The Barbed Wire - October 25, 2019

October 25, 2019
RCRC and CAFWA Partners Submit Comments on the Water Resilience Portfolio
Federal Appropriations Update
Broadband Update
State and Local Income Tax Deduction (SALT) Update
Federal Forestry and Wildlife Update

RCRC and CAFWA Partners Submit Comments on the Water Resilience Portfolio

Last week, RCRC and its partners in the California Forest Watershed Alliance (CAFWA) provided comments on the Water Resilience Portfolio ahead of its initial draft release.  Led by the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food & Agriculture, the Water Resilience Portfolio Initiative seeks input to help shape a roadmap for meeting future water needs, and ensuring environmental and economic resilience through the 21st Century.  

CAFWA’s state-level recommendations include:

  • A comprehensive, “all lands” approach to improving forest health covering large landscapes and all ownerships within California, including local, state, private and federal lands;
  • Increasing the pace and scale of ecologically-based active forest management and prescribed fire;
  • Supporting policies that increase the economic feasibility of forest restoration through biomass and new innovative wood products;
  • Encouraging the use of watershed scale planning and project implementation;
  • Encouraging the use of state funding and personnel to accelerate forest restoration on all lands in California, including federal lands; and,
  • Increasing funding and identifying new funding sources for forest restoration from federal, state, local, and private sources.

Founded in 2014, CAFWA was formed to advocate for increasing the pace and scale of ecologically sound forest restoration projects that can help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and promote healthier, more resilient forests across California.  CAFWA is a nonpartisan, urban-rural coalition representing water interests, local governments, the conservation community, agriculture, and the forestry sector.

CAFWA’s letter can be accessed here.  CAFWA’s website can be accessed here.

Federal Appropriations Update

With barely five weeks left before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on November 21st, Congressional leaders are scrambling to make progress on a long-term appropriations bill for the fiscal year that began on October 1st.  There is belief amongst some lawmakers that another CR could be needed to fund at least part of the government through the end of 2019, and perhaps as far as into early spring.  

"Unless a miracle happens around here with the House and the Senate, we will have to come forth with another CR," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), noting that next February or March is "probably in the ballpark."  On Thursday, the Senate voted 92-2 to pass a four-bill spending package (H.R. 3055) that combines the fiscal 2020 Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, and Transportation-Housing & Urban Development bills.  The Appropriations Committee had advanced all four measures on unanimous votes.  When work on the first package is completed, the Senate would proceed to a defense funding package that would also feature funding for opioids treatment and prevention, among other programs, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

Broadband Update

The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act (S. 1822), sponsored by Senator Rodger Wicker (R-Mississippi), would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect detailed data twice-a-year on the availability of broadband internet access services.  

Under the bill, the FCC would establish and maintain a comprehensive database and create detailed and publicly available broadband coverage maps.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently estimated that the bill would cost the FCC approximately $65 million over the 2020-2024 period.  However, because the FCC is allowed to collect fees to offset the costs, CBO estimates the net effect on spending would be insignificant.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated his fear that a patchwork of local and state regulations on internet technologies could hurt the competitiveness of the US in the tech sector.  As the FCC has continued deregulation at the federal level, states have stepped in to fill the void with their own regulation.  California has been at the forefront of this effort with their passing of internet protections following the dismantling of net neutrality.  Chairman Pai argued that "while that federalist system has served us very well" up to this point in our nation's history, it's time for Congress to consider "whether or not we can still maintain a multilayer regulatory system."  He said allowing states and local governments to pass their own laws regulating internet services, creates market uncertainty.

State and Local Income Tax Deduction (SALT) Update

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats forced a vote to overturn Internal Revenue Service rules blocking workarounds to the State and Local Income Tax (SALT) deduction’s $10,000 cap.  The 43-52 vote in rejection of the repeal was mostly along party lines, though Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), crossed the aisle to vote for the Democrats' measure, while presidential candidate Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) voted against it.  

Republicans included the SALT deduction cap in their 2017 tax law in order to raise revenue that could be used to finance other tax cuts and because they thought that the deduction was subsidizing states that levy high income and/or high property taxes.  The resolution would only repeal state tax laws that allow for workaround rather than an entire repeal of the law, although Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee say they are preparing legislation to at least partially, or temporarily, roll back the $10,000 limitation.

Federal Forestry and Wildlife Update

On Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System announced a Director’s Order to allow the use of low-speed electric bicycles (e-bikes) at national wildlife refuges.  E-bike use is now permitted at any refuge where traditional biking is allowed.  

In 2018, more than 1.3 million people bicycled at 193 national wildlife refuges.  This guidance will enable visitors to use these bicycles with a small electric motor (less than 1 horsepower) power assist in the same manner as traditional bicycles.


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


RCRC Hosts FREE Self Generation Incentive Program Webinar –$100M Available for Disadvantaged Communities and High Fire Threat Districts

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. 

RCRC is hosting a FREE 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.  The webinar will be held Wednesday, November 6th at 3:00 p.m., and be led by Michael Day, Advanced Energy Program Development with Trane US, Inc.  Details and registration can be accessed here.


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.


CNRA Secretary Crowfoot Speaker Series: Protecting California Communities in the Age of Mega Fires

Join California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and home hardening experts for a discussion on how to protect California communities in the age of mega-fires.  Click here for details.


FREE Webinar: Local Government Cybersecurity in California

More than 200 US local governments have been hit by ransomware attacks in recent years.  How can public agencies protect themselves? California County News is joining with leading cybersecurity experts to bring resources on just that question, beginning with a free webinar on Wednesday, October 30th with leading cybersecurity firm LMNTRIX.  LMNTRIX will provide an overview of the threats facing local governments, including how to prevent attacks on your agency.  Details and registration can be accessed here.


California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) Seeks Speakers for 2020 Annual Conference

Share your communications knowledge and experience with Public Information Officers (PIOs) from around the state at the 2019 CAPIO conference to be held April 20-23, 2020, at the Hilton Beachfront Resort Santa Barbara (Formerly the Fess Parker Doubletree).  Speakers chosen to lead conference sessions receive 10% off full conference registration.  Click here for details.


Changes for CDBG and CDBG Disaster Recovery Applicants and Grantees

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and CDBG Disaster Recovery (DR) program are implementing a new Grant Management System, called eCivis Grants Network, to help make service to the customer more efficient.  Click here to register to attend a training about the new Grant Management System. 


State CDBG Program Redesign Training Videos Available Online

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has posted the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program redesign training videos. The training videos cover three of the classes that were presented at training events held across the state between July and September of 2019. 

Click here


Beyond the Brink: California’s Watershed

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) co-sponsored a new educational video, “Beyond the Brink: California’s Watershed,” to highlight the importance of headwaters and watershed management.  The 26-minute video is produced by Jim Thebaut and The Chronicles Group, and is a collaboration with several entities dedicated to improving the health of California’s forested watersheds.  RCRC Senior Legislative Advocate Mary-Ann Warmerdam is also featured in the film.

Headwaters serve an important role in California’s water management system.  Healthy forests have multiple benefits, including increased water supply reliability, improved water quality, reduced impacts from catastrophic wildfires, increased renewable energy supplies, improved response to climate change and enhanced habitat.  RCRC and ACWA are founding members of the California Forest Watershed Alliance (CAFWA), a nonpartisan, urban-rural coalition representing water interests, local governments, the conservation community, agriculture, and the forestry sector, created to promote the restoration and improvement of California’s forested watersheds.

Links to the full version video and promo can be accessed here.