The Barbed Wire - July 14, 2017

July 14, 2017
RCRC’s 2017 Annual Meeting: Register Today!!!
RCRC-Sponsored Senate Bill 447 Headed to the Governor
Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee Passes Small Cell Bill
Assembly Bill 1250 Moves Forward – Places Restrictions on County Contracting
Controversial OHV Bill Still Moving Despite Flaws and Opposition
Hearing Scheduled on Assembly Bill 1665
Senate Bill 577 Now a “Two-Year” Bill
House Interior Appropriations Released Draft Appropriations Bill – Fiscal Year 2018 PILT
Gaining Responsibility on Water Act Passes the House
Cannabis Banking Public Meeting Held
McConnell Delays Summer Break for the Senate
RCRC Visits Tuolumne and Merced Counties to Present on Recent Cannabis Legislation
RCRC Rural Photo Contest
BULLETIN BOARD
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
REGULATORY UPDATE

RCRC’s 2017 Annual Meeting: Register Today!!!

RCRC’s 2017 Annual Meeting will be held September 27-29 at the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel in El Dorado County.  This year’s program will feature experts discussing a wide range of topics of interest to rural counties, including:

  • Daylight Saving – It’s Time for the Discussion
  • The Opioid Crisis in California’s Rural Counties
  • A Rural Way of Life – Healthy of Harmful?
  • Unfairly Labeled?  The Debate over Intergenerational Dynamics
  • Emergency Preparedness and Recovery – Lessons Learned from the Oroville Spillway Disaster

Registration is now open via the online portal.  Read More…

RCRC-Sponsored Senate Bill 447 Headed to the Governor

This week, the Senate gave final approval to RCRC-sponsored Senate Bill 447 by Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama).  The bill now awaits the consideration of Governor Brown. 

SB 447 authorizes two or more counties to create Assessment Appeals Boards to hear taxpayer appeals.  SB 447 will help low-population counties to maximize the use of assessment appeals boards given the complex nature of developing the county’s property tax roll.  Many low-population counties appeals through the local Board of Equalization (comprised of the Board of Supervisors) because there are not enough residents that can be eligible to serve on an assessment appeals board. 

RCRC encourages Member Counties to submit letters to the Governor urging him to sign SB 447 into law.  RCRC’s SB 447 support letter can be accessed here.

Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee Passes Small Cell Bill

This week, the Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee held a special consideration hearing on RCRC-opposed Senate Bill 649, authored by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego).  SB 649 would eliminate local consideration of the aesthetic and environmental impacts of “small cell” structures and force counties to lease space to wireless companies at a rate set by the Legislature. 

The Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee heard testimony and debated the bill for nearly two hours.  Humboldt County Supervisor and RCRC Vice Chair Rex Bohn provided strong testimony on the detrimental impacts of this bill on RCRC member counties.  While there were a number of questions regarding the lack of aesthetic and design review included in the bill,  SB 649 passed out of the Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee on 10 “Aye” votes,  0 “No” votes, and 3 abstentions.  The bill will be set for hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee after the legislature returns for summer break August 21, 2017.

RCRC continues to urge Member Counties to join in opposition of this legislation.  At this time, sixteen RCRC Member Counties have submitted letters of opposition, which can be accessed here.  The text of the bill can be accessed here.  RCRC’s joint statement on the Committee’s passage of SB 649 can be accessed here.

Assembly Bill 1250 Moves Forward – Places Restrictions on County Contracting

This week, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved the RCRC-opposed Assembly Bill 1250, authored by Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), related to county contracts for services.  AB 1250 would establish requirements for counties before it may enter into a contract or renew/extend an existing contract after January 1, 2018 for county-related services.  AB 1250 would establish burdensome, worrisome contract procurement and renewal requirements for California’s rural counties. 

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee heard testimony and debated the bill.  Ultimately, AB 1250 gained passage with 4 “Aye” votes, 2 “No” votes, and 1 abstention.  Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) abstained from the vote.  

AB 1250 will next be considered in the Senate Rules Committee.  RCRC and a coalition of local government partners have been working to defeat this bill, and have been in discussion with legislators and key staff to share the negative impacts AB 1250 will have on counties.

Controversial OHV Bill Still Moving Despite Flaws and Opposition

On Tuesday, legislation reauthorizing the State’s Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Program passed out of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee despite staunch opposition from OHV proponents and local government representatives.  The RCRC-opposed Senate Bill 249, authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), seeks to permanently reauthorize the State program that sets the environmental and management standards for California’s nine State-run OHV parks. 

Along with permanently extending the life of the program, effectively closing any future opportunities to reassess its effectiveness, SB 249 also sets much stricter environmental standards for management of the OHV parks, while also redirecting funds from OHV program proceeds, some of which currently go to the aid of law enforcement and other local benefit, to other State park programs.  The measure’s critics believe it is an attempt to curb and potentially end OHV activities, despite the fact that the current program has been held up as a national model for ecological management.

During the Tuesday hearing, members representing rural districts were vocally opposed to the bill.  In particular, Assembly Member James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Assembly Member Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) were critical of the measure and its potential impacts on OHV use and local economies where the State’s OHV parks are located.  Despite the opposition, the bill passed the committee on an 8-5 vote, and now awaits hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Hearing Scheduled on Assembly Bill 1665

Assembly Bill 1665, authored by Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee on Tuesday, July 18, 2017.  As currently written, AB 1665 would negatively impact the deployment of much-needed broadband service in rural communities, further limiting access to educational and economic opportunities. 

While RCRC initially had a “Support if Amended” position on AB 1665, recent amendments have forced RCRC and the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) to adopt an “Oppose Unless Amended” position.  RCRC and CSAC are requesting that the bill be amended to restore the definitions of “unserved” and “underserved,” eliminate annual “right of first refusal,” and require transparency standards for deployment projects subsidized by ratepayers and Public-Benefit MOU commitments.  In addition, RCRC and CSAC advocates that an alternative definition of “disadvantaged community” be included to ensure deserving communities are not inadvertently excluded from eligibility.

RCRC is very supportive of the original intent of AB 1665 and continuing the California Advanced Services Fund program.  RCRC and CSAC have been in discussions with Legislators and legislative staff to share the negative impacts of the recent amendments, and to find a path forward that is positive for rural communities.  RCRC’s joint “Oppose Unless Amended” letter can be accessed here.

Senate Bill 577 Now a “Two-Year” Bill

Senate Bill 577, authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), was not heard in the Assembly Higher Education Committee (Committee) this week as scheduled, thereby making it a two-year bill.  However, Committee Chair, Assembly Member Jose Medina (D-Riverside), has shown interest in working with Senator Dodd, committee members and community stakeholders to address the challenges rural and disadvantaged communities face in meeting teacher workforce needs. 

A two-year bill is introduced in the first half of a two-year session, but fails to meet deadlines to clear both houses before interim recess in mid-September.  By holding the bill, the Committee affords the author time to hold in-depth discussions with opposition groups and concerned legislators to find a compromise that will be acceptable to all stakeholders.  Additionally, the Committee Chair has committed to convening an informational hearing to discuss the highly concerning statewide teacher shortage during the interim.

RCRC will continue to work with the author’s office and opposition to find solutions to the teacher shortages impacting RCRC member counties.  RCRC’s letter of support for SB 577 can be accessed here

House Interior Appropriations Released Draft Appropriations Bill – Fiscal Year 2018 PILT

This week, the House Appropriations Committee released their draft Fiscal Year 2018 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.  This bill would fund the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal resources agencies.  The bill would fund the Federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program at $465 million, the same as the Fiscal Year 2017 level. 

The Trump Administration has requested $397 million – a 15 percent reduction in the 2018 Federal Budget.  It should be noted that there is no funding for the Secure Rural Schools program in the bill (a separate authorization bill is needed).

Federal PILT payments to local governments help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries.  Federal PILT payments support a variety of local government programs and services, including police and fire departments, emergency medical services, and search and rescue operations. 

The House Appropriations Committee marked up the bill on Thursday.  However, the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee process is behind schedule as the end of the federal Fiscal Year is looming.  The Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee is still conducting budget hearings and has yet to release a bill outlining funding for federal resource agencies.

RCRC and our federal government partners continue to advocate for permanent and full funding of the Federal PILT program.  The breakdown of the bill can be accessed here.

Gaining Responsibility on Water Act Passes the House

On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee held a business meeting on H.R. 23, the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act (GROW Act) and heard remarks from Rep. Ben Bishop (R-Utah), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-North Coast).  The stated purpose of the bill is to provide drought relief for California through common sense deregulation of the state’s water systems.  The bill’s deregulatory provisions drew criticism from Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) for pre-empting California state law, overlapping with the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), and gutting the Endangered Species Act.

Speaking before the House Rules Committee, Rep. Huffman argued members of the House did not receive adequate opportunity to discuss the bill’s impact on California’s environment and fishing economy.  Despite criticism from Democrats, the Rules Committee sent H.R. 23 to the House floor where the bill passed 230-190.

H.R. 23 is the latest chapter in a historical dispute between California’s fisheries and farming communities. The bill will allocate surplus water towards the Central Valley that traditionally is flowed to the Pacific Ocean to preserve the ecosystem for fish like salmon and steelhead. Josh McManus, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, says this bill will be “the end of salmon in California,” if it becomes law.  Both Rep. Huffman and McManus predict there will be tremendous job loss in California’s fishing economy if H.R. 23 is signed into law.  On the other side of the dispute, farmers from the Central Valley argue they need more water to keep the land productive and claim the current status quo prioritizes fishing over agriculture.  In addition, Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), original sponsor of H.R. 23, argues farmers and Central Valley residents will benefit from the bill because it will ease environmental regulations that disrupt water storage and delivery systems.

Cannabis Banking Public Meeting Held

California state Treasurer John Chiang’s working group on cannabis banking held a public meeting to address the cannabis industry’s lack of access to the banking system.  The meeting was a unique opportunity for candid feedback from the banking community on the federal barriers between the banking and cannabis industries. 

Julie Robinson, Senior Vice President at River City Bank in Sacramento, provided a detailed explanation for her bank’s decision to withhold its services from companies who handle cannabis.  Robinson claims it is too difficult for banks who hold deposits for cannabis businesses to comply with the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network.  According to Robinson, the FDIC is signaling to banks that it is obligated to enforce federal law which labels cannabis a banned Schedule I drug. Robinson’s remarks were followed by David Haithcock, Executive Director of the California Community Banking Network.  Haithcock indicated his members were interested in providing banking services to the cannabis industry, but the risks are too great.

According to a statement by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), the best approach for a banking solution is to target Republicans in Washington, where cannabis banking bills are stalled in Congress.  Building a coalition in the legislature is critical for an industry that is facing an unfriendly administration.  Under the Trump administration, the cannabis industry will struggle to expand access to the banking system without passing legislation that provides legal protection for depository institutions that offer financial services for cannabis businesses.  Several weeks ago, the RCRC Board of Directors voted to support H.R. 2215 by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) to liberalize federal banking laws with respect to cannabis.

McConnell Delays Summer Break for the Senate

Shortly after eight rank-and-file Republican senators urged postponing the recess to focus on the GOP agenda, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced the break would start two weeks later than originally scheduled, and blamed the change on Democrats. “In order to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August,” McConnell said in a statement. 

McConnell was under pressure from Senators to delay the recess, originally scheduled to begin July 31, 2017, to give the Senate more time to work on the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

RCRC Visits Tuolumne and Merced Counties to Present on Recent Cannabis Legislation

This week, Paul A. Smith, RCRC Vice President Governmental Affairs, and Arthur Wylene, RCRC Governmental Affairs Counsel, provided a cannabis licensing and regulatory update to both the Tuolumne County Marijuana Working Group, and senior staff in Merced County.  Both presentations were attended by members of the counties’ Board of Supervisors. 

RCRC staff discussed critical policy areas such as licensing and land use, cultivation and environmental considerations, and the roles of counties in permitting, prohibiting, or regulating state-licensed cannabis activities.  Following the presentations, RCRC staff opened the floor to supervisors, senior county staff, and members of the public to ask questions.

An upcoming cannabis presentation is scheduled for Mono County.  RCRC will continue to assist rural counties in developing their respective policies in light of recently-enacted cannabis regulations. 

RCRC’s advocacy efforts regarding cannabis can be accessed here.

RCRC Rural Photo Contest

RCRC has launched the 2017 Rural County Photo Contest!  The Rural County Photo Contest was created to promote tourism and local economic development through showcasing the beautiful landscape, scenery, activities, history, and charm of RCRC’s member counties.  All entries must include a brief description of each photo; location where the photo was taken, including the county in which it was taken; and, the photographer’s full name and email address.  Photo entries can be sent to spasquini@rcrcnet.org, and must be submitted in .jpeg, .jpg., or png. format, 300 dpi or less, and no larger than 10MB.  All photographs must be the original work of the participant, or must have the photographer’s written permission.  Read More…

BULLETIN BOARD

Notice of Funding Opportunity: 2017 Pre-Disaster Mitigation and Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Programs

Click 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. 

Assembly Bill 84 (Mullin): Primary Elections: Election Date.  Assembly Bill 84 would require the presidential primary election to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.  AB 84 would also require that the statewide direct primary election be held on that same day and consolidated with the presidential primary election during a presidential primary election year.  Status: AB 84 awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Position: Oppose

Assembly Bill 148 (Mathis): California Physician Corps Program: Practice Setting.  Assembly Bill 148 would revise the definition of “practice setting” for the Steven M. Thompson Physician Corps Loan Repayment Program (Program) to include rural area clinics that have 30 percent of patients from medically underserved populations. Status: AB 148 awaits action in the Senate (Second reading file).  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 196 (Bigelow): Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund: Water Supply. Assembly Bill 196 would authorize the use of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds (GGRF) for water and wastewater systems if the investment furthers the regulatory purposes of the act and is consistent with law. With this bill, water supply investments, including repairs, pump and motor efficiency improvements, drinking water transmission and distribution system water loss, and wastewater systems, would be specifically eligible for funding.  Status: AB 196 awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

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

Assembly Bill 255 (Gallagher): Sexually Violent Predators: Out of County Placement.  Assembly Bill 255 would require the court to consider additional factors when determining the county of placement for a sexually violent predator outside the county of domicile.  Additionally, the bill would provide that if those factors do not identify a suitable county for conditional release that is not the county of domicile, the county of conditional release is the county in which the person was arrested for the crime for which he or she was last incarcerated in the state prison or from which he or she was last returned from parole.  Status: AB 255 has been chaptered and signed by the Governor.  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 425 (Caballero): Timber Harvesting Plans: Exemptions: Temporary Roads.  Assembly Bill 425 would expand the Forest Fire Prevention Pilot Project Exemption to allow the construction or reconstruction of temporary roads on slopes of 40 percent or less if certain conditions are met, including that a registered professional forester designates temporary road locations, associated class III watercourse crossings, and unstable areas, on specified maps.  Status: AB 425 awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee (To suspense file). RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 524 (Bigelow): Personal Income Tax: Deduction: Remove Dead and Dying Trees. Assembly Bill 524 would allow a personal income tax deduction for expenses paid or incurred by a taxpayer in the taxable year in connection with the removal of a dead or dying tree on real property owned by the taxpayer. Status: AB 524 awaits action in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee.  Status: Support

Assembly Bill 560 (Salas): State Drinking Water Revolving Fund. Assembly Bill 560 would require the State Water Resources Control Board to provide a range of financing options to water system projects that serve severely disadvantaged communities. Status: AB 560 awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 890 (Medina): Local Land Use Initiatives. Assembly 890 would require an environmental review of all proposed local initiatives. Status: AB 890 awaits action in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. RCRC Position: Pending

Assembly Bill 920 (Aguiar-Curry): Electricity: Integrated Resource Plans.  Assembly Bill 920 would Requires the Public Utilities Commission, when reviewing a load-serving entity's integrated resource plan, to evaluate the mix of resources in the entity's portfolios to ensure balance. Status: AB 920 awaits action in the Senate (Second reading file).  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 924 (Bonta): Indian Tribes: Commercial Cannabis Activity.  Assembly Bill 924 would authorize the Governor to enter into agreements concerning cannabis activities on lands of federally-recognized sovereign Indian tribes. Status: AB 924 awaits action in the Senate Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee.  RCRC Position: Oppose

Assembly Bill 1665 (Garcia, Eduardo): Telecommunications: Advanced Services Fund: AB 1665 would revise eligibility requirements for projects and project applicants for grants funded from the California Advanced Services Fund. Status: AB 1665 awaits action in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee. RCRC Position: Oppose Unless Amended

Assembly Bill 1667 (Friedman): Agricultural Water Management. Assembly Bill 1667 would make permanent agricultural water conservation criteria established as part of the Governor’s response to the drought. Status: AB 1667 held in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. RCRC Status: Oppose

Senate Bill 265 (Berryhill): Disaster Relief. Senate Bill 265 provides that the state share for the removal of dead and dying trees in connection with the Governor's Proclamation of a State of Emergency issued on the specified date. Status:  Awaits action in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 458 (Wiener): Beverage Container Recycling: Mobile Recycling Program.  Senate Bill 458 would permit the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to establish several mobile recycling pilot projects.  Status: SB 458 awaits action in the Senate (Third reading file).  RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 563 (Lara): Residential Wood Smoke.  Senate Bill 563 would establish the Woodsmoke Reduction Program to replace old wood-burning stoves with cleaner and more efficient alternatives. Status: SB 563 awaits action in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 577 (Dodd): Public Postsecondary Education: Community College.  Senate Bill 577 would allow community college districts to offer a teacher credentialing program. Status: SB 577 is now a two-year bill and awaits action in the Assembly Higher Education Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 623 (Monning): Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.  Senate Bill 623 would establish the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.  SB 623 would provide grants, loans, or services to assist those without access to safe and affordable drinking water. Status: SB awaits action in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Position: Oppose Unless Amended

Senate Bill 649 (Hueso): Wireless Telecommunications Facilities.  Senate Bill 649 would amend an existing law which provides that a wireless telecommunications collocation facility is subject to a city or county discretionary permit and is required to comply with specified criteria. Status: Awaits action in the Assembly (Second reading file). RCRC Position: Oppose

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.

Modifications to the Text of the Proposed Surface Mining Operation Annual Inspections Regulations.  The proposed amended regulatory language is intended to implement the improvements and updates to Public Resources Code Section 2774 based upon the statutory changes made by Assembly Bill 1142 (Grey, 2016).  Agency: Department of Conservation State Mining and Geology Board Status: The draft was published April 28, 2017, with comments due by June 12, 2017.  The modified proposed amended regulatory text takes into consideration comments received during the required formal comment period.  The 15-day comment period will run from July 11 through July 26, 2017.  The notice and draft update can be accessed here.   RCRC Comments: Staff submitted comments on the formal draft and is now seeking input on the modified text from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto mpitto@rcrcnet.org

FY 2017-18 Draft Annual Action Plan.  The Annual Action Plan (AP) outlines the State’s current priorities and strategies to address housing and community development goals in FY 2017-18, using federal community development funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  It is the third of five annual updates to the 2015-20 State Consolidated Plan.  Agency:   California Housing and Community Development.  Status:  The draft AP was released July 10, 2017, for the 14 day public review and comment period ending Sunday, July 23rd.  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 were held in February and March 2017 throughout the Central Valley.  The CVFP Board held six workshops in April, May, and June in 2017.  The CVFP Board will now hold additional workshops on July 14, July 28 and August 11, 2017.  These workshops are intended to provide the CVFP Board an opportunity to discuss the 2017 CVFPP Update, associated documents, public comments, and any potential revisions to the 2017 CVFPP Update.  The draft update, draft Supplemental Program EIS, and scheduled workshop details can be accessed here.  RCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto mpitto@rcrcnet.org