The Barbed Wire - October 9, 2020

October 9, 2020
Trump Ends Coronavirus Relief Talks Amid Stalemate with Pelosi
Bill of the Week: Senate Bill 182 (Jackson) – Planning and Zoning: Wildfires
RCRC’s Hometown California Makes a Visit to Our Nation’s Capital, Releases California Ballot Measure Episode in Spanish, and More
Environmental Protection Agency Response to California Electric Vehicles Order
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Considers Critical Habitat Exclusions
RCRC Comments on Delayed PSPS Report and Urges CPUC to Prioritize Near Term Energy Resiliency Improvements, Including Local Biomass Resources
Local Primacy Agency – Key Measure Vetoed
California Heat Stress Legislation
California Senate Office of Research Releases Annual Report: “How Often Do Governors Say No?”
RCRC Continues to Provide Input on Industrial Hemp Regulations at the State and Federal Level
RCRC’s Positions on Upcoming Statewide Ballot Measures
BULLETIN BOARD
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) ASSISTANCE

Trump Ends Coronavirus Relief Talks Amid Stalemate with Pelosi

On Tuesday, President Trump tweeted that he is ending negotiations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Democratic leaders on a coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package until after the November elections.  Despite blaming Speaker Pelosi for the failure to reach an agreement on a package, in reality the two sides have remained hundreds of billions of dollars apart since July.  Only a few hours after ending the prospects of a deal, President Trump called for Congress to pass relief for airlines, money for the Paycheck Protection Program, and stimulus funds.  President Trump’s approach has frustrated Republicans and business groups and thrust the prospect of future assistance into further uncertainty.  Additionally, many economists have warned of the negative impact of not sending out more aid.  Even with discussions stalled on a broader package, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi spoke on Wednesday morning about a stand-alone airline assistance package, according to Speaker Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.

Bill of the Week: Senate Bill 182 (Jackson) – Planning and Zoning: Wildfires

Senate Bill 182, authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), which would have established wildfire reduction standards and planning requirements for new housing developments in Very High Fire Risk Areas (VHFRA) of the state, was vetoed by Governor Newsom on September 30th.  

SB 182 would have prohibited local governments from approving permits for housing developments unless the project was in compliance with the wildfire risk reduction standards outlined in the bill.  Additionally, in order to reduce development pressures in the VHFRA through the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process, SB 182 would have required a lower proportion of state housing allocation to jurisdictions that met specified conditions.  RCRC lent its full support for SB 182, and worked closely with Senator Jackson to ensure it reflected a holistic approach to continued development in wildfire prone areas, considering both the need for more fire resistant communities, as well as the risk of development densification required by state housing production goals.

In vetoing SB 182, the Governor stated that, “Wildfire resilience must become a more consistent part of land use and development decisions. However, it must be done while meeting our housing needs.” The complete veto message can be found here.  RCRC’s support letter can be accessed here.  For more information, Tracy Rhine, RCRC Legislative Advocate, can be reached at (916) 447-4806 or trhine@rcrcnet.org.

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.

RCRC’s Hometown California Makes a Visit to Our Nation’s Capital, Releases California Ballot Measure Episode in Spanish, and More

Last week, Hometown California visited our Nation’s Capital to sit down for some socially-distanced conversations with some of RCRC’s advocacy partners and friends. Recorded on the day President Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus, conversations took on a new perspective as the host and guests were processing the latest developments in the year that has been anything but ordinary.

With less than 30 days until the November election, RCRC’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Paul A. Smith spoke with Leah Askarinam for an election check-in. Leah is the Editor-in-Chief of the Hotline at the National Journal and has been a guest on three previous episodes of Hometown California, providing her insight about the Presidential race and key congressional races. Download the latest in that conversation here.

Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next two episodes recorded in Washington D.C.

  • A look at the closing weeks of the 116th Congress, with Sheryl Cohen of American Continental Group and Kevin Eastman of PACE LLP., two of the most respected advocates on the Hill.
  • Matt Chase, CEO of the National Association of Counties (NACo), sits down with RCRC’s Paul A. Smith for a discussion about what NACo is doing on behalf of counties across the nation and specifically in California, and how NACo plans to work with the next Administration—regardless of the outcome of the election this November— to advance legislative priorities on behalf of counties.

California Ballot Measure Discussion Part 1 Now Available in Spanish

In the fifth episode of Hometown California, released in late August, RCRC spoke with Jeremy White of Politico about the twelve ballot measures to be decided by California voters this November. Now, Part 1 of that conversation (Propositions 14-18) is available in Spanish!

Together with RCRC’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Paul A. Smith, Jeremy takes a nonpartisan look at the propositions on California’s ballot this November, with special emphasis on the impact to California’s rural counties.

Share with your friends, family, and constituents to help spread the word about this information every California voter can use.

The Spanish release of Part 2 of this crucial conversation is coming soon!

If you’ve missed previous episodes of Hometown California, you can find them here. Help spread the word. More episodes are on the way!

Environmental Protection Agency Response to California Electric Vehicles Order

Last week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, attacking his Executive Order seeking to ban the sale of internal combustion engines in the state by 2035.  In his letter, Wheeler noted that the EPA has revoked the waiver allowing California to enforce its zero-emissions vehicle program, and the state would have to obtain a new one to enforce any regulation related to Newsom’s order.  EPA Administrator Wheeler wrote that, “while the EO seems to be mostly aspirational and on its own would accomplish very little, any attempt by the California Air Resources Board to implement sections of it may require California to request a waiver to U.S. EPA.”

Later in the week, California officials sent a scathing response to EPA Administrator Wheeler's criticisms of Governor Newsom's order, saying the agency has engaged in “baseless mistruths” and accusing it of abdicating its responsibilities to humanity.

On Tuesday, RCRC staff penned a letter to Governor Newsom outlining RCRC’s concerns with the implementation of the EO, particularly as it applies to electric vehicle usage and charging infrastructure deployment in rural California.  In the letter, RCRC also posed a handful of questions that will be vital for the Administration to address regarding plans to convert California’s vehicle fleet to 100 percent zero emission vehicles. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Considers Critical Habitat Exclusions

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering proposed regulations allowing for exclusions from critical habitat designations for species that have been listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The proposal would allow the agency to consider information such as economic impacts and public safety concerns when designating critical habitat from local and state governments, among other stakeholders, so that exclusions can be allowed for necessary projects such as housing development and public infrastructure maintenance.

The policy would be a dramatic departure for the agency, which has in the past steadfastly refused to consider economic or public safety concerns from local governments when designating critical habitat.  RCRC has long-advocated for a shift in the designation process, particularly with the need to maintain public infrastructure as well as comply with state requirements for housing development and other mandates that are impacted by the ESA.  RCRC filed a letter of support for the proposed regulations, which can be accessed here.  The full text of the proposed regulations can be viewed in the Federal Register, which can be accessed here.

RCRC Comments on Delayed PSPS Report and Urges CPUC to Prioritize Near Term Energy Resiliency Improvements, Including Local Biomass Resources

Last year, an investigation of the late 2019 Public Safety Power Shut-off (PSPS) events was opened by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in an effort to ensure utilities were held accountable for shutting off power to approximately 2 million people across 35 counties.  The CPUC directed its Safety and Enforcement Division (SED) to assess whether utilities complied with guidelines and recommendations for these events and determine the effectiveness of the actions taken such as the notifications from utilities to public safety partners and customers, as well as ensuring public safety during these planned power outages.  On September 14, 2020 the CPUC released the SED Report on those late 2019 PSPS events to parties in the De-Energization Proceeding, a report which was finalized earlier this year on April 30, 2020.  The scope of SED’s review, unfortunately, was very limited and only advisory in nature, making no determinations of actual compliance with CPUC rules and directives.  Although the CPUC had the results of that report in their possession, they thwarted efforts from multiple stakeholders, including RCRC, to conduct reasonableness reviews of PSPS events to ensure they are a last resort and executed properly by utilities.  RCRC’s full feedback to the Commission on this report can be found here.

RCRC takes a holistic approach to energy resiliency, focusing on system resiliency efforts to maintain reliable service.  On September 28th, RCRC submitted comments in the Microgrids Proceeding regarding an interim approach for minimizing emissions from temporary generation during transmission outages, see here. RCRC suggests the CPUC evaluate how existing biomass facilities may support local microgrid development and community resiliency strategies since many PSPS-prone communities are in rural areas and also face a heightened risk of wildfire.  RCRC strongly supports the increased utilization of biomass energy generation to facilitate forest health improvement projects that return forestlands to their natural density and fuel load.

Local Primacy Agency – Key Measure Vetoed

A number of RCRC member counties have local oversight of small public drinking water systems, known as Local Primacy Agency (LPA) counties.  Collectively, the LPA counties have responsibility for over half of the state’s, generally small, drinking water systems.  An ongoing challenge for these systems is meeting the compliance obligations for drinking water when the community served by these systems are also less able to pay for the cost of compliance. One approach to addressing this situation was in Assembly Bill 2296, authored by Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward).  This bill would have allowed LPA counties to opt-in to a funding stabilization program administered by the State Water Resources Control Board to fund the regulatory oversight of these small systems.

AB 2296 was vetoed last week by the Governor, despite the support of RCRC, local health officers, and having worked with interested stakeholders to resolve differences.  Without this fund stabilization program, it is expected that a number of LPA’s will now be turned over to the SWRCB to administer due to the lack of revenue at the local level.  While this is current law, it does so at the expense of maintaining some level of local involvement.  Seven counties have relinquished their oversight authority back to the state since 2007, and without this bill, it is anticipated a number of other counties will follow suit.

California Heat Stress Legislation

Last week, Senator Kamala Harris introduced legislation to ensure the safety and health of workers who are exposed to dangerous heat conditions in the workplace.  The bill, the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, is named in honor of Asunción Valdivia who died in 2004 after picking grapes for ten hours straight in 105-degree temperatures.  The bill builds on legislation that Representative Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), which she introduced as a member of the California Assembly, that made California the first state in the nation to require paid shade and water breaks for those who work outside.  Currently, there is no similar federal standard.  S.4781 was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee following its introduction.

California Senate Office of Research Releases Annual Report: “How Often Do Governors Say No?”

Last week, the Senate Office of Research (SOR) released its annual publication, “How Often Do Governors Say No?” Each year, the SOR provides a veto scorecard, whereby it tallies how often a California governor disapproves measures.

Due to COVID-19 related challenges, the Legislature greatly reduced the number of bills it considered in 2020, ostensibly to focus on COVID-19 policy response and other priority areas. In a typical year, the Legislature sends anywhere from 870 to 2,143 bills to the Governor for consideration. However, in 2020, the Legislature passed just 428 bills, making this an outlier year when comparing bill outcomes to those of past years.

Of the 428 bills Governor Newsom considered this year, he signed 372 into law and vetoed 56 bills. This is a veto rate of 13.08 percent for his second year in office. In comparison, Governor Newsom considered 1,042 bills, signing 870 into law and vetoing 172 bills in 2019 (veto rate of 16.51 percent).

The number of vetoes for 2020 is the fourth lowest of all the years reviewed in the SOR report, beginning with 1967. The three years with the lowest number of vetoed bills were under Governor Jerry Brown (1982, 1981, 1978). In 1982 he vetoed just 30 of the 1,674 bills he considered, representing a veto rate of 1.79 percent. The record for the highest percentage of bills vetoed in a year, 35.17 percent, goes to Governor Arnold Swarzenegger in 2008.

While the Legislature can override a Governor’s veto by a two-thirds vote in both houses, this action is rare and has not occurred since 1980. During the 1979-80 session, the Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of two bills and eight items in the budget bill. Before that, the Governor’s veto had been overridden on only two occasions since 1973.

The SOR’s publication can be accessed here.

RCRC Continues to Provide Input on Industrial Hemp Regulations at the State and Federal Level

In order for hemp cultivation to be federally legal, a state must enact regulatory structures that meet the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) rules and guidelines and have an approved State Plan.  On September 22nd, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) submitted a State Plan for Industrial Hemp Production to the USDA, starting a 60 day clock for the USDA to review and approve (or reject) California’s State Plan.  State Plans are meant to detail practices and procedures for hemp farmers to operate according to their respective jurisdiction and in compliance with federal law, namely the 2018 Federal Farm Bill.  CDFA’s proposed State Plan can be viewed here.

On October 6th, RCRC submitted a letter on the USDA’s Interim Final Rule, which re-issued a comment period on the 2020 hemp production cycle in advance of a forthcoming Final Rule.  In addition to the State Plan, CDFA continues to progress on their open rulemaking to formalize state rules on hemp production, which should conclude by the end of the year.  Additionally, RCRC sent a letter to CDFA on their proposed changes to industrial hemp planting, sampling, laboratory testing and destruction rules.  RCRC is committed to preserving local control and ensuring that counties, via county agricultural commissioners, have the ability to address any impacts associated with hemp production.  RCRC latest letter can be viewed here.

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.

State Water Board to Hold Public Webinar Regarding Development of Risk Assessment Methodology

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) will hold a public webinar to receive input from interested persons concerning the development of the Risk Assessment methodology for public water systems with 3,300 service connections or less. This workshop is an opportunity for stakeholders to learn about and contribute to the State Water Board’s approach to developing a more robust Risk Assessment for public water systems that aligns with the goals of the Human Right to Water. The State Water Board will provide a timelines and vision for the development of Version 2.0 of the Risk Assessment and beyond.

Date: Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Time:  9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Register here.

For more information, see the Notice of Public Webinar available in English and Spanish.

 

Career Opportunities- Calaveras County Health and Human Services Agency

Calaveras Public Health is looking to fill several positions. Check out these job opportunities to make a difference in the community:

These positions close on October 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

 

DWR Update on the Delta Conveyence 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.