The Barbed Wire - November 25, 2020

November 25, 2020
Biden Broadband Plan
Coronavirus Relief Negotiations
Hometown California Provides Insights on the Outcome of California’s Ballot Measures
Senator Feinstein to Step Down as Top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Panel
Cannabis Banking
Bill of the Week on Hiatus through December 7

Biden Broadband Plan

Last week, the Washington Post reported that President-elect Joe Biden and top congressional Democrats are currently laying the groundwork for a significant investment federal broadband spending in the new Congress. Democrats are “hoping they can secure billions of dollars in new government aid to improve Internet access and affordability….many Democrats say they are bullish about their prospects, believing they can shepherd a series of record-breaking investments at a time when the resurgent coronavirus is forcing Americans to work and learn from home again.” The most likely opportunity to do so would come in the next coronavirus relief package currently being negotiated. President-elect Biden has previously endorsed the House passed HEROES Act — which includes significant broadband investment — and on Tuesday President-elect Biden reaffirmed his commitment to universal broadband as part of a broader preview of his economic-recovery agenda. Representative James E. Clyburn (D-South Carolina), a Biden ally who played a significant role in the broadband task force this passed Congress, stated that he “absolutely” expected the president-elect to move aggressively on the issue within his first 100 days in office. He acknowledged this week that lawmakers “still expect to get some opposition from Republicans” on additional spending, but he expressed optimism that the inequalities brought to light by the worsening coronavirus pandemic might spur Congress to act.

Coronavirus Relief Negotiations

On Friday of last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said it is possible Congress will pass a smaller and “targeted” coronavirus (COVID-19) relief bill in the lame duck session and return in January to work on a larger bill to present to President-elect Biden after he takes office. Additionally, on Tuesday Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) told CNBC that she is involved in bipartisan discussions on COVID-19 aid and urged her colleagues to quickly enact a relief package, even if that means “a short-term package for the next few months.”  It is unclear on whether state and local aid will be part of the smaller package.

Hometown California Provides Insights on the Outcome of California’s Ballot Measures

California voters decided the fate of twelve ballot measures during the 2020 General Election this year.  On the latest episode of Hometown California,  Jeremey White of Politico returns for an examination of how each measure faired. In a conversation with RCRC’s Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs, Paul A. Smith, Jeremy shares his insights about what may have contributed to the wins and losses, what we can ascertain about the California electorate, and which measures we can expect to see again at another time. Listen to gain insight and to find out how the outcome of each measure compared to the positions taken by the RCRC Board of Directors. (Download now)

Senator Feinstein to Step Down as Top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Panel

On Monday, Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that she plans to step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress. Senator Feinstein has faced criticism from progressives for her handling of Amy Coney Barrett's contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing.  After the hearings, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said he had a "long and serious" talk with Senator Feinstein. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is next in line for the job, followed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island). Senator Feinstein stated in her remarks that she now plans to focus her attention on combating two issues critical to California - wildfires, and drought.

Cannabis Banking

Even if Republicans maintain control of the Senate following dual runoff elections in Georgia on January 5th, it is likely that Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) gives up the top Republican slot on the Senate Banking Committee to become the senior Republican on the Finance Committee during the 117th Congress.  Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), who is next in seniority, is expected to continue to lead Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, leaving a path for Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) to become the highest-ranking Republican on the Banking Committee. Therefore, Senator Toomey’s comments this week to American Banker on his willingness to consider modest reform on the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act next year take on a renewed significance. Asked whether he would be inclined to work with Democrats on cannabis banking, Senator Toomey responded, “I am open to working with my colleagues on how we could enable businesses that are operating legally in their respective states to be able to have ordinary banking services…I think that’s something we should work on.” While Senator Toomey has not embraced broad marijuana reforms such as legalization, he did praise a 2015 Obama Administration move to ease some restrictions on cannabis research.  Nevertheless, cannabis reform still faces significant hurdles in the Senate with the exit of Republican marijuana champion Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and the recent election of anti-marijuana Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to remain as Senate Majority Leader. 

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.



USDA Launches AskUSDA to Improve and Streamline Customer Experience

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched AskUSDA, a centralized contact center that offers customer service and consistent information for the public. If you are looking for USDA information, the AskUSDA site makes it easy, providing information from across the organization all in one place. With a unified search function that provides the top 10 results from across the USDA, and access to live chat agents on weekdays between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. EST, AskUSDA assures that farmers, researchers, travelers, parents, and more have efficient access to the information and resources they need. Representatives are also available by phone on weekdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at (833) ONE-USDA. Inquiries can also be sent via email at any time to


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.


Announcements regarding key staffing changes of importance to California's rural counties.


Dawn Ortiz-Legg, 61, of San Luis Obispo, has been appointed Supervisor for the 3rd District of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors. Ortiz-Legg has been Agency Liaison at Pacific Gas and Electric Company since 2018. She held multiple positions at First Solar from 2010 to 2018, including Contractor, Construction Liaison and Assistant Project Manager. Ortiz-Legg is a member of the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission, One Cool Earth and the San Luis Obispo Film Festival. She earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. This position does not require Senate confirmation. Ortiz-Legg is a Democrat.


Manmeet “Mani” Grewal, 41, of Modesto, has been appointed Supervisor for the 4th District of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. Grewal has been President of Grewal Re Holdings since 2010 and a Member of the Modesto City Council since 2015. He is a member of the California State University, Stanislaus Foundation Board, the Sutter Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Children’s Crisis Center. Grewal earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of the Pacific. This position does not require Senate confirmation. Grewal is a Democrat.


January Riddle, 76, of Markleeville, has been appointed Supervisor for the 1st District of the Alpine County Board of Supervisors. Riddle was a Census Response Representative for the U.S. Census Bureau from 2019 to 2020. She was a Humanities Faculty Member at the University of Phoenix from 2009 to 2018 and a Realtor for Devin Properties from 2005 to 2017. Riddle was an Educational Resource Specialist for the U.S. Peace Corps from 2002 to 2004, an Associate Professor of Communications at Bethany College from 1995 to 2001 and a Lecturer in Journalism at San Diego State University from 1982 to 1995. Riddle earned a Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University and a Master of Arts degree in English from San Jose State University. This position does not require Senate confirmation. Riddle is a Democrat.


Rachel Wagoner, 46, of Sacramento, has been appointed Director of the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). Wagoner has served as Deputy Legislative Secretary in the Office of the Governor since 2019. She was Chief Consultant for the California State Senate Committee on Environmental Quality from 2009 to 2018, Research Director at the University of Illinois, Chicago School of Public Health from 2008 to 2009 and an Advisor at the Department of Environment for the City of Chicago in 2008. Wagoner was a Consultant for the California State Senate Committee on Environmental Quality from 2007 to 2008, a Consultant for the California State Senate Committee on Health from 2004 to 2007, Director of Legislative Affairs at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control from 2002 to 2004 and a Consultant for the California State Senate Committee on Elections and Reapportionment from 2000 to 2002. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $186,389. Wagoner is a Democrat.


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.