The Barbed Wire - February 10, 2017

February 10, 2017
State Must Honor its Obligations to PILT Counties
Committee Meets to Discuss Park Bond
RCRC Voices Opposition to Governor’s IHSS Cost-Shift to Counties
Key Stakeholder Meetings to Address Reforming the Bottle Bill
North Coast Water Board Sets Series of Meetings on Cannabis Program
HCD Holds Housing Assessment Public Workshop
Update on Cabinet Secretary Nominations
Senate Hearing on Rural Infrastructure Needs
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
KEEPING UP
BULLETIN BOARD
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
REGULATORY UPDATE

State Must Honor its Obligations to PILT Counties

Rex Bohn

Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) First Vice Chair

Humboldt County Supervisor

California’s rural counties are once again fighting to protect payments obligated to them by the State of California.  Led by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), one of the only Democrats in the State Senate to represent a rural district, Senate Bill 58 is the second attempt in as many years to once again make State Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments to counties a requirement.  The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) is sponsoring SB 58, and California’s 36 PILT counties are joining forces to advocate for the protection of this crucial local funding source.  Read More…

Committee Meets to Discuss Park Bond

This week, the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee met to take up Assembly Bill 18, by Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, which would authorize $3 billion in general obligation bonds to finance park, water, climate, coastal protection and outdoor access projects, assuming voter approval in 2018.  Noting that the State has not had a park bond on the ballot in almost 20 years, Assembly Member Garcia described the measure as balancing the needs between urban and rural areas, including providing technical assistance for smaller, less well-resourced communities with minimum distributions for disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities, as defined.  

In addition to moving away from CalEnviroScreen as the formula for defining these communities, the measure also calls out $40 million for “rural recreation, tourism and economic enrichment.”  Also of note is $30 million for the Salton Sea Authority plus $10 million for the New River; $330 million to the State Department of Parks and Recreation for restoration and improvements to existing facilities; $25 million for stormwater capture projects, largely in urban areas; $145 million to various conservancies; $400 million to the Wildlife Conservation Board for natural community conservation plans, wildlife corridors and open space connectivity; $50 million for projects that improve forest health or the restoration of the state’s watersheds affected by tree mortality;  and $10 million for agricultural/open-space soil health or to replace inefficient groundwater pumps.  Notably absent from this measure is funding for water supply infrastructure.

The committee approved the measure on a partisan vote, although members on both sides were actively engaged in expressing concerns involving the need for operation and maintenance funding for existing parks and similar public resources.  The only opposition to the measure came from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.  AB 18 was enthusiastically supported by over two dozen land conservation and environmental groups, as well as the Sierra Business Council. 

RCRC Voices Opposition to Governor’s IHSS Cost-Shift to Counties

RCRC, along with the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), the County Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA), the County Health Executives Association of California (CHEAC), and the County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA), issued a joint letter to both State Senate and Assembly leadership opposing the Governor’s 2017-18 proposed budget item eliminating the Coordinated Care Initiative (CCI) and the In-Home Support Services (IHSS) Maintenance of Effort (MOE) cost sharing agreement.  Outlined in the letter are the major impacts of this change to the counties; most significant to RCRC member counties is the implications of shifting increased costs for IHSS services back to the counties.  RCRC continues to work with county partners to obtain data on the direct impacts to each county, but current estimates show an additional cost of $623 million to all 58 counties this upcoming fiscal year, rising to $1.6 billion in FY 2022-2023.  

CCI was established to more efficiently deliver care (including IHSS) to seniors and people with disabilities who are dually eligible for the State Medi-Cal program and the federal Medicare program.  With the passage of CCI in 2012, IHSS benefits were incorporated into the managed care delivery system in seven CCI pilot counties (none of which are RCRC member counties), and an MOE capping county IHSS costs was put in place for all 58 counties.  With the elimination of CCI, the IHSS MOE provisions are automatically repealed, and the counties’ share of the costs for the IHSS program will be reinstated to prior state-county sharing ratios.  This increased county share, 35 percent of the nonfederal portion of IHSS program cost, will be compounded by the minimum wage increase, the federal overtime requirement, and eventually paid sick leave.

The joint opposition letter can be accessed here.

Key Stakeholder Meetings to Address Reforming the Bottle Bill

With the threat of “proportional reductions” being imposed this July 2017, and in the continued effort to “fix” the Beverage Container Recycling Program (Bottle Bill), the Governor’s Administration and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) held a series of stakeholder meetings over the last two weeks to discuss potential reforms.  These meetings were conducted to solicit feedback and discussions on the various concerns and options, with the end goal of providing a stable funding source to improve upon the collection and processing of beverage containers.  Instead of a legislative proposal, however, Bottle Bill reform is planned to be included in the budget process, with the specifics included in the 2017-18 budget May Revise.  

The Bottle Bill Program has been operating in a structural deficit for quite some time.  Now that the recycling rate is so high (85 percent), the payments to consumers and the myriad of extra programs (i.e. city/county payments, handling fees, curbside supplemental payments, state educational program) exceeds the beverage container deposits that are uncollected.  CalRecycle currently anticipates that funds will become insufficient for the extra programs, and will need to impose “proportionate reductions” beginning July 2017. 

In addition, over the past twelve months, many rural counties have experienced closures of Certified Recycling Centers.  This has occurred due to the crippling decline in scrap values, the fifteen month lag time in calculating “processing payments” (which are supposed to cover the gap between the actual and calculated scrap value), and the increase in the minimum wage.  Low-volume recycling centers are finding it very difficult to remain open for business.  Approximately one-third of the centers have now closed within the state, with the greatest impact felt in rural counties.  These buy-back centers are critical to the recycling infrastructure.         

RCRC staff has been involved in discussions of Bottle Bill reform for many years.  There are many stakeholders involved with different perspectives that no progress has been made to date.  There have been discussions of including additional beverages, expanding the container types, increasing the container fees, paying less per container than is collected per container ($0.05 in/$0.04 out), and even doing away with the program.  RCRC staff will be submitting recommendations for program reform to improve on the recycling center infrastructure and to protect the city/county payment program.    

North Coast Water Board Sets Series of Meetings on Cannabis Program

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Board) has announced a series of informational meetings for cannabis cultivators who fall under the Board’s Cannabis Cultivation Waste Discharge Regulatory Program, which was first implemented last year.  The meetings are designed to answer questions from cultivators on the program and its enrollment directive letters, and will include both staff presentations and group Q&A sessions to help growers covered under the program understand the requirements. 

The Board developed the program to monitor and mitigate discharges of pesticides or other harmful pollutants into headwaters and river systems.  RCRC supported the program when it was developed in 2015 due to the potential adverse impacts cannabis cultivation could pose to water quality and wildlife habitat in RCRC member counties.  Cultivators with grows of 2000 square feet or more were required to enroll in the program as of February 15, 2016.

Detailed information on the upcoming informational meetings can be accessed here.

HCD Holds Housing Assessment Public Workshop

On February 3, 2017 the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) held a public workshop in Sacramento on its 2025 Statewide Housing Assessment, California’s Housing Future: Challenges and Opportunities (Assessment).  This was the fourth workshop held to elicit feedback on the Assessment, which outlines expected housing-related challenges in the next ten years, and identifies some options for addressing those challenges.  

The foremost issue is that housing supply continues to not keep pace with housing demand.  HCD outlines six total housing challenges, including the lowest homeownership rate since the 1940’s, and rent to income disparities.  The Assessment presents options to the challenges that include reforming land use policies to address the barriers to housing development created through the planning process.  This is in line with the Governor’s efforts in 2016 to streamline the affordable housing process by creating a “by-right” pathway for specified projects.  Though those efforts failed last year, the Governor once again set this as a priority in his proposed 2017-18 State Budget released January 10, 2017.  We expect to see legislation to implement solutions proposed in the Assessment document during this legislative session.

The Statewide Housing Assessment is required by law, with the last report released in 2000.  HCD will be holding two more workshops during the public comment period, which ends March 4, 2017.  Detailed information about those workshops and the Statewide Housing Assessment can be accessed here.  The Assessment is expected to be finalized by this summer. 

Update on Cabinet Secretary Nominations

This week, the Senate continued to move forward with President Trump’s Cabinet Secretary nominations.  The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education, and former Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as the Attorney General.  Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) has indicated the Senate may take up the nominations of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) for Secretary of the Department of Energy and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the Secretary of the Department of the Interior next week.  

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has been pushing Senate leadership for a confirmation vote for both Perry and Zinke.  Senate Republican leadership has not announced a date for when the Senate will vote on the nomination of Scott Pruitt for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Additionally, the Senate Agriculture Committee has not announced a hearing date for the nomination of Sonny Perdue for the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.

Senate Hearing on Rural Infrastructure Needs

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to discuss modernizing infrastructure, with a focus on rural communities.  The hearing addressed the benefits of rural infrastructure, as well as the investment needs for rural infrastructure development. 

While discussing rural financing, Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) stated that public-private partnerships would not help rural communities adequately fund transportation projects.  The Chairman went on to say that if there is an infrastructure package proposed by President Trump, direct federal spending is needed for rural communities.  Hearing witnesses echoed the Chairman’s call for direct spending.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Experts, Policy Makers Consider National Broadband Infrastructure

Last week, telecommunication industry experts met at a bicameral, bipartisan Broadband Caucus in Washington D.C. to discuss the importance of modernizing the nation’s communication network and the development of a long-term plan to address this dire infrastructure need.  Panel experts discussed the need to improve existing broadband connections as well as expanding broadband into rural areas.

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USDA Announces $252 Million Available for Regional Conservation Partnership Program

The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is awarding up to $252 million dollars to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability.  Applicants must match or exceed the federal award with private or local funds.

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Treasurer Chiang Launches New Green Bonds Report

On January 23, 2017, Treasurer John Chiang released a new report on how California can lead the way on climate financing, green infrastructure financing and kick-starting the US green bond market.  California must take immediate steps to start addressing the massive infrastructure needs, which include upgrades to transportation networks, energy grids and water & wastewater facilities, to name a few.  Although the U.S. enjoyed the leading global position in overall green bond issuance in the past, it was surpassed by China in 2016.  Green bonds account for a much lower share in the overall bond markets than similar global regional economies and with less than one-tenth of one percent of outstanding bonds being classified as green, there exists an opportunity to grow.  As California continues to struggle to identify infrastructure financing opportunities, all financing tools should be considered.

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USDA Invites Applications for Rural Business Development Grants to Support Business Enterprise

USDA Rural Development California State Acting Director Rich Brassfield announced that the agency is seeking applications for the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) Program.  RBDG grants are available to public bodies, non-profit organizations and federally recognized tribal groups to finance and facilitate various business opportunity or business enterprise projects that serve rural areas.  Individual businesses are not eligible to apply.

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CDFA Secretary Karen Ross to Host Farm Bill Listening Sessions – Seeking Public Comments on California’s Agricultural Priorities

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross is holding several public forums across the state seeking input from farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders on priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill.

“The farm bill is as important to San Francisco and Los Angeles as it is to the Central Valley,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.  “This legislation ensures a robust farm safety net, promotes farming and ranching practices that are environmentally sound and provides important nutritional funding for our citizens.  How our California Congressional delegation helps to shape the federal farm bill will result in positive investments to our communities, our health and agricultural economy.”

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KEEPING UP

Cindy Messer Appointed Chief Deputy Director at the California Department of Water Resources

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BULLETIN BOARD

State Water Board Continues Water Conservation Regulations, Prohibitions Against Wasting Water

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NASA Report: San Joaquin Valley Land Continues to Sink

Groundwater Pumping Causes Subsidence, Damages Water Infrastructure

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2017 CFCC Funding Fairs

The California Financing Coordinating Committee (CFCC) has released the schedule for six funding fairs in 2017.  Each will provide information on infrastructure grant, loan, and bond financing options.  The first fair is Wednesday, April 5, 2017 in Sacramento.

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Export Training Opportunity

ExporTech™ is an intensive group project over approximately 10 weeks that accelerates export growth for small and mid-size manufacturers.  The program assists participating companies in developing an international growth plan, and connects them with experts to help them move quickly beyond planning to actual export sales.  It combines innovative group sessions − customized to the learning needs of participants − with individualized coaching.  Each program is limited to four to eight companies providing sufficient attention to each company's challenges.  ExporTech will be offering a training in Sacramento to help interested companies develop a structured export strategy and business development process, and connect the company with experts to help navigate the export process.  This national program is designed for companies that already have exporting experience and want to expand capacity.

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Sustainable AG Land Conservation Program Draft Guidelines Now Available for Public Comment

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

RCRC members are encouraged to share letters addressed to state and federal representatives and regulatory bodies with RCRC’s Government Affairs staff.  Click “Read More” to access information related to the current status of legislation impacting California’s rural counties.  

AB 44 (Reyes): Workers' Compensation: Workplace Violence.  Assembly Bill 44 would exempt medical treatment for employees or first responders who sustain physical or psychological injury as a result of an act of terrorism or violence in the workplace from the utilization review process and the independent medical review process.  Additionally, AB 44 would provide an expedited proceeding process, before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, to resolve disputes regarding treatment.  The bill would also apply retroactively to the employees and first responders injured in the San Bernardino terrorist attack of December 2, 2015, and any other employees or first responders injured by an act of terrorism or violence in the workplace that occurs prior to January 1, 2018.  Status: AB 44 is awaiting action in the Assembly Insurance Committee.  RCRC Position: Pending

Assembly Bill 52 (Cooper): Public Employee: Orientation and Informational Programs.  Assembly Bill 52 would require public agency employers to provide all employees an orientation.  This bill would also require the employers to allow a representative from a recognized employee organization to participate.  Status: AB 52 awaits action in the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement & Social Security Committee.  RCRC Position: Pending

Assembly Bill 174 (Bigelow): California Transportation Commission (CTC): Membership.  Assembly Bill 174 would require that at least one voting member serving on the CTC reside in a rural county with a population less than 100,000 individuals.  Status: AB 174 awaits referral in the Assembly.  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 179 (Cervantes): California Transportation Commission (CTC).  Assembly Bill 179 would require that six voting members of the CTC have specified qualifications.  Additionally, this bill would require that the CTC create an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, comprised of at least five members, to advise the CTC in its allocation and programming of transportation monies and other transportation policy matters.  Status: AB 179 awaits referral in the Assembly.  RCRC Position: Oppose

AB 211 (Bigelow): State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fees: Reporting Requirement.  Assembly Bill 211 would require the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Board) to provide an annual report to the Legislature which itemizes each expenditure on the State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention Fee indefinitely.  Status: AB 211 awaits referral in the Assembly.  RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 9 (Gaines): State Responsibility Areas: Fires Prevention Fees.  Senate Bill 9 would repeal the imposition of State Responsibility Area (SRA) fees upon structure owners.  Status: SB 9 awaits action in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 58 (McGuire): Wildlife Management Areas: Taxes and Assessments.  Senate Bill 58, commencing with the 2018-19 fiscal year, would return the ‘may’ back to ‘shall’ in Fish and Game Code Section 1504 making future PILT payments required rather than permissive.  Status: SB 58 awaits action in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.  RCRC Position: Support; Sponsor

Senate Bill 148 (Wiener): State Board of Equalization: Counties: State Agencies.  Senate Bill 148 would enact the Cannabis State Payment Collection Law, and would authorize the State Board of Equalization or a county to collect cash payments from cannabis-related businesses for a State Agency that administers any fee, fine, penalty, or other charge payable by a cannabis-related business.  Status: SB 148 awaits referral in the Senate.  RCRC Position: Support if Amended

REGULATORY UPDATE

RCRC members are encouraged to submit comments on regulatory matters to state and federal regulatory bodies, and to provide a copy to RCRC’s Government Affairs staff.  Click “Read More” to access information related to the current status of regulations impacting California’s rural counties.  

California Forest Carbon Plan.  Provides opportunity for public comment on the State Forest Carbon Plan, which lays out a blueprint for forest management actions in California on all levels of forestland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon storage and sequestration.  Agency: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Status: Draft available for public comment, comments due by February 23, 2017.  Draft proposal and related documents can be accessed here.  RCRC Comments: RCRC is seeking member county input.  RCRC Advocates: Staci Heaton sheaton@rcrcnet.org

Revised Draft Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy.  The revised Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) Reduction Strategy and relevant Appendices have been released for public review and comments.  The SLCP Reduction Strategy addresses black carbon, methane, and hydroflourocarbons (HFC) emissions, and lays out a range of options to reduce SLCP emissions in California, including regulations, incentives, and other market-supporting activities.  Agency: Air Resources Board (ARB) Status: The revised SLCP Reduction Strategy and relevant Appendices was released on November 28, 2016, with comments due by January 17, 2017.  Three SLCP Strategy workshops were held the week of December 12, 2016.  The Revised Draft SLCP Reduction Strategy and Revised Draft Environmental Analysis (Appendix E) will be considered at the March 23 and 24, 2017 ARB monthly meeting.  The revised SLCP Reduction Strategy, notice of public workshops, and other related documents can be accessed hereRCRC Comments: Click here RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto mpitto@rcrcnet.org and Staci Heaton sheaton@rcrcnet.org

The 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update.  The 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update: The Proposed Strategy for Achieving California’s 2030 Greenhouse Gas Target, builds upon the framework adopted in the initial Scoping Plan and the 2014 Update by establishing recommendations and priorities for the State to achieve its 2030 climate goals.  Agency: Air Resources Board (ARB) Status: The 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update was released January 20, 2017, with comments due by March 6, 2017.  Two informational hearings have been scheduled for January 27 and February 16/17, 2017 in Sacramento.  The 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update will be considered at the April 27 and 28, 2017 ARB monthly meeting.  The 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update, hearing schedules and other related documents can be accessed hereRCRC Comments: Click here RCRC Advocate: Staci Heaton sheaton@rcrcnet.org and Mary Pitto mpitto@rcrcnet.org

General Plan Safety Element Review and Assessment.  The proposed rule establishes a standardized review process for Board of Forestry review of a draft element or a draft amendment to the safety element of a county or a city’s general plan that contains State Responsibility Areas (SRA) or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.  Agency: Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Board) Status: The proposed rule was republished December 23, 2016, with comments due by February 7, 2017.  The Board anticipates holding a public hearing on March 8, 2017.  The proposed rule can be accessed here.  RCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto mpitto@rcrcnet.org

Regulating Suction Dredge Mining to Protect Water Quality.  Five public workshops have been scheduled in early 2017 to solicit input on what action should be taken to protect water quality from suction dredge mining in accordance with Senate Bill 637.  Agency: State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) Status: Workshops were held in Fresno on January 17, 2017; San Bernardino on January 18, 2017; Orleans on January 24, 2017; Redding on January 25, 2017; and Sacramento on February 6, 2017.  The notice can be accessed here.  RCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto mpitto@rcrcnet.org

Draft 2017 Update to the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP).  The CVFPP is a long-range plan for improving flood risk management in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river Basins.  The plan provides a comprehensive framework for system-wide management and flood risk reduction planning and is required to update every five years.  This first update refines the overall near and long-term investment needs established in the CVFPP, and includes recommendations on policies and financing that support comprehensive flood risk management actions locally, regionally, and system-wide.  Agency: Department of Water Resources Status: The draft was released on December 30, 2016, with comments due by March 31, 2017.  Five public outreach hearings have been scheduled in February and March 2017 throughout the Central Valley.  The draft update, draft Supplemental Program EIS, and scheduled workshop details can be accessed hereRCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto mpitto@rcrcnet.org