The Barbed Wire - September 25, 2020

September 25, 2020
Government Funding Legislation
Bill of the Week: S. 4625- The National Prescribed Fire Act of 2020 (Wyden)
RCRC’s Hometown California Podcast Examines Key California Congressional Seats and More for the 2020 General Election
Rural County Receives Homekey Funding in Second Round of Awards
Water Infrastructure Legislation
State Fish and Game Commission Officially Considers Joshua Tree for CESA Listing
Governor Newsom Issues Climate Change Order Banning Fossil Fuel Vehicle Sales by 2035
Rural Broadband
RCRC Joins Coalition to Promote Disaster Preparedness

Government Funding Legislation

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to keep the federal government funded at its current level through December 11th, punting the threat of a government shutdown until after the presidential election. While referred to during negotiations as a “clean CR”, a deal on the continuing resolution (CR) comes after intense negotiations from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to include billions in nutrition assistance, trade relief payments for farmers, as well as a one-year extension of the surface transportation authorization (commonly known as the Highway Bill). The short-term funding fix now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to easily pass next week ahead of the September 30th deadline. President Trump is expected to sign this legislation into law and would subsequently postpone a slew of contentious funding fights to the lame-duck session of Congress.

Two key components of the CR in more detail are:

Surface Transportation Authorization

The extension of the surface transportation authorization comes as lawmakers were quickly approaching a coinciding September 30th funding deadline. Until Tuesday, Congress appeared far apart on any new reauthorization, making the prospect of a short-term extension more likely. House Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Missouri) noted that the extension would provide “immediate, desperately needed certainty to state DOTs and transportation and construction industry workers across the country.”

Hemp Rule Extension

Also included is a provision to extend the 2014 hemp pilot program until 2021.  While the 2018 Farm Bill more broadly legalized hemp, it required the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop regulations for the market—and many farmers and processors have expressed concern about certain proposed rules. Industry groups, lawmakers, and producers have therefore been asking USDA to extend the earlier, 2014 Farm Bill pilot program, which they consider to be more flexible. That program is set to expire on October 31, but it would stay in effect until at least September 2021, also pushing back the implementation of USDA’s interim final rule on hemp and its derivatives.

Click here for a section-by-section summary of the legislation, click here for the bill text.

Bill of the Week: S. 4625- The National Prescribed Fire Act of 2020 (Wyden)

RCRC has offered support for the National Prescribed Fire Act of 2020 (S. 4625), introduced in Congress last week by Senator Ron Wyden (D- Oregon). This bill would work to reduce the effects and severity of wildfires that have plagued California over the last decade, creating more resilient forests by actively increasing the pace and scale of prescribed fire on federal, state, tribal, and private lands through a variety of programs, funding allocations, workforce training and environmental review flexibility. RCRC member counties, which contain more than 70 percent of California’s forested lands, have historically suffered the majority of the wildfire activity in the state and could benefit greatly from the fuels treatment efforts outlined in the bill. (one page summary | section-by-section)

S. 4625 will help states like California get ahead of our egregious backlog of untreated and undertreated wildland vegetation, particularly in areas where mechanical thinning is not an option. By offering funding and training to advance the scale of prescribed burns, along with providing necessary flexibility for air quality management agencies to allow for increased prescribed fire, states with severe forest management needs like California can begin the process of increasing the pace and scale of prescribed burning in concert with other fuels treatment projects. This necessary step will decrease the resources and effort spent on fire suppression in the long run, and will ultimately save lives and communities while improving watersheds and wildlife habitat, and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from catastrophic wildfires.

RCRC has continually advocated for a commonsense approach toward reducing the effects and severity of wildfires, recognizing the important part prescribed fire plays in the treatment of vegetated lands. RCRC’s letter of support is available here. S. 4625 has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. For more information, please contact Staci Heaton, Senior Regulatory Affairs Advocate at (916) 447-4806 or

RCRC’s Hometown California Podcast Examines Key California Congressional Seats and More for the 2020 General Election

In the third installment of RCRC’s series about the 2020 Election, Hometown California host Paul A. Smith once again speaks to Leah Askarinam, Hotline Editor-in-Chief for the National Journal in Washington D.C. as they examine key races for the U.S. House of Representatives. (Download Now)

In 2018, Democrats were able to flip seven seats in California, making a big change and causing Republicans to lose almost half of their delegation in the Golden State. Listen as Paul and Leah share insights on these and other U.S. House seats up for grabs in November 2020.

This release is the 10th episode of RCRC’s Hometown California podcast. Listen to past episodes to learn about issues that impact California’s rural counties, get caught up on California’s ballot initiatives, and hear about how trends across the nation could influence the race for the White House and the battle for control of the Congress. Search for Hometown California and subscribe now using your favorite podcast app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-Heart Radio, and more. Episodes are also available on the Hometown California website here.

Rural County Receives Homekey Funding in Second Round of Awards

On Monday, Governor Newsom announced the second round of awards granted in Project Homekey, a program administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) that provides grant funding to cities, counties, or other local public entities within California to purchase and rehabilitate housing, as well as hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other buildings and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing. More than $236 million will be awarded to twelve jurisdictions for 20 projects. Among the award recipients is the RCRC-member county of Shasta, which will receive nearly $2.2 million to acquire five strategically located single-family residential properties to be developed into shared housing.

Project Roomkey was launched after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in order to provide temporary safety and shelter for California’s homeless population. Allocating $550 million of the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds provided to California, and an additional $50 million provided by the State, Project Homekey promises a total $600 million in funding. The first round of Homekey awards from HCD, totaling $76 million, was announced last week. Additional awards are expected weekly until all $600 million has been awarded.

Resources are available for jurisdictions planning to apply or developing spending plans for Homekey funds. This summer, the California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council released a Guide to Strategic Uses of Key State and Federal Funds to Reduce Homelessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic. They also produced a short 29 minute Strategic Funding Guide Webinar that walks through the different elements of the guide, how to use it, and recommendations for grantees and local governments developing their own spending plans. All applications for Homekey funding are due by September 29, 2020. Detailed information about Project Homekey is available on the HCD website here.

Water Infrastructure Legislation

Last week, Representative John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) introduced the WIFIA Improvement Act (H.R.8217) along with Representatives TJ Cox (D-Hanford), Jim Costa (D-Fresno), Doug LaMalfa (R-Butte), and Josh Harder (D-Modesto). This bill would amend the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) of 2014 to make public water projects like the off-stream Sites Reservoir Project in Colusa and Glenn Counties eligible for low-interest, longer-term federal loans from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Specifically, the bill would allow water projects with longer useful lifecycles like Sites Reservoir to receive federal WIFIA financing for 55-year loan terms instead of the current 35-year loan terms, thereby lowering the capital costs for such projects.

State Fish and Game Commission Officially Considers Joshua Tree for CESA Listing

On Tuesday September 22, the California Fish and Game Commission (the Commission) unanimously voted to grant candidate status to the Western Joshua tree as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The action was taken based on a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in October 2019 under the guise that the Western Joshua tree, while not presently threatened, could become an endangered species in the foreseeable future without special protections afforded under CESA. However, stakeholders, including RCRC, have contended that the petition fails to provide sufficient evidence regarding population trends or abundance of the species, which is native to the Mojave Desert.

Tuesday’s action provides temporary protections for the Western Joshua tree under CESA while the Commission undertakes the process of considering whether to approve the species for permanent listing. However, the Commission did grant emergency take permits in the meantime to 15 large solar facilities that have already begun the process of construction.

For more information on the Western Joshua tree status, visit the Commission’s website here.

Governor Newsom Issues Climate Change Order Banning Fossil Fuel Vehicle Sales by 2035

On Wednesday, September 24, Governor Newsom issued an unprecedented Executive Order requiring the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to adopt and implement regulations to transition the state’s vehicle fleet sales to all-electric by the year 2035. The Executive Order also includes a mandate that all operations of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles be zero emission by 2045. The action comes in the wake of the Governor’s comments during his tours of various areas impacted by catastrophic wildfires that the state is in a “climate emergency.” However, the Executive Order does not address forest fuels or wildfire prevention nor does it ban the use of combustion fuel passenger vehicles after 2035.

Similar efforts have been attempted in recent years through legislation, most notably 2018’s Assembly Bill 1745 (Ting) which would have prohibited registration of any non-electric passenger vehicle as of January 1, 2040. However, the Legislature has recognized the affordability constraints for low-income residents, lack of costly charging infrastructure statewide and the infeasibility of using electric vehicles in many commercial applications, preferring instead to ramp up incentive programs for new electric vehicle purchases.

CARB will now need to begin a lengthy public regulatory process to develop implementing regulations and solicit public comment, which could take several years for such a complex and controversial proposal. For more information on the Governor’s Executive Order, visit his website here.

Rural Broadband

On January 29, 2020, Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), and Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando), wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman (FCC) Ajit Pai expressing concern that the FCC was moving forward on its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) in a “haphazard manner without consulting states that share the goal of effectively serving residents with broadband.” Last week, Chairman Pai responded in a letter, stating that the RDOF would, “help more than an estimated 900,000 Californians.” Chairman Pai also expressed how the FCC had met with California Public Utilities Commission staff to discuss their views on multiple occasions.

RCRC Joins Coalition to Promote Disaster Preparedness

This week five local government organizations, including RCRC, issued a joint letter pledging cooperation with Listos California to increase public awareness about the importance of disaster preparedness. Listos California is a campaign coordinated through the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) to create a culture of preparedness in communities throughout the state.

September is National Preparedness Month, a timely reminder for California residents that have historically experienced the most devastating fires during the hot, dry and windy months of September and October. RCRC is joining with Listos California to increase outreach to rural and vulnerable communities through promoting partnerships with member counties. Listos California can provide outreach materials, toolkits, and vulnerable population mapping, in eight languages, to assist in local efforts to educate residents of the five steps to disaster preparedness.

For more information, contact Tracy Rhine, RCRC Legislative Advocate at (916) 447-4806 or


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

DWR Update on the Delta Conveyence Project Validation Action

Last month, 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.


Census Count 2020 Ends September 30, 2020 - Ways You Can Help

As the U.S. Census Count enters the final days, there is still concern about the level of responses from the rural communities within California. With the Census Count ending September 30th, here are some ways you can help:

  1. Send an email blast to your networks, and encourage others to do the same (Download template here)
  2. Post on social media (Download graphics and a media toolkit here)
  3. Share digital or printed in-language flyers with community members and their families (Available here)
  4. Spread information about how to complete the census
  • Online
  • Phone  (844) 330-2020
  • Mail  Return your paper Census form you received in the mail


CPUC to Hold Public Forum on Frontier Communications Bankruptcy

On Wednesday, October 7th, the CPUC is holding two public meetings on Frontier Communication’s bankruptcy application, a process that must undergo CPUC approval. One workshop will be held from 10am to 4:30pm (see here) to discuss the bankruptcy proceeding, and a public forum will be held in the evening from 5:30pm to 6:30pm for public comment, see here. The CPUC is specifically requesting input from the public and Frontier customers and would like to know the following:

  • Your experience with Frontier's services and service terms
  • Knowledge of other service providers offering service where you live or work
  • Experience with services from these other service providers
  • Concerns with your ability to access emergency services
  • Suggestions, ideas, and recommendations for resolving concerns, difficulties, hardship, etc.
  • Potential impact to your communities
  • Type of information that the Commission should consider in assessing Frontier's long-term viability
  • Information regarding successes and/or failures with other restructuring deals and their impact to customers/the public after 1-3 years

Public input will help the CPUC determine whether Frontier's request for a transfer of control is in the public's interest, and what, if any, conditions should be included. Written public comments may also be submitted at any time here. For more information on this issue, please see 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.


CARB to Host Regulatory Training for Public Agencies

The California Air Resources Board will be hosting a  compliance overview of the Truck and Bus Rule, Off-Road Regulation, and Portable Equipment on October 8, 2020. Course topics include the following:

Truck and Bus Regulation:

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Engine Model Year Schedule
  • Exemptions & Extensions
  • How to Report for Regulation Flexibilities
  • Broker and Dispatcher Requirements
  • DMV Registration

Periodic Smoke Inspection Program (PSIP):

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Program Updates

In-Use Off-Road Diesel Vehicle Regulation:

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Requirements Currently in Effect
  • Future Compliance Deadlines

Portable Equipment Registration Program (PERP) & Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM):

  • PERP Eligibility
  • Program Requirements
  • ATCM Program & Updates
  • Enforcement & Inspections

DATE:            October 8, 2020
TIME:             1:00 p.m.
WEBINAR:     Register




State Water Board Now Accepting SAFER Advisory Group Applications

The State Water Board is now accepting applications for the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) Advisory Group, which provides the State Water Board with advice on the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund Expenditure Plan and other SAFER-related policies. Applications will be accepted through September 30, 2020.

There are 10 seats open for the 2020 application period. Applicants will be selected and notified by Winter 2020. County resource staff and other interested parties are encouraged to apply. The electronic application form is available on the SAFER Advisory Group website here.

The SAFER Advisory Group website will be updated with tools and resources regularly, so keep checking the website for more information.


HCD Announces the Release of the Homekey Notice of Funding Availability

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has announced the release of the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for $600 million in Homekey funds. The grant funding is available to cities, counties , or other local public entities within California to purchase and rehabilitate housing, as well as hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other buildings and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing. Prior to submitting an application, all applicants are required to engage in a pre-application consultationAll applications are due by September 29, 2020. Visit the Homekey webpage to learn more.


Career Opportunities

  • Colusa County Seeks Assistant Director of Public Works/Road Commissioner

The county of Colusa is accepting applications for the position of Assistant Director of Public Work/Road Commissioner. The position is open until filled. Details are available 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.

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.


Information related to the current status of legislation and regulations impacting California’s rural counties.

Assembly Bill 995 (Garcia): Hazardous Waste: Assembly Bill 995 creates a new governance structure for the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and increases a wide variety of fees to partially offset DTSC’s fiscal imbalance.  Specifically, AB 995 establishes a new board to oversee and establish goals for DTSC’s operation and consider appeals from permit decisions.  AB 995 requires the state to establish a task force to make recommendations on changes to the existing fees and taxes that fund DTSC’s operations and the cleanup of contaminated sites.  Status: AB 995 awaits the consideration of the Governor. RCRC Status: Concerns

Assembly Bill 1080 (Gonzalez)/Senate Bill 54 (Allen): Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction. Assembly Bill 1080/SB 54 would have required the state to reduce the waste associated with single use packaging and products 75 percent by 2030, requires the state to set standards for what is considered recyclable and compostable, and promotes the development of in-state manufacturing that uses recycled materials. Status: AB 1080 and SB 54 failed passage when the Legislative clock ran out of time for their consideration. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 2421 (Quirk): Emergency Standby Generators: Assembly Bill 2421 requires local agencies to make the installation of an emergency standby generator within the physical footprint of a macro cell tower site that meets specified requirements a permitted use subject only to local agency administrative review. Status: AB 2421 awaits the consideration of the Governor. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 2459 (Bigelow): Alcoholic Beverage Licenses: County of Mariposa: Assembly Bill 2459 would authorize the Alcoholic Beverage Control to issue up to 10 additional new original on‑sale alcoholic beverage licenses to bona fide public eating places in Mariposa County that have a seating capacity for 50 or more persons.  Status: AB 2459 has been signed into law by the Governor.  RCRC Status: Support/Co-Sponsor

Senate Bill 68 (Galgiani):  Hazardous Waste:  Treated Wood Waste:  SB 68 repeals the sunset date for the existing regulatory framework for disposal of treated wood waste.  Without this change, there will be very limited disposal options for treated wood wastes, thereby significantly increasing management and disposal costs associated with those wastes.  Status:  SB 68 awaits the consideration of the Governor.  RCRC Position:  Support

Senate Bill 182 (Jackson): Local Government: Planning and Zoning: Wildfires: SB 182 creates a structure of increased fire risk strategies to be used by local governments to plan and permit for housing development in a VHFRA, defined as state, local and locally designated Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ). This bill adds reducing development pressure in VHFRA as an objective of the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) plan through considering allocating a lower portion of housing to a jurisdiction, if appropriate, due to the risk to life and safety to catastrophic wildfire. Status: SB 182 awaits the consideration of the Governor. RCRC Status:  Support

Senate Bill 1159 (Hill): Workers Compensation: Coronavirus: Senate Bill 1159 would provide enhanced workers’ compensation presumption benefits for coronavirus infections. Status: SB 1159 has been signed into law by the Governor. RCRC Status:  Oppose