The Barbed Wire - November 20, 2020

November 20, 2020
Legislative Analyst Office Anticipates $26 Billion “Windfall”
Feinstein Urges Appropriators to Fund Wildfire Recovery
Hometown California Sits Down with Assembly Member Frank Bigelow
Coronavirus Relief Negotiations
Race for House Agriculture Committee Chair
California Housing Agency Pauses Multiple Program Guidelines and Funding Opportunities To Better Align With Other Programs
RCRC Testifies Before Legislature on Plastic Waste Management and Recycling Challenges
RCRC Submits Comments on California Broadband for All Action Plan
CalOSHA To Commence Emergency Regulations for Additional COVID-19 Prevention To All Workplaces
Court Ruling Affirms Local Authority Over Cannabis Deliveries
Bill of the Week on Hiatus through December 7

Legislative Analyst Office Anticipates $26 Billion “Windfall”

In its annual Fiscal Outlook released today, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) suggests that the state’s upcoming 2021-22 State Budget could experience a $26 billion “windfall,” confirming recent reports that show state revenues eclipsing budget estimates. The LAO stresses that this windfall is entirely one-time in nature, resulting in revisions from prior and current year budget estimates of revenues and expenditures and a state economy that has performed unexpectedly well for higher-income earners.

While the Administration is currently in the process of putting together the Governor’s proposed 2021-22 State Budget, the Legislature will also be focusing on its budget priorities, given this unanticipated revenue surplus.  RCRC and other ‘fiscal watchers’ expect to see the Newsom Administration propose continued investment in pandemic response, as well as an acknowledgement of the need to bolster programs funded through 1991 and 2011 Realignment and other safety net programs.  The Governor has also been clear about his interest in investing in economic recovery for the state’s small businesses and continuing efforts to improve the state’s wildfire response.  Senate Democrats will seek to restore trigger solutions from the 2020-21 State Budget that was enacted over this past Summer, including deferrals to K-14 schools, and eliminating scheduled program suspensions included in the 2020-21 State Budget.

Feinstein Urges Appropriators to Fund Wildfire Recovery

Last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein joined Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) in two separate requests to the Senate Committee on Appropriations for federal funding to support wildfire recovery efforts in the West.  In the first request, the senators urged the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies to secure additional funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Emergency Watershed Protection program to help counties protect against post-fire damage.  Additional funding, and greater flexibility on cost share requirements, would ensure that the USDA can partner effectively with state and local governments to recover from wildfires.  In the second request, the senators called on the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to secure additional funding for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to rehabilitate Forest Service lands after a devastating wildfire season.  Without additional funding for reforestation, trail and facility repair and habitat restoration, the USFS may be forced to divert funding from existing programs or leave important recovery projects undone.

Hometown California Sits Down with Assembly Member Frank Bigelow

In the latest episode of Hometown California, RCRC’s Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations. Paul A. Smith, sits down with Assembly Member Frank Bigelow (R-Madera) for a conversation about his experience representing rural California in the State Legislature.(Download now)

Assembly Member Bigelow shares about his transition from local government to state politics, the challenges of being in the minority in the State Legislature, and how he builds relationships and stays focused on common ground to be an effective voice for rural California.  He opens up about the personal impact of this year's devastating wildfires and the global pandemic that has created unique challenges for rural areas. 

Elected to the Madera County Board of Supervisors in 1998, Bigelow was later elected to the State Assembly where he currently represents Assembly District 5. The district is comprised of the RCRC member counties of Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Tuolumne, and a bit of Placer.

Find all the episodes of Hometown California on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, or your favorite listening app. And watch for our next episode, coming early next week, when RCRC catches up with with Jeremy White of Politico to assess the outcome of California's twelve ballot propositions.

Coronavirus Relief Negotiations

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) urging for the renewal of economic stimulus talks, citing the rising number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases across the country.  Leader McConnell, who has taken over Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s role as the Republican lead on COVID-19 stimulus talks, said he has not spoken to Democrats about a relief package, which he says should be the smaller version that Senate Republicans support, rather than the $2.4 trillion Democratic plan.  In addition, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said on Tuesday that he is drafting what he hopes will be a bipartisan COVID-19 aid bill with targeted provisions on areas of common ground, such as funding for vaccine relief and development, replenishing the Payment Protection Program, and extending federal unemployment insurance.  Senator Portman said that funding to accelerate vaccine development and distribution is his top priority because, in his view, “it’s a much better solution than lockdowns.”  He also indicated that there is bipartisan support for “some important tax relief that’s out there,” although he did not elaborate on the specific provisions he was referring to.  Senator Portman also did not mention any Democrats he was talking to by name.

Race for House Agriculture Committee Chair

With contested House of Representatives leadership elections expected to be held the week after Thanksgiving, Representative Jim Costa (D-Fresno) is currently vying for the chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee against Representative David Scott (D-Georgia).  Last week, more than 60 organizations from California including the California Farm Bureau Federation, Western Growers Association, African American Farmers of California, and the California Cattlemen's Association sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi advocating for Representative Costa to take over the chairmanship after current Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) lost his reelection.  Representative Costa's supporters note that he represents an area that "is a microcosm of the American food system and is also one of its linchpins."

Representative Scott, Representative Costa’s opponent, has had no shortage of endorsements, most notably earning the backing of the outgoing Chairman Peterson.  Chairman Peterson is widely respected in agriculture circles and said he backs Representative Scott’s candidacy because he has the committee seniority to claim the post and because of his work on issues such as food programs for the poor, financial safety net for livestock producers and specialty and commodity crop farmers.  

RCRC has offered its assistance to Congressman Costa and wishes to see his selection to lead this all-important Committee.  The next chair of the House Agriculture Committee will have great sway in doing the preliminary work of the 2023 Farm Bill, whereby a number of important aspects – such as rural broadband deployment and forestry reform – will be discussed.

California Housing Agency Pauses Multiple Program Guidelines and Funding Opportunities To Better Align With Other Programs

Earlier this week, the Bureau of State Audits released a report on California’s Housing Agencies, including the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC), and the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee (CDLAC).  The State Auditor found that the state does not have a coordinated and effective approach to affordable housing development and recommended that the state improve its housing plan, harmonize multiple funding programs, and strengthen its oversight of local jurisdictions to facilitate construction.  Among its findings, the Auditor noted the state’s mismanagement lost $2.7 billion in bond resources that could have been used for affordable housing projects.  Further, State law requires that a certain portion of tax credits for affordable housing development be reserved for rural areas, but the audit found CTCAC inadequately recruits developers to apply in counties with few-to-no tax credit awards (such as Amador, Calaveras, Inyo, Modoc, Mono, Tehama and Trinity counties).
As a result of the Audit’s recommendations, HCD announced it is pausing, until further notice, the Multifamily Housing Program guidelines and Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), Infill Infrastructure Grant guidelines and NOFA, and the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities guidelines and NOFA. Further, the Joe Serna Jr. Farmworker Grant program NOFA has also been temporarily suspended.  HCD seeks to align their policy goals with other agencies by removing conflicting scoring criteria and definitions. More information will be announced and updated on each program’s respective webpage, which can be accessed here

RCRC Testifies Before Legislature on Plastic Waste Management and Recycling Challenges

On Monday, RCRC testified before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee and the Select Committee on Waste Reduction and Recycling regarding plastic waste management and recycling challenges in rural California. The hearing, entitled “Plastic in California:  Impacts on Communities and the Environment,” focused largely on the plastic waste and its impact on the environment and solid waste management. 

RCRC was joined by Los Angeles County and CalRecycle in describing local waste management and recycling operations and the challenges they face in recycling plastics.  While recycling programs used to generate revenue or be cost neutral for haulers and local governments, reduced commodities prices have resulted in significant cost pressures for local governments across the state. 

RCRC’s testimony focused on:

  • Who rural counties are and the various ways in which we manage solid waste
  • Local litter problems and cleanup efforts
  • Challenges in managing and recycling plastic waste, including increasing frustrations with the lack of beverage container redemption opportunities
  • Recommendations for future actions

In particular, RCRC noted that local governments have long been charged with meeting the state’s solid waste diversion and recycling requirements alone and without any control over what is introduced into the marketplace. As a result, local recycling operations are much like a two-legged stool – municipalities collect and sort the material, but there is often no end market for those materials. Furthermore, RCRC stated that while we share a number of the same problems with difficult-to-manage and difficult-to-market materials as do our urban colleagues, those problems are often exacerbated because of the lack of economies-of-scale and transportation costs.

Going forward, RCRC urged the Legislature to significantly increase manufacturer engagement - both with respect to product design and use of recycled materials.  RCRC challenged manufacturers to focus on designing products that are readily recyclable and for which there are markets. Additionally, RCRC argued for increasing the use of recycled content in products, finding innovative uses for less-marketable materials, and building local and domestic markets to maximize the environmental, economic, and job creation benefits of recycling.  Finally, RCRC strongly advocated for fixing the broken beverage container recycling program to ensure that consumers can get their deposits back.

RCRC Submits Comments on California Broadband for All Action Plan

On Friday, RCRC submitted comments on the latest draft of the California Broadband for All Action Plan (Plan).  The Plan was created by the California Broadband Council (Council) in accordance with Executive Order N-73-20, which was issued in August and directed the Council to create a new state broadband action plan outlining how the state could accelerate broadband deployment and adoption. While RCRC agrees with the Council’s vision and supports many of the proposed recommendations in the Plan, RCRC highlighted several concerns and suggested that some of the over-arching concepts of the Plan merit additional focus. RCRC expressed that the Plan should be further refined to:

  • require State-funded broadband projects to deliver high quality connectivity of no less than 100 Mbps symmetrical;
  • provide equal standing and eligibility for Municipal broadband to receive state funding;
  • provide greater investment consideration for open access, public benefit projects; and
  • avoid a one-size-fits-all solution to local permitting challenges.

RCRC is encouraged that the Council has demonstrated willingness to consider novel concepts and innovative paradigm shifts, such as alternative infrastructure financing methods and open-access infrastructure.  Nonetheless, RCRC believes these concerns need to be addressed in the final Plan as rural areas of the state continue to bear the brunt of the digital divide.  RCRC looks forward to continuing an open dialogue with the Council to address the inequity of broadband access in California.

CalOSHA To Commence Emergency Regulations for Additional COVID-19 Prevention To All Workplaces

On Thursday, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards (CalOSHA) Board unanimously approved additional, far-reaching workplace standards for COVID-19 hazard prevention, training, notification, and other safety measures for a broader range of employers and places of employment with limited exceptions. The notice and language of the proposed regulations can be found here. Between February and October, CalOSHA received approximately 7,700 complaints related to COVID-19 health and safety issues and, since August, has issued $1 million in COVID-19 related enforcement violations. CalOSHA will pursue regulations through the formal Emergency Rulemaking process through the Office of Administrative Law, which includes brief public notice and comment periods. This would likely result in new requirements before the end of the year. Emergency Regulations are generally not permanent unless formalized through the regular rulemaking process.

Court Ruling Affirms Local Authority Over Cannabis Deliveries

California's cannabis laws broadly protects local governments' authority to regulate or prohibit the "establishment or operation" of state-licensed cannabis businesses within their jurisdiction.  This was a key feature of both Proposition 64, which legalized adult use cannabis activities, and the prior medical cannabis licensing laws enacted by the Legislature.  In late 2018, the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) adopted "Regulation 5416(d)" stating that “[a] delivery employee may deliver [cannabis] to any jurisdiction within the State of California.” The intent and effect of this regulation was not immediately clear, but BCC initially took the position that it granted state-licensed cannabis retailers the "right" to deliver cannabis into any jurisdiction, and preempted any local ordinance restricting or prohibiting such deliveries. 

A coalition of local governments promptly sued BCC, arguing that Regulation 5416(d) contradicts cannabis laws that expressly provide local control over the "operation" of cannabis businesses. (County of Santa Cruz v. Bureau of Cannabis Control, Fresno County Superior Court Case No. 19CECG01224.)  In response to the lawsuit, the State of California changed its position, and conceded in court filings that the regulation merely sets forth what the BCC itself permits as far as delivery, and does not override more restrictive local ordinances.  On November 17th, the Superior Court issued a ruling accepting BCC's new interpretation, and holding that Regulation 5416(d) "does not command local permit delivery. Nor does it override their local ordinances prohibiting or regulating delivery." The court acknowledged that BCC had shifted positions, and admonished that "the court wishes to make clear that it is persuaded by, agrees with and adopts the BCC’s argument that Regulation 5416(d) is not inconsistent with and does not preempt plaintiffs’ local ordinances." The litigation was therefore dismissed, as there is no longer a live dispute.

This ruling represents a victory for local governments as the court specifically affirmed that state regulations do not preempt cannabis delivery ordinances "whether the ordinance bans all commercial deliveries, bans cannabis deliveries by non-local businesses, requires local licenses for delivery, or regulates local delivery in some other way."

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.


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


Career Opportunity - Sierra County

The County of Sierra is currently seeking a Financial Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services. 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.


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.


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.