Following a series of meetings in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, the California Forest Watershed Alliance (CAFWA), of which RCRC is a founding member, sent a letter to the California congressional delegation requesting members contact their congressional leadership and encourage that wildfire legislation that includes both a comprehensive wildfire funding fix and broadly supported, bipartisan improvements in forest management be included in must pass budget legislation moving through Congress.
CAFWA is an 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. In addition to RCRC, other members include the Association of California Water Agencies, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Forestry Association and The Nature Conservancy. CAFWA supports increasing the pace and scale of ecologically sound forest restoration practices that reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire and insect and disease epidemics and promote healthier, more resilient forests. The California congressional delegation letter can be accessed here.
On Thursday, Governor Jerry Brown delivered his final State of the State address, highlighting his goals for the year. Governor Brown highlighted five key issues: climate change, infrastructure investment, health care, education, and criminal justice.
The full text of the Governor’s Address can be accessed here.
Governor Jerry Brown co-signed a letter with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Texas Governor Greg Abbot, and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló urging Congress to pass an $81 billion disaster relief package that stalled after it passed the House in 2017. The bill is held up in the Senate, where Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) seeks to incorporate the disaster supplemental into broader budget negotiations.
Governors from states impacted by wildfires and hurricanes are concerned disaster relief is losing priority on Capitol Hill, lost in the high profile partisan fights over immigration reform and the budget caps. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), the second-ranking Senate Republican, is blaming Democrats for holding the disaster relief bill hostage over unrelated issues while Senator Schumer criticizes the package for providing insufficient disaster relief. The disaster bill will not see movement until an agreement is reached on the budget, at which point California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris will join lawmakers urging Congress to attach the package to the budget deal or the omnibus bill.
Budget negotiations in Congress appear to be making progress after Democrats agreed to separate spending talks from immigration reform negotiations. The government was shut down last Friday after Democrats refused to support a temporary funding measure that included a DACA deal. However, by Monday afternoon, Senate Democrats allowed for the re-opening of the federal government as Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) told reporters Senate Democrats will allow the budget talks to progress while holding separate negotiations for DACA.
This concession provided Republicans with enough votes from moderate Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold in the Senate to reach cloture. The current temporary spending measure will fund the government through February 8, 2018, at which point Congress is expected to pass another Continuing Resolution (CR). Shortly thereafter Congress is expected to reach an agreement to raise the budget caps for defense and domestic programs which will allow lawmakers to finalize the budget for Fiscal 2018.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released their 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles during USDA Secretary Perdue’s campus visit at Penn State University. This broad outline of principles provides an inside look into the USDA’s legislative priorities in preparation for discussions over the adoption of a farm bill.
Among the principles listed are:
Farm Production & Conservation
Trade & Foreign Agriculture Affairs
Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services
Marketing & Regulatory Programs
Food Safety & Inspection Services
Research, Education & Economics
Natural Resources & Environment
Some of the more specific proposals included in the outline are forest management reform, investing in rural infrastructure, and providing affordable high-speed internet services.
This week the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) held its fourth meeting where members heard multiple reports and recommendations to improve broadband deployment in rural areas. The BDAC is an advisory board within the FCC that was created by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to make policy recommendations to close the “digital divide” between rural and urban America. In his opening remarks, Chairman Pai asserted closing the digital divide is a top priority at the FCC.
The BDAC made a number of recommendations to close the divide by incentivizing private companies to invest in broadband infrastructure in rural areas. The BDAC’s recommended approach is to remove regulatory barriers at the state and local level, streamline the federal siting process, and ensure competitive access to broadband infrastructure. The meeting made headlines on Thursday after Axios.com reported San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo resigned from the BDAC after the panel recommended changes to municipal codes that were more favorable to internet-service providers.
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.
Senate Bill 1383 Organics Diversion from Landfills Informal Draft Regulations. Senate Bill 1383 (Lara, 2016) established methane emissions reduction targets in a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) from various California sectors. SB 1383 included goals of reducing organics from landfills by 50 percent in 2020 and 75 percent by 2025 from 2014 levels. CalRecycle is in the process of developing regulations to implement SB 1383. Agency: Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery Status: Four series of informal stakeholder workshops on concepts were held in 2017. The first draft regulatory language was released October 25, 2017, with a fifth workshop. The second informal draft is expected in early March with a workshop scheduled for March 21 in Sacramento and March 22 in Carlsbad. Additional information and draft regulations can be accessed here. RCRC Comments: Staff comments can be accessed here. In addition, RCRC participated in two coalition letters that can be accessed here Letter I and Letter II. RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto firstname.lastname@example.org