RCRC installed its 2018 Officers and presented its Rural Leadership Awards at their annual reception in Sacramento earlier this week. Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn was installed as Chair, Tuolumne County Supervisor Randy Hanvelt was installed as First Vice Chair, and Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley was installed as Second Vice Chair. Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams remains an Officer as Immediate Past Chair, and Assembly Member Anna Caballero (D-Monterey) and Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange) were recognized for their rural leadership.
The funding deadline is fast approaching and Congress needs to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) by midnight tonight in order to avoid a government shutdown. Republican leadership will attempt to force a stopgap spending measure through the House and Senate without a DACA deal that Democrats are demanding. House Republicans passed a CR on Thursday night but the bill remains in question in the Senate, where Democrats are withholding votes.
Republicans need at least 10 Democratic votes to pass the CR and all signs indicate Republican leadership is struggling to pick-up the necessary votes. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) told reporters an “overwhelming” number of Democratic senators will oppose the bill without a DACA fix and Republicans might face dissent within their own ranks. Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) voted against the last stopgap bill and are perennial headaches for leadership. In addition, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) have said they will vote against the House bill because successive short-term spending measures are crippling the military. Republicans will not be able to count on Senator John McCain’s (R-Arizona) vote either; as he is in recovery for his cancer treatment. With another thin margin for error ahead of him, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has prepared contingency plans in the event of a shutdown.
If Congress passes a Continuing Resolution before the deadline, it will be a barebones package with minor sweeteners to win over moderate Senate Democrats and conservative House Republicans. Neither a wildfire funding fix nor additional disaster relief is expected to be attached to the next stopgap spending measure.
The timing of a government shutdown could not be worse for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency already struggling to deliver aid for victims of last year’s hurricane and wildfire seasons. FEMA would be forced to furlough 3,000 employees immediately following a shutdown. By the end of the 16 day government shutdown in 2013, FEMA furloughed almost 90 percent of its full time staff. If the government shuts down, FEMA will struggle to address the millions of individual aid applications that were submitted in 2017. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate expressed concern to The Washington Post that a shutdown would further strain an agency that has already reached its breaking point.
This week, rural broadband expansion was a topic on the minds of many policy-makers following President Trump’s speech at the 99th Annual Farm Bureau convention where he signed two executive orders promoting deployment. On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai floated a plan that would invest $500 million in broadband deployment aimed at closing the broadband gap between rural and urban America. "We need more deployment in sparsely populated rural areas if we're going to extend digital opportunity to all Americans," Pai said in a statement. Pai’s order hasn’t yet been introduced and details on the plan, beyond the topline number, have not been made public.
Representative Greg Walden (R-Oregon), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) announced this week that they are close to introducing legislation that will facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. If Representatives Walden and Blackburn follow the same template as previous legislation, their proposal will include language to cut regulation, invest in broadband technology, and invest in emergency telecommunications.