The Barbed Wire - October 23, 2020

October 23, 2020
Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Update
Assembly Committee Hears Wildfire Funding Discussion Amid Statewide Catastrophic Fires
Bill of the Week on Hiatus through December 7
Hometown California Speaks with NACo Executive Director About Partnership and Releases Part 2 of Ballot Measure Discussion in Spanish
RCRC Submits Comments to CPUC Highlighting Key Role Biomass Facilities Play
Feinstein and Harris Call for Firefighter Pay Increase
Ocean Climate Legislation
RCRC’s Positions on Upcoming Statewide Ballot Measures

Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Update

As of this writing, there is no consensus yet on crafting a bipartisan coronavirus relief package, but the Trump Administration leaders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) have continued discussions beyond the Speaker’s announced deadline of Tuesday evening.  The Speaker reports that two of the unresolved issues are fiscal relief for states and localities (the most recent House-passed relief bill provides $436 billion and the Trump Administration offer is reportedly $300 billion) and liability protections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) brought a bill to the floor on Wednesday, which is nearly identical to the Republican relief bill that failed to come to the Senate floor in September. Democrats blocked the bill from advancing, calling it “an emaciated version of pandemic relief”.  Leader McConnell reportedly told the White House on Tuesday that he does not want to vote on a relief package before the election, but has publicly said that “If a presidentially-supported bill clears the House of Representatives at some point we’ll bring it to the floor.”

Assembly Committee Hears Wildfire Funding Discussion Amid Statewide Catastrophic Fires

On Tuesday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation heard testimony and discussion surrounding the past and future status of California’s funding of wildfire prevention programs.  The hearing was intended to be the first in a series of informational hearings to explore California’s devastating wildfire problem and what steps are needed to mitigate additional catastrophic wildfires in the near future. 
The hearing featured testimony from the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), which recently released a report on how California’s spending to suppress wildfires in 2020 has far surpassed expected levels versus what California needs to spend on prevention.  The discussion with the LAO included a lengthy sidebar into possible ways to fund forest management in California, including a resiliency bond and user fees, which also touched on the possibility of revisiting the State Responsibility Area (SRA) fee adopted by the nearly ten years ago (the SRA fee has currently been suspended for several years). 
The Committee also heard from representatives from the Native Plant Society, who strongly advocated for banning future development in the wildland urban interface, as well as the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, who discussed their success with prevention in areas that are more prone to brush fires caused by high winds versus forest fires.  Finally, the Committee heard from CAL FIRE Chief Thom Porter, who stressed the importance of increased use of many of the forest management strategies necessary to prevent wildfires, including prescribed fire, mechanical treatment, and biomass utilization. 
RCRC submitted testimony at the hearing urging the Committee to explore more sustainable, broad-based funding options for forest management and fuels treatment than just Cap-and-Trade auction revenues or SRA fees, as well as stressing the urgency to act on funding real forest management and fuels treatment solutions in the near term. 
The agenda and materials for the hearing, including the LAO report, can be viewed on the Committee website 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.

Hometown California Speaks with NACo Executive Director About Partnership and Releases Part 2 of Ballot Measure Discussion in Spanish

During a visit to Washington D.C. in early October, RCRC Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Paul A. Smith, sat down with Matt Chase, CEO and Executive Director of the National Association of Counties (NACo), RCRC's national advocacy partner, for a conversation about the important work NACo does on behalf of and in partnership with counties across the nation. (Listen)

NACo represents counties as intergovernmental partner, driving federal policy on behalf of America's counties. Beyond federal advocacy, NACo addresses national policy trends and works with county governments as policymakers to meet the needs of communities. 

Listen in to learn more.

  • What is NACo and how is the organization structured?
  • What is the role of NACo with California and rural California?
  • What are NACo's advocacy priorities, and how does NACo work in partnership with local and federal governments to find solutions to long term problems?
  • How can listeners get involved?

Now Available in Spanish! Part 2 of RCRC’s nonpartisan look at the Propositions facing voters on the 2020 ballot. Listen here.

RCRC Submits Comments to CPUC Highlighting Key Role Biomass Facilities Play

On Thursday, RCRC submitted comments urging the California Public Utilities Commission to reject a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and a few other environmental groups that would make it more difficult for small biomass energy facilities to participate in the state’s BioMAT program.  The Bioenergy Market Adjusting Tariff (BioMAT) program requires utilities to procure electricity from small bioenergy projects, including biomass facilities that fuels from high hazard zones.

Petitioners want biomass facilities to prove net greenhouse gas emission reductions before a facility can receive subsidies under the BioMAT program, but they suggest a complex and skewed methodology that will make it difficult for facilities to make such a showing.  The petition includes very misleading claims about biomass facilities, forest management, and wildfire risk, and suggests the state rely on home hardening rather than addressing high fuel loads.

RCRC’s comments dispute many of petitioners’ dangerous and grossly misleading claims and instead highlight that:

  • Biomass facilities are key to improving forest health and reducing wildfire risk, as those facilities utilize material that has no other marketable use.
  • Biomass facilities avoid even greater pollution that would occur when material is left to decompose naturally, be managed through open burning, or fuel future wildfires.
  • There is no silver bullet to reduce wildfire risk - California must use many different tools, including fuels reduction, ecosystem restoration, and home/community hardening.

Petitioners argue that “burning trees is a not a climate solution; ” however, recent experiences have shown that failing to adequately manage our forests – and letting the trees within them burn in high-intensity wildfires - will ensure that we will never be able to achieve our climate goals.  

In 2020, California’s wildfires have burned over 4 million acres and have released over 90 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than all the greenhouse emissions from industrial sources in 2018, well over half of emissions from the entire transportation sector, more than double all emissions from the commercial and residential sectors, and nearly three times the emissions from agriculture.

Feinstein and Harris Call for Firefighter Pay Increase

On Monday, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Kamala Harris sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt urging them to review the pay and employment classification for all wildland firefighters employed by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior.  Given the increasing demands placed on firefighters and the fact that the federal government owns 57 percent of the forest land in California, the Senators called on federal firefighting agencies to adapt to ensure that firefighters have the resources they need. 

Ocean Climate Legislation

On Tuesday, Democrats in the House of Representatives unveiled a sweeping measure that aims to harness the world’s oceans to address climate change, offering a legislative guide for protecting and restoring the nation’s waters.  Introduced by Representative Jared Huffman (D-North Coast), Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act would boost offshore wind energy production and bar new offshore oil and gas drilling while creating new protected areas and significantly boosting coastal and wetland restoration.  The bill would require shipping vessels to report carbon dioxide emissions annually, while also prohibiting new oil and gas leasing in all areas of the Outer Continental Shelf and setting a goal of protecting at least 30 percent of oceans under U.S. control by 2030.  The legislation also sets a goal of restoring 1.5 million acres of coastal wetlands over 10 years, while creating a grant program for projects that capture greenhouse gases.  (bill textsection-by-section summary | fact sheet)

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


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


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.


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 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.


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


Heather C. Bowlds, 44, of Elk Grove, has been appointed Director of the Division of Juvenile Justice at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, where she has served as Deputy Director of Operations and Programs since 2016, and Acting Director since 2019. She has served in several other positions at the Division of Juvenile Justice since 2004, including Associate Director of Mental Health, Sexual Behavior Treatment Program Coordinator, Senior Psychologist, Acting Senior Psychologist Supervisor and Clinical Psychologist. She was a Psychological Associate at the California Youth Authority from 2002 to 2004. Bowlds earned a Doctor of Psychology degree in forensic psychology from the Alliant International University California School of Professional Psychology. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $178,992. Bowlds is registered without party preference. 


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.