The Barbed Wire - October 16, 2020

October 16, 2020
State Trigger “Cuts” To Take Effect Absent a Federal Relief Package
Bill of the Week on Hiatus through December 7
Trump Administration Reverses Course After Initially Denying California’s Request for Wildfire Assistance
Hometown California Gives Listeners an Insider’s Look at the Closing Weeks of the 116th Congress
RCRC and GSNR President and CEO Greg Norton to Address the TuCARE 28th Annual Natural Resources Summit
Presidential Executive Order on Water
RCRC Responds to CPUC Request for SGIP Guidance and Seeks to Join Proceeding That Could Impact Rural Biomass Facilities
Coronavirus Relief Package Updates
Trump Administration Schedules California Oil and Gas Lease Sale for December
RCRC’s Positions on Upcoming Statewide Ballot Measures
BULLETIN BOARD
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) ASSISTANCE

State Trigger “Cuts” To Take Effect Absent a Federal Relief Package

Earlier this year, Governor Newsom signed a State Budget Package that included $11.1 billion in reductions and deferrals in several programs due to budget shortfalls expected as a result of the pandemic.  As part of the agreement, the budget provided funding for restoration of those reductions and deferrals if at least $14 billion in federal funds were received by October 15. Unfortunately, negotiations between Congress and the Trump Administration have yet to produce the necessary economic relief that would trigger either full or partial restoration of funding in accordance with California’s 2020 Budget Act.  On Thursday, the California Department of Finance confirmed the lack of adequate federal funding in a letter to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

The State Budget Package promised to “trigger up” funding if federal funds were received by the mid-October deadline. Of importance to counties was the promise of a funding increase of $250 million to support county realignment programs.  Additional restorations were to include:

  • $2.9 billion to reverse state employee payroll reductions
  • $970 million to be restored to the UC and CSU
  • $150 million to restore courts
  • $250 million to restore low-income and moderate-income housing reductions
  • $88 million to restore the reductions to Golden State Teacher Grant
  • $45 million to restore the cut to local child support programs

Despite the lack of additional federal funds, state tax receipts were better than expected through August.  The Legislative Analyst’s Office speculates this may be a result of less job loss among higher paid workers (who subsequently contribute a larger share of income tax receipts).  While higher tax receipts offer some positive news, without federal aid or further action by the State Legislature, the restorations hoped for in the 2020 Budget Act will not be forthcoming in the near future.

For a more detailed list of the programs dependent on additional federal stimulus funds, see here.

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.

Trump Administration Reverses Course After Initially Denying California’s Request for Wildfire Assistance

It was previously reported that the Trump Administration had denied California’s request for federal assistance for six disastrous September wildfires. However, the Administration has since reversed that decision.  This afternoon, Governor Newsom announced that the President has approved California’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration in order to provide aid to the State.  In his letter to President Trump on September 28, Governor Newsom requested that he declare a major disaster in the seven impacted counties, including Madera, Mendocino, and Siskiyou.  The fires included in the request were: the Creek Fire (Fresno and Madera), the Oak Fire (Mendocino), the Bobcat Fire (Los Angeles), the El Dorado Fire (San Bernardino), the Valley Fire (San Diego), the Slater Fire (Siskiyou), the Devil Fire (Siskiyou), the Red Salmon Fire (Siskiyou),  and the Fox Fire (Siskiyou). The State did not ask for a dollar amount at the time of the request because the fires were still active at the time of the letter.  When addressing the issue of resource availability, the letter stated, “Californians are exhausted…Many of the counties impacted by the wildfires are still recovering from previous devastating wildfires, storms and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Declaration will provide funding for state, tribal, and local governments in the response, recovery, and protection of the impacted communities.

Hometown California Gives Listeners an Insider’s Look at the Closing Weeks of the 116th Congress

In a typical election year, Congress would break by October 1st, as members hit the campaign trail.  But 2020 has proved again and again to be anything but typical.  On the latest episode of Hometown California, RCRC's Paul A. Smith sits down with two of the most respected advocates on Capitol Hill, Sheryl Cohen of the American Continental Group (ACG) and Kevin Eastman of PACE LLP., for a discussion about the closing weeks of the 116th Congress.  Recorded in Washington D.C. on the day President Trump's coronavirus diagnosis was announced, Kevin and Sheryl share their insights about the successes and failures of the 116th, the vacancy on the Supreme Court due to the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, what to expect in a Lame Duck Congress and the 117th Congress. (Download now)

Also available - Check out our election-related episodes for a nonpartisan look at many of the choices facing voters in California, and across the nation, as voters cast their ballots or head to the polls.

Episode 05- Ballot Measures November 2020, Part 1 (Download English or Spanish)
Episode 06- Ballot Measures November 2020, Part 2 (Download) Spanish version coming soon!
Episode 08- The Race for the White House 2020 (Download)
Episode  09- The Battle for the U.S. Senate 2020 (Download)
Episode 10- Key U.S. House Races 2020 (Download)
Episode 11- Election Check-in from Washington D.C. (Download)

Find all of these and more on the Hometown California website, and be sure to spread the word. Share your favorite episodes on social media.
 

RCRC and GSNR President and CEO Greg Norton to Address the TuCARE 28th Annual Natural Resources Summit

Greg Norton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) and Golden State National Resources Corporation (GSNR), will speak at the Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment (TuCARE) 28th Annual National Resources Summit at the end of this month.  RCRC has a longstanding commitment to forest management solutions and fire prevention. To further those efforts, GSNR was founded in 2019 as a public benefit, non-profit corporation committed to reducing fire risks by new and innovative methods. As the Summit focuses on the future of forest management, Norton will draw upon his experience leading the efforts of both RCRC and GSNR to speak about innovation in the wood products industry. 

The TuCARE 28th Annual Natural Resources Summit agenda is filled with other distinguished speakers, including a keynote address by Jim Hubbard, Undersecretary for the Forest Service Department of Agriculture. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in-person attendance is limited, but there are several ways to attend virtually. The Summit will be held on October 30, 2020 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.. The agenda and details for virtual attendance are available here.
 

Presidential Executive Order on Water

On Tuesday, President Trump signed an Executive Order (E.O.) on “Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure.”  The order calls for the creation of a “subcabinet office” to focus on improving coordination between federal agencies that have responsibility for water-related issues.  The Department of Interior and the Environmental Production Agency, Secretary David Bernhardt and Administrator Andrew Wheeler, respectively, have been charged with leading the interagency sub-cabinet office whose primary task will be to “streamline the decision-making processes” to improve water supply, reliability and address ongoing wat er infrastructure needs. See the EPA press statement here.

Specifically, the E.O. aims to provide "abundant, safe, and reliable" water supplies. It also seeks to provide a venue for those federal agencies that have overlapping responsibilities for water management to reconcile them as well as to streamline the approval process. 
 
Among the priorities set out by the order is to increasing water storage , with a focus on the West U.S., including California’s Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest agricultural water district.  It also addresses water issues related to the Great Lakes and Everglades.  This E.O. follows on a couple of others issued by the President affecting water in the West. 

Many observers view this action as formalizing needed cross-agency coordination; however, almost predictably, critics pointed to concerns that this benefits water users at the expense of the environment.  Meanwhile, water agencies and their farm constituency applauded the action as they work to balance the needs of users with the  ecosystem improvements that can create better habitat values.

RCRC Responds to CPUC Request for SGIP Guidance and Seeks to Join Proceeding That Could Impact Rural Biomass Facilities

Earlier this week, RCRC submitted comments to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in response to a request for stakeholder guidance on how to refine the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), which offers rebates for installing energy storage systems, and whether the program should be expanded to include Electric Vehicles (EVs) and related charging systems.

RCRC’s SGIP comments acknowledged that the focus should not be on “boosting enrollment” or broadening eligibility, thereby prematurely exhausting funds.  Rather, through eligibility refinements, the program should be flexible enough to provide priority assistance to those in greatest need. Those would include communities at high risk of power shutoff, communities predominately or wholly dependent on wireline communications, customers at the greatest risk of future Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events, and the medically vulnerable.  Among the questions posed to stakeholders, the CPUC asked how to make EVs and charging systems eligible for inclusion in the SGIP program.  While EV and charging technologies may provide another pathway to increasing energy resilience, expansion of the SGIP to these technologies carries the risk that these scarce resources would be diverted to subsidize higher-income customers in affluent communities that are already comparatively saturated with EVs and charging stations.  RCRC also urged the CPUC to reevaluate its reliance on the area-median income (AMI), as that formula results in greater use of the SGIP program by more affluent, higher income jurisdictions at the expense of lower-income communities where fewer resources and funding opportunities are available. Read RCRC’s comments here.

Also this week, RCRC filed a motion for party status to participate in a proceeding pertaining to the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) Program.  A recent petition by several environmental groups will, if granted, adversely impact biomass facilities and the BioMAT program.  If granted party status, RCRC will strongly urge the CPUC to reject the petition.  RCRC counties host numerous biomass facilities which help to deal with material that would otherwise be left to decompose naturally, be managed through open burning, or fuel future wildfires.  Biomass facilities play an integral role in crucially important forest health and wildfire prevention projects.
 

Coronavirus Relief Package Updates

Late last week, the Trump Administration made an offer of a $1.8 trillion coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package that both House Democratic leaders and Senate Republicans have since rejected.  On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced that the Senate will take one more shot at a “targeted” COVID-19 relief bill before the election.  Majority Leader McConnell added that the GOP bill, which is expected to be voted on next week, would offer more money for unemployment insurance and provide funding for schools and hospitals, in addition to funding Paycheck Protection Program.  Also on Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) outlined her caucus’s concerns with the GOP proposal that provides less assistance than the $2.2 trillion relief package the House passed last month.  The Speaker called out as insufficient the Trump Administration’s proposal for $300 billion in state and local relief and $25 billion for childcare.

Trump Administration Schedules California Oil and Gas Lease Sale for December

Last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that it will sell leases to over 4,100 acres of federal land in California’s Kern County for new oil and gas drilling, despite opposition from environmentalists and multiple California lawmakers.  The seven parcels for sale are either inside or adjacent to existing oil fields in Kern County and are estimated to yield up to 10 new wells.  The BLM first proposed selling 1.2 million acres of leases in April 2019 after a lengthy court battle.  That was followed by a final decision in December 2019 and a comment period in August.  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued over the plan in January, and  Senator Dianne Feinstein along with Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) wrote to the agency last month in opposition to the sale.

RCRC’s Positions on Upcoming Statewide Ballot Measures

The RCRC Board of Directors has considered and adopted positions on nine of the twelve statewide ballot measures. They are:

Proposition 15: The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act (Split Roll) – OPPOSE

Requires Non-Residential Real Property to Be Reassessed Once-Every-Three-Years

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted an “Oppose” position on Proposition 15. The memo can be accessed here.

Proposition 16: Repeal of Proposition 209 of 1996 – SUPPORT

Repeals the enactment of Proposition 209 of 1996, which Prohibited Affirmative Action in Public Contracts, Public University/College Admissions and Government Hiring

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted a “Support” position on Proposition 16. The memo can be accessed here.

Proposition 17: Voting Rights of Convicted Felons – OPPOSE

Provides for the Restoration of Voting Rights Upon Completion of a Prison Term for the Conviction of a Felony

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted an “Oppose” position on Proposition 17. The memo can be accessed here.

Proposition 18: Age of Voting – NEUTRAL

Allows 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primaries if They Become 18 by the Time of the General Election

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted a “Neutral” position on Proposition 18. The memo can be accessed here.

Proposition 19: The Home Protection For Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire Disasters Act – OPPOSE

Provides for a Liberalization of Property Tax Base Transfers and Inherited Property

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted an “Oppose” position on Proposition 19. The memo can be accessed here.

Proposition 20: Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act – SUPPORT

Reclassifies a Number of Misdemeanors to Felonies and Revises the Terms of Release from Incarceration

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted a “Support” position on Proposition 20. The memo can be accessed here.

Proposition 21: Rental Affordability Act – NO POSITION

Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted a “No Position” position on Proposition 21.  The memo can be accessed here.

Proposition 22: Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act – NO POSITION

Revises Employment Classification Rules for App-Based Transportation and Delivery Drivers

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted a “No Position” position on Proposition 22. The memo can be accessed here.

Proposition 25: Senate Bill 10 – Bail Reform Referendum – NO POSITION

Repeals Senate Bill 10 which Eliminates the Cash-Bail Scheme and Replaces it with Pre-Trial Risk Assessments

The RCRC Board of Directors adopted a “No Position” position on Proposition 25.  The memo can be accessed here.

The RCRC Board of Directors did not consider three remaining statewide ballot measures They are:

Proposition 14: California Stem Cell Research, Treatments, and Cures Initiative of 2020 Act

Authorizes $5.5 Billion in Bonds to Continue Funding Stem Cell and Other Medical Research

Proposition 23: Protect the Lives of Dialysis Patients Act

Imposes Various Requirements on the Operations of Dialysis Facilities

Proposition 24: The California Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act

Strengthens Financial Penalties for Violating Consumer Privacy Laws

For a nonpartisan review of each of the 12 statewide ballot measures, as well as the impact on rural counties, please listen to RCRC’s Hometown California podcast, where RCRC Senior Vice President Governmental Affairs, Paul A. Smith, speaks with Jeremy B. White of Politico. Overview of Propositions 14-18 can be downloaded here, and Propositions 19-25 can be downloaded here.

Also available in Spanish!
Part 1: Propositions 14-18
Part 2: Propositions 19-25

BULLETIN BOARD

Announcements regarding hearings, grants, and public comment notices of importance to California's rural counties.

DWR Announces Comment Period for the Systemwide Flood Risk Reduction Program Draft Guidelines

This week, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced the opening of a 45-day public comment period for the Systemwide Flood Risk Reduction Program Draft Guidelines. As part of this process, DWR held two virtual webinars describing the program, also earlier this week. The draft guidelines are available here. Comments can be submitted to SystemwideFRR@water.ca.gov. The public comment period will end at 5:00 p.m. on October 30, 2020.

 

DWR Update on the Delta Conveyance Project Validation Action

In August, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) filed a “validation action” with the Sacramento County Superior Court regarding DWR’s authority to, among other things, issue revenue bonds to finance the planning, design, construction and other capital costs of the proposed Delta Conveyance Project. Since the original filing, the court has issued a summons and a public notice is now available. These documents and the validation complaint can be found here.

The Department seeks a judgment confirming the validity of revenue bonds the Department authorized to pay for the environmental review, planning and design, and if approved and subject to the specific conditions precedent, construction of Delta conveyance facilities. The Department is not seeking in the validation proceeding a determination that it has complied with all legal prerequisites that may apply to approval and/or implementation of any Delta conveyance facility.

Any interested person may appear and contest a validation action, subject to specific time limits and procedural requirements. In the Department’s validation proceeding, interested persons must appear, in conformance with applicable legal and procedural requirements, not later than October 30, 2020.

 

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.

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) ASSISTANCE

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.