The Barbed Wire - November 6, 2020

November 6, 2020
Insurance Commissioner Exercises Emergency One-Year Nonrenewal Moratorium After Wildfires
Feinstein Calls on Power, Water, Telecom Giants to Halt All Utility Shutoffs
RCRC’s Hometown California Post-Election Review - The Known, The Expected, and What Hangs in the Balance
Rural Counties Make Progress Toward Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Permit Streamlining
Congress Teeing-Up the Water Resources Development Act
Marijuana Legalization Efforts Pass In Many States
CDFA Revises Industrial Hemp Regulations
Bill of the Week on Hiatus through December 7

Insurance Commissioner Exercises Emergency One-Year Nonrenewal Moratorium After Wildfires

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced on Thursday that he is exercising authority under Senate Bill 824 to prohibit both admitted and non-admitted insurers in California from canceling and nonrenewing homeowners policies in wildfire-impacted areas of the state.  Commissioner Lara authored SB 824 in 2018 while he was a member of the California State Senate.

Under SB 824, the Commissioner may prohibit insurers from canceling or nonrenewing homeowners policies for a full calendar year in areas that have had a state of emergency declared due to a high severity wildfire.  Due to the catastrophic nature of 2020’s wildfire season, large portions of California have been severely impacted by wildfires and can be offered protection from policy nonrenewals under SB 824.

The Commissioner’s bulletin, which contains all of the zip codes protected under the moratorium, can be viewed on the Department of Insurance website here.

Feinstein Calls on Power, Water, Telecom Giants to Halt All Utility Shutoffs

Last week, top Senate Democrats including Senator Diane Feinstein sent a letter to 21 of the country’s largest utility companies calling on them to voluntarily halt all utility shutoffs for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.  Senator Feinstein stressed that the absence of a federal shutoff moratorium particularly threatens Americans’ safety and wellbeing at a time when authorities are encouraging people to work or learn from home.

RCRC’s Hometown California Post-Election Review - The Known, The Expected, and What Hangs in the Balance

On Thursday, as election votes were being counted, RCRC’s Vice President for Governmental Affairs, Paul A. Smith, spoke with National Journal Hotline Editor-in-Chief, Leah Askarinam about what we reliably know, what is expected based on trends and counts so far, and what still hangs in the balance.  Listen as Paul and Leah breakdown the early return dynamics in this latest episode of the Hometown California 2020 Election series.

•    Why is the Presidential Race so much closer than most pundits expected?
•    But for the personality of Donald Trump, would Republicans have easily won this election?
•    How has the anticipated realignment of the national electorate played out?
•    Who’s going to control the U.S. Senate and what’s going on in California’s key House Races? 

And the question on everyone’s mind….
•    How are the results shaping up against Paul’s election predictions?

As the nation waits, download the latest episode to gain timely insights.

Spread the word about RCRC’s Hometown California podcast and help us get to 1,500 downloads!

Twitter: #RCRC’s podcast, #HometownCalifornia tells the #rural story through the eyes of those who live, work, and play in the rural communities of the Golden State. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, and other popular podcast apps. Listen & Subscribe:

Facebook: #RCRC’s podcast, #HometownCalifornia tells the #rural story through the eyes of those who live, work, and play in the rural communities of the Golden State. From forestry to trucking, criminal justice reform to railroads and the 2020 Election, Hometown California touches on a range of issues that impact our rural communities. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, and other popular podcast apps.  Listen to the latest episode and subscribe today!

Rural Counties Make Progress Toward Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Permit Streamlining

Five RCRC counties now comply with a law requiring Electric Vehicle (EV) Streamlining for charging station permitting, including Alpine, Napa, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma and Sutter Counties, while seven RCRC counties are in the process of moving toward lawful compliance (see here).  While rural counties face many challenges, including limited resources and staffing, all municipalities have been mandated by a 2015 law (Assembly Bill 1236) to streamline EV charging station permits in order to expedite the availability of charging stations.  Such compliance would also facilitate the ambitious Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) readiness goals set by the Brown Administration, later accelerated by the Newsom Administration.  California is currently the leading ZEV market, making up at nearly half of all ZEV sales nationwide.  RCRC counties, home to national parks, forests, mountains, deserts and the coast, receive millions of visitors annually that may require robust “fueling” options for travelers.

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) continues to offer assistance to local government agencies (and businesses alike) on ZEV readiness and AB 1236 compliance, including best practices and streamlining templates. Please utilize the GO-Biz contact form (avaiable here) or reach the ZEV unit at for more information or direct assistance.

Congress Teeing-Up the Water Resources Development Act

The U.S. Senate is preparing its bipartisan water infrastructure bill, S. 3591, for consideration. Consistent with past efforts, the measure would authorize new Army Corps of Engineers projects as well as Environmental Protection Agency restoration programs, including several provisions directed to projects in California and the West. It is expected this measure will take shape over the next months. Also this week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score for the measure and estimated it would increase the federal deficit by $2.4 billion over a decade. At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether this legislation will move forward in a lame-duck Congress in late November/early December or be immediately pursued in the 117th Congress, which convenes during the first full week of January.

Marijuana Legalization Efforts Pass In Many States

During Tuesday’s election, marijuana and drug policy reforms were on the ballot across the country.  Five more states legalized cannabis in some form and Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapy and also more broadly decriminalize drug possession.  While the Presidential and many congressional races are still being tallied, these marijuana reforms passed decisively, even in conservative states.  With the addition of Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota as adult-use marijuana states, one-third of the U.S. population will live in a state where cannabis is legal after the laws take effect.

CDFA Revises Industrial Hemp Regulations

RCRC continues to engage with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in their rulemaking to enact federally compliant rules on hemp production, which was sanctioned by the 2018 Federal Farm Bill.  RCRC is committed to preserving local control and ensuring that counties, via Agricultural Commissioners, have the capacity to address any regulatory impacts associated with this tightly regulated commodity largely due to its trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis.

On Friday, RCRC sent a letter on the most recent changes to the proposed CDFA rules, which unfortunately rescind its prior recognition of local governments’ police powers, which is crucial to abatement, and continue to add unfunded mandates on county coffers.  More information on California’s Industrial Hemp Program may be found here.  This rulemaking is expected to conclude by the end of the calendar year.

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


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.


State Water Resources Control Board Seeks Director of Legislative Affairs

The State Water Resources Control Board is accepting applications for Director of Legislative Affairs. The final filing date is November 12, 2020. The job announcement and application instructions are available here.


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.