The Barbed Wire - November 13, 2020

November 13, 2020
Senate Appropriations Bills Released
Department of Interior Secretarial Order Gives Locals More Authority in Federal Land Acquisitions
Hometown California Reaches New Milestone- More Episodes On the Way!
California Drilling Plan
Coronavirus Relief Negotiations
Biden Transition
Marijuana Legalization House Vote
Bill of the Week on Hiatus through December 7

Senate Appropriations Bills Released

On Tuesday, the Appropriations Committee in the United States Senate released twelve Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bills. These bills are not expected to be marked up by the subcommittees in the upper chamber, but rather kickstart negotiations in pursuit of an omnibus to fund the government through FY 2021 when the current Continuing Resolution expires on December 11th.   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said last week that he and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) “agree that we ought to do an omnibus appropriation bill and do it in December, no matter who wins the election.”  

Of particular interest for RCRC is the inclusion of:

  • $13.6 billion to the Department of Interior (DOI) for 2021, a slight decrease from the enacted 2020 spending levels of $13.9 billion for DOI. Included in this funding is
    • $900 million in mandatory funding to the National Park Service for land and water conservation funding programs.
    • $1.69 billion for DOI and the Bureau of Reclamation to help manage, develop, and protect the water resources of Western states. 
  • $9.1 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency and $7.5 billion for the U.S. Forest Service, which was roughly steady funding for both agencies from last year.
  • $2.35 billion in wildfire suppression cap adjustment funding.
  • $2.765 billion to the Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds and an additional $60 million to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program to provide low-interest loans to communities needing to upgrade their systems.

Department of Interior Secretarial Order Gives Locals More Authority in Federal Land Acquisitions

On November 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) released a Secretarial Order requiring the DOI to seek and receive explicit written support from a state’s governor and county government before federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars can be used to acquire a parcel of land. The Order, which becomes effective immediately, is the result of efforts by the National Association of Counties (NACo), RCRC’s national advocacy partner, and its members to obtain more say for local governments in federal land acquisitions.  The complete text of the Order can be viewed on the DOI website here.

Hometown California Reaches New Milestone- More Episodes On the Way!

This week, Hometown California reached a milestone—1,500+ downloads! Launched in late August, the listenership of Hometown California has continued to grow, as episodes provide a window into our rural communities and the impact on the fabric of the Golden State. 

The first sixteen episodes are available now through your favorite podcast listening app, or you can find them here.

In case you missed it during election season, RCRC’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Paul Smith, recently spoke with Randy Moore, head of the Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5) of the U.S. Forest Service, about the work of managing California's forests and wildlands during these trying times of record-setting wildfires amid a global pandemic. The episode is available for download here.

And watch for the next episode, an interview with Assembly Member Frank Bigelow, for a glimpse at what it’s like to represent California’s rural counties as a member of the State Legislature.

California Drilling Plan

On Monday, California filed a critique of the federal government's forthcoming sale of fossil fuel drilling leases on public lands, arguing the work would harm the environment and public health. The California Department of Justice wrote a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) claiming that the agency is relying on a flawed programmatic environmental review finalized in December 2019 that opened more than one million acres of public lands in Central California to oil and gas drilling. Despite criticism from Governor Newsom, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the letter is unlikely to sway the BLM, particularly in the waning weeks of the Trump Administration. However, the ultimate prospect of production actually occurring is still uncertain because of the legal challenges and further regulatory processes.

Coronavirus Relief Negotiations

Although Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said that passing a stimulus bill to help those impacted by COVID-19 is his top priority, he indicated on Tuesday that he is still far apart from Congressional Democrats on the price tag of any such package. “I don't think the current situation demands a multitrillion-dollar package so I think it should be highly targeted,” McConnell said. Meanwhile, President-elect Biden signaled that he supports efforts to enact a stimulus bill during the lame duck session. President-elect Biden said he had been talking with Democratic leaders about the negotiations, adding “I support what they’re doing.”

Biden Transition

On Tuesday, the Biden-Harris transition team released its agency review teams. These teams are responsible for understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transfer of power, and preparing for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their cabinet to hit the ground running on Day One. Members include volunteers, full-time transition employees, and detailees. Find the full list of agency review team members here.
Additionally, on Wednesday evening President-elect Biden named Ron Klain to be his White House Chief of Staff. Klain, a lawyer with deep experience on Capitol Hill, served as Biden’s Chief of Staff when he was Vice President and has been seen for months as the likeliest choice to manage his team in the White House.  Notably, Klain also served as the “Ebola czar” under President Obama during an outbreak of the deadly disease and has been particularly critical of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
As these transition teams grow and shift info a formal administration staff, Californians are expected to have a major footprint in critical roles. California’s biotech, alternative energy and environmental policy scenes previously had significant clout in both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama’s Administrations and are highly expected to regain this clout under a Biden Administration.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was re-elected as House Speaker this week, is also certain to put her fingerprints on the new Administration. Senator Dianne Feinstein and her husband Richard Blum can also leverage their influence to bend the new Administration's ear as it runs its talent search.  Finally, the most notable Californian in the administration, Vice President-Elect Harris, is likely to significantly lean on the experience and knowledge of her home state and prior Senate staff both during the transition as well as throughout the Administrations’ tenure in office. 


Marijuana Legalization House Vote

In a letter to colleagues Monday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) outlined the legislative schedule for the lame-duck session in November and December. The letter noted that, "The House will vote on the MORE Act to decriminalize cannabis and expunge convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses that have prevented many Americans from getting jobs, applying for credit and loans, and accessing opportunities that make it possible to get ahead in our economy." Majority Leader Hoyer's letter did not specify which week the vote will come up, but the House is scheduled to be in session December 1-4 and December 7-10. The House was scheduled to vote on the bill in September, but some Democrats in tight races worried that voters would not look kindly on a marijuana legalization vote when a deal on coronavirus aid remained elusive. At the time, Majority Leader Hoyer promised the bill would still come up for a vote after the election.

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.


State Cannabis Licensing Authorities Solicit Feedback on Regulatory Reform

At the beginning of the year, Governor Newsom announced plans to consolidate the three cannabis licensing authorities into a single Department of Cannabis Control in order to streamline regulatory oversight of commercial cannabis activity. In an effort to collect stakeholder feedback from licensees, local government entities and the public, a brief survey has been launched and will remain open until November 17th. To participate in the survey, please see here. Discussion and details of statewide cannabis regulatory reform is expected to take place through 2021.


Wildfire Home Retrofit Workshop for Building Professionals

Building professionals are invited to join a free virtual workshop to learn how to design, build, and retrofit homes to withstand wildfire. The workshop is hosted by the Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities with support from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, University of California Cooperative Extension, Tahoe Resource Conservation District and CAL FIRE.

Date: November 18th | 5:30-7:30 p.m. PST

Additional information is available here.


NCWA Seeks Communications Specialist

The Northern California Water Association is accepting applications for Communications Specialist. Interested individuals should e-mail a cover letter, resume and portfolio of communications by December 1, 2020 to The job announcement and additional details are available here.


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. An assistance workshop webinar will be held December 3, 2020, at 2 p.m., to review the application process and answer questions. Register here.

Round 1 grant applications must be submitted using DWR’s online submittal tool and will be accepted from November 9, 2020 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


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


California Water Commission Public Workshops to Focus on Conveyance Needs, Funding Options

In coming months, the California Water Commission will conduct a series of virtual public workshops to seek public input on the state’s role in funding water conveyance projects. The workshop series will focus on specific regions of California. Participants from each region are encouraged to discuss conveyance infrastructure needs, a potential state role in funding such infrastructure, and potential sources of financing. The Commission will use the information gathered at the regional workshops to help formulate a policy paper with recommendations on a state role in financing climate-resilient conveyance. The draft paper will be available for public comment before it is finalized and presented to the Administration in mid-2021. A complete schedule and details on how to take part in the workshops will be posted at a later date.


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.


HCD Announces Help for Those Affected by Northern California Wildfires in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo Counties

On August 22, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the White House approved California's request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the state's emergency response to wildfires burning in Northern California and support impacted residents in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo Counties.

This declaration helps people in those counties through support and services that includes:

  • Crisis counseling
  • Housing and unemployment assistance
  • Legal services

If you sustained losses from the Northern California fires in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, or Yolo Counties, you can now apply for assistance.

To begin the process:

  1. Apply online with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) OR
  2. Call 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 (TTY).

HCD encourages the use of online applications whenever possible. For additional information and important details, see the entire HCD announcement 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.