The Barbed Wire - January 27, 2017

January 27, 2017
The Year Ahead for California’s Rural Counties Bob Williams, RCRC Chair and Tehama County Supervisor
Conservation, Water, Forestry and Rural Communities Agree on Ecologically Sound Forest Management
Governor Brown Delivers State-of-the-State Address
Cap-and-Trade Scrutinized as Court Decision Looms
Hearings Scheduled on 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan
Senate Continues to Work on Key Trump Cabinet Nominees
Congress Expected to Address National Monuments
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
KEEPING UP
BULLETIN BOARD
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
REGULATORY UPDATE

The Year Ahead for California’s Rural Counties Bob Williams, RCRC Chair and Tehama County Supervisor

Earlier this month, I was sworn in as Chair of the Rural County Representatives of California, better known as RCRC.  The core of RCRC’s mission is to improve the ability of small, rural California county governments to provide services by advocating on their behalf, and promoting a greater understanding among policy makers about the unique challenges that face California’s small population counties.  Read More…

Conservation, Water, Forestry and Rural Communities Agree on Ecologically Sound Forest Management

Alliance Launches Website and Educational Video

An unprecedented, urban-rural coalition representing water interests, local government, the conservation community, agriculture, and the forestry sector has formed to advance proactive, science-based, and ecologically sound forest management practices.  The California Forest Watershed Alliance (CAFWA) supports policies and practices that promote healthy forests that are more resilient to drought, wildfire, and climate change.  Read More…

Governor Brown Delivers State-of-the-State Address

On Tuesday, Governor Edmund J. Brown delivered his annual State-of-the-State Address, laying out his agenda for the year, and specifically highlighting four key issues: immigration, health care, renewable energy and climate change, and infrastructure.  The full text of his 2017 Address can be accessed here.

Cap-and-Trade Scrutinized as Court Decision Looms

Appeals hearings began this week in the long-running lawsuit against the State’s carbon Cap-and-Trade auction, which has been under challenge from the California Chamber of Commerce as an illegal tax on industries captured under the program.  The program, which requires certain large industries to either purchase carbon credits to cover their greenhouse gas emissions or eliminate any emissions for which they aren’t able to purchase credits, has been controversial since its creation as industry groups continue to question the constitutionality of forced participation in the auction.  

More recently, the program has come under fire as questions swirl about how proceeds from the auction are being allocated, and whether they are being fairly distributed throughout the state.  While the program has generated billions of dollars in revenue each year since its inception, the majority of the funds continue to be spent on programs that are among the least cost efficient, primarily in urban areas and the Central Valley.  RCRC and other advocates for the north and eastern parts of the state also continue to question the methodology used to identify disadvantaged communities for funding allocations from the proceeds, since the Legislature has mandated that at least 25 percent of the funds be spent in those communities, and most of RCRC member counties are fully shut out by the State’s current definition.

The initial ruling on the program in Sacramento Superior Court favored the State and the California Air Resources Board, stating that the Agency had the broad authority through Assembly Bill 32 (Núñez; 2006) to create the program and collect revenue through the auction.  The Third Appellate District Court, which is currently hearing the appeal of the initial ruling, requested supplemental information last year and has indicated it will issue a ruling within ninety days of the current hearings.  Regardless of the ruling, the losing side is expected to appeal the case to the Supreme Court unless the Governor’s request for a two-thirds ratification of the program occurs before then. 

Hearings Scheduled on 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan

On the heels of a five year drought, the rain events from the past two weeks have brought about the other water related concern – flooding, particularly in the Central Valley.  As required by Senate Bill 5 (Machado; 2007), the Central Valley Flood Protection Act of 2008, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) prepared and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board (CVFPB) adopted the 2012 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.  

In addition to Sacramento, Solano, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties, RCRC member counties of Tehama, Butte, Glenn, Lake, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Yolo, Placer, Merced and Madera are included in the plan.  The CVFPP provides a comprehensive framework for system-wide management and flood risk reduction planning.    

The CVFPP is required to be updated every five years, and DWR released a draft of the 2017 CVFPP on December 31, 2016.  This first update refines the overall near and long-term investment needs established in the 2012 CVFPP, and includes recommendations on policies and financing that support comprehensive flood risk management actions locally, regionally, and system-wide. 

With comments on the draft 2017 CVFPP due by March 31, 2017, there is time for local involvement.   Five public outreach hearings have been scheduled in February and March 2017 throughout the Central Valley.  The schedule of these public hearings can be accessed here.  The draft update, draft Supplemental Program EIS, and scheduled workshop details can be accessed here

Senate Continues to Work on Key Trump Cabinet Nominees

Next Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on the nominations of Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Department of Interior, and Rick Perry as Secretary of the Department of Energy.  No date has been set for a hearing for Secretary of the Department of Agriculture nominee Sonny Perdue. 

As President Trump concludes his first full week in office, the Senate worked to confirm President Trump’s Cabinet Secretaries.  So far, three of the President’s Cabinet nominees have been confirmed by the Senate and sworn into office: Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.  Several other nominees had their committee votes this week, including Elaine Chao (Transportation) and Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development).  

Congress Expected to Address National Monuments

The issue of National Monument designation and the Antiquities Act could be an issue of major contention in the House Natural Resources Committee this Congress.  During President Obama’s final days in office, he announced three new monument designations and the expansion of two existing monuments, including the expansion of the California Coastal National Monument. 

As a result, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) stated that his Committee is planning to look at options to roll back any monument designations that were done without local support.  In contrast, the House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) traveled this week to New Mexico to tour newly-designated monuments in the state and indicated that he will be looking for ways to protect the Antiquities Act.  In addition, legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would require Congressional approval of national monuments and restrictions on the use of national monuments, to establish requirements for the declaration of marine national monuments.  

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

2017 North State Economic Forecast Conference: Building Public-Private Partnerships

The 17th annual North State Economic Forecast Conference (Conference) was held at the Gold Country Casino Hotel in Oroville on January 19, 2017, hosted by the Center for Economic Development at California State University, Chico.  The theme for this year’s Conference was building public-private partnerships and the pervasive need to develop innovative financing tools to fund desperately needed infrastructure projects throughout the state. 

Keynote speakers included Dr. Robert Eyler, Dean of Extended and International Education, Professor of Economics, and Director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University.  Dr. Eyler’s presented his expectations of how the Trump Administration’s policies may affect the United States economy, and expressed specific emphasis on the potential impact of a trade war with China and other key trading partners.

Dr. Bill Watkins, Founding Executive Director (retired) of the California Lutheran University, Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, and Associate Professor of Economics, provided remarks about what California may be able to expect for the economy in the upcoming year, including addressing potential impacts of the Trump Administration’s policies and other economic trends.  As with Dr. Eyler, he specifically focused the potential impact of the proposed trade policies and particularly in California.  Dr. Watkins also illuminated the fact that California is home to both some of the wealthiest areas of the country and also some of the most impoverished communities, and this divide seems to occur between California’s coastline versus its inland areas.  Many of the most impoverished and declining communities are within RCRC member county areas.

The final keynote address was provided by Peter Luchetti, California Infrastructure Bank and Founder of Table Rock Capital, LLC (TRC).  TRC is an infrastructure fund that invests in transportation, energy, social infrastructure, water & wastewater, and communications.  Mr. Luchetti delivered a compelling message about the critical condition of America’s infrastructure and expressed significant concern about the exponentially escalating costs required to rebuild and rehabilitate this state and country.  Mr. Luchetti expressed support for the design, build, operate and maintain public-private partnership model as one of the most powerful, and overall cost-effective, tools to help close the ever-widening infrastructure financing gap.  He concluded his presentation by challenging everyone in attendance to identify and close 100 projects in Northern California in the upcoming year.  He also advocates for the creation of a “Center of Expertise” that would leverage state colleges and universities expertise to help build the business case for the respective infrastructure projects.

In addition to the keynote speakers, the Conference played host to eight separate breakout sessions that covered various topics of import for local economic development efforts.  Full details on the conference can be accessed here.

KEEPING UP

Xavier Becerra Sworn-in as California’s 33rd Attorney General

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Special Election Called for 34th Congressional District

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RCRC Recognizes CPUC Commissioner Sandoval

This week, RCRC President and CEO Greg Norton sent a letter of recognition to former California Public Utilities Commissioner Katherine Sandoval in appreciation of her leadership in rural telecommunication issues.  Commissioner Sandoval was not reappointed by Governor Brown in December 2016. 

In the six years she served as a Commissioner at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Commissioner Sandoval confronted many telecommunication issues that plague rural counties, including lack of broadband connectivity, and lack of reliable telephone service.  Additionally, Commissioner Sandoval held several town hall meetings in RCRC member counties to receive input from community members on telecommunication service provider concerns. 

Two new Commissioners have been appointed to the CPUC, Martha Guzman Aceves and Cliff Rechtschaffen, both former Governor Brown advisors.  RCRC will continue to work with the Legislature and the CPUC to address telecommunications issues facing our communities. 

BULLETIN BOARD

NOFA Amendment: HOME Investment Partnerships Program

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Governor Brown Declares State of Emergency in Counties Across California Following Severe Winter Storms

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NOFA Date Change: CDBG Drought Lateral

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Board Workshop and Public Comment: Affordable, Safe Drinking Water Initiative

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Office of Planning and Research Releases Solar Permitting Guidebook Update

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, the California Building Standards Commission, and the Government Operations Agency have updated the Solar Permitting Guidebook in response to new legislative orders and updated building codes.  Detailed information can be accessed here, and the Solar Permitting Guidebook can be accessed here.

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

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

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 State Forest Carbon Plan, which lays out a blueprint for forest management actions in California on all levels of forest land 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 the public workshops, and 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 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 the 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 Area (SRA) or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. 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 have been scheduled 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