housing, excellent educational system, abundance of recreational opportunities, and excellent quality of life, Shasta County is a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

Details on the County Executive Officer position can be accessed here.