The Barbed Wire - November 22, 2019

November 22, 2019
RCRC Chair Presents $61,500 to Five Inyo County Charities
RCRC Staff Testifies at CPUC Prehearing Conference on Telecommunications During PSPS Events
Senate Focuses on Secure Rural Schools & Federal PILT
Counties Encouraged to Participate in NACo’s Coalition Letter Regarding Federal PILT & SRS Programs
Rural Broadband Update
House Takes Aim on Restructuring Cannabis Policy
Appropriations Update

RCRC Chair Presents $61,500 to Five Inyo County Charities

On Monday, RCRC Chair and Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley presented checks to five Inyo County charitable organizations, including the Southern Inyo Fire Protection District, United Methodist Social Services, Healthy Communities of Southern Inyo, Southern Inyo Hospital Salvation, and Lone Pine FFA.  Each organization received $12,300 during the monthly Inyo Associations meeting at the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine.  The funds were raised during RCRC’s Basket Auction held during the 2019 Annual Meeting in El Dorado County.  

“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 Supervisor 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.”

RCRC’s Annual Meeting concludes with a Basket Drawing and Auction in which a county-themed basket is raffled or auctioned off from each of RCRC’s 37 member counties.  The proceeds from the Basket Auction portion of the event are donated to select charities in the county of the RCRC Chair. 

RCRC staff joined Supervisor Kingsley at the Inyo Associates event, and also presented before the Inyo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. 

RCRC Staff Testifies at CPUC Prehearing Conference on Telecommunications During PSPS Events

On Wednesday, John Kennedy, RCRC Legislative Advocate, testified before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) during their prehearing conference on telecommunications during Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) events.  RCRC member counties are disproportionately impacted by these events, and RCRC was granted party status in the Emergency Disaster Relief Program (R.18-03-011) proceeding.  

Mr. Kennedy acknowledged the need for PSPS events, but advocated that such events must be “carefully planned, surgical in scope,” and “impacts to critical infrastructure and populations mitigated or avoided.” 

The first real PSPS events in 2018 caught many off guard with respect to impacts on critical services like water and wastewater infrastructure, private wells, and extended periods of time without basic services and necessities.  Moreover, the lack of consistent, accurate, and comprehensive communications during PSPS events can lead to catastrophic events, including loss of life.  Mr. Kennedy referenced a number of instances in a handful of rural counties where communication systems were down, impacting critical services to local residents.  “Communication systems are the backbone of our local public safety and emergency services systems,” said Kennedy.  These systems are integral to “enabling police and fire departments to coordinate the deployment of resources and respond to service calls, enabling residents to make emergency calls, the dissemination of information on PSPS events, and providing evacuation notices and coordinating evacuations.” 

It is imperative that California increase resiliency of its communication networks, and Mr. Kennedy advocated in support of “increased investment even as we strive to reduce risk and the use of PSPS events.”

The full hearing can be accessed here.  Mr. Kennedy’s testimony can be found at the 2:50 mark.

Senate Focuses on Secure Rural Schools & Federal PILT

On Thursday, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing titled “Full Committee Hearing on SRS and PILT, and to Receive Testimony on Pending Legislation.”  The hearing featured virtually unanimous support for continued funding of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program and the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.  

Throughout the proceedings, Senators made reference to their local counties that rely on these programs and expressed concern over the “roller coaster” each has to endure in whether or not the funds will be properly allocated each year.  As such, the witnesses urged for either a longer-term funding allocation or a permanent funding allocation.  Three bills were discussed by the Senators that would work toward this goal. The first bill was “A bill to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000” (S. 430), which would provide two additional years of authorization for SRS.  The second bill was the “Forest Management for Rural Stability Act” (S.1643), which would create a permeant endowment fund to ensure that SRS and PILT remain funded indefinitely.  This fund would begin with an initial investment from Congress and comprise of annual deposits from payments of the forest revenue sharing program.  The interest from this endowment would then subsequently fund SRS and PILT.  The third bill was the “Small County PILT Parity Act” (S. 2108), which would revise the existing PILT calculation formula to provide additional monies to counties that have a population of less than 5,000 people.  The Committee and witnesses all expressed support for each piece of legislation, noting that without these payments to local communities, many such services would not to be able to function.

Counties Encouraged to Participate in NACo’s Coalition Letter Regarding Federal PILT & SRS Programs

The National Association of Counties (NACo) is leading a coalition of counties, school districts, and other interested organizations in sending a letter to congressional leaders urging them to fully fund the Federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for FY 2020 and reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program until a permanent solution is developed.  NACo's goal is to collect signatures from every Federal PILT and SRS-impacted county, school district, and interested organizations.  

Congress must work quickly to pass several bills to keep the government open and fund important programs before the end of the year – ideal opportunities to fully fund Federal PILT and reauthorize the SRS program.  The letter will be sent to House and Senate leaders to educate them on the critical importance of Federal PILT and SRS programs.  

The coalition letter can be accessed here.  To sign onto the letter, please complete this webform by 3 p.m. PST on Wednesday, December 4, 2019.

Rural Broadband Update

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees broadband policy, approved a multitude of bipartisan broadband and tech-related bills on a variety of topics, from broadband mapping and network security to freeing up spectrum.  Two bills in particular were notable in regard to rural broadband. 

The first of which was the “Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act” or the Broadband DATA Act (HR 4229), which would require the government to collect granular information about which areas in the U.S. have access to high-speed internet and which do not.  The Senate Commerce Committee advanced its own version of the Broadband DATA Act earlier this year, meaning there is significant momentum to move the bill onto President Trump's desk.  The second significant bill was the “Mapping Accuracy Promotion Services Act” (MAPS Act) (HR 4227).  This measure would bar anyone from "willfully, knowingly, or recklessly" submitting broadband internet access service coverage information or data to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for mapping purposes if it is untrue. This legislation was largely in response to an admission earlier this year by the FCC that its maps were inaccurate because one internet service provider gave the agency false information about its broadband coverage.

Last week, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) introduced two broadband-related bills.  The first was the Rural Broadband Financing Flexibility Act, led by Senator Capito, which would allow state and local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance public-private rural broadband projects, and allow the federal government to assist state and local governments in bond payments. The second was the “Rural Broadband Investment Tax Credit Act”, led by Senator Hassan, which would create a federal tax credit that states and localities could direct toward rural broadband projects. Read a one-pager on the new bills that Senators Hassan and Capito introduced here.

House Takes Aim on Restructuring Cannabis Policy

On Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee passed the “Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement” (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) in a 24-10 vote, setting the stage for a full floor vote.  The vote saw two Republicans, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) and Tom McClintock (R-California), join the Democrats in support of the bill. The bill would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, allow states to set their own marijuana policy and require federal courts to expunge prior convictions for marijuana offenses.  

A 5% tax on marijuana products would also establish a trust fund for programs designed to help people disproportionately impacted by the "war on drugs," including job training and treatment for substance abuse. Taking marijuana off of the controlled substance list is crucial for cannabis banking advocates because de-scheduling the plant would effectively accomplish the same goals as the previously reported on “Secure And Fair Enforcement” (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 (H.R. 1595).  However, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) acknowledged that the legislation could be difficult to secure passage in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Appropriations Update

On Thursday, the Senate approved a previously-passed House bill that extends government funding at last fiscal year’s levels until December 20, 2019.  The measure was immediately signed into law by President Trump to avoid a federal government shutdown.  

The bill passed on a mostly party-line basis, with some Republicans objecting that Congress has not enacted full-year defense funding bill at higher levels.  There had been talk that the bill might include a continuation of some expired funding for minority-serving institutions, but that was not included in what was a fairly “clean” continuing resolution that included just a handful of specific changes to current law.  What happens in the next four weeks is less certain.  Congressional appropriators had hoped to announce agreement in the last week on totals for each of the 12 appropriations bills (allocations known as the “302(b)” levels), but an agreement has been stymied over how much funding, if any, to include in the Homeland Security bill for a border wall.


Calaveras County Job Opportunities

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State Water Board Streamlines Permitting Process for Diversions of Floodwater and Other High Flows to Support Groundwater Sustainability

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$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.


The Economic Impact of Tourism on California’s Rural Counties

After nine consecutive years of growth, California’s travel and tourism economy continues to surge.    Visitors pumped more than $140 billion in travel spending in the last year, stimulating business development and providing Californians with more than one million jobs.  Increased travel spending is leading to record-setting hotel construction and more than $4 billion in annual investments in theme park, restaurant and other tourism-related infrastructure. These projects are creating secondary employment effects, generating high-quality jobs in building and construction. 

Not only does tourism support the state, the industry is a boon for city and county budgets.  Last year, visitor spending generated $11.8 billion in tax revenue for state and local jurisdictions and was among the top three sources of funding for many counties.  This revenue helps fund vital programs and infrastructure projects and saves California households an additional $890 in taxes each year to maintain state and local services.  That’s enough money to resurface 17,000 miles of two-lane roads or employ 107,000 police officers.

It takes more than having the perfect destination to attract visitor dollars.  For more than 25 years, Visit California’s marketing programs have delivered billions of dollars of new visitor spending and helped establish California as the number one travel destination in the U.S.  Over the next five years, Visit California will be building on this success by investing $500 million in global marketing campaigns to ensure that the state remains a top consideration when travelers around the world are planning a trip.

Learn more about the economic impact of tourism upon your county and the benefits of travel and tourism to California’s economy.


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.