The Barbed Wire - July 21, 2017

July 21, 2017
RCRC’s 2017 Annual Meeting: Register Today!!!
RCRC, CSAC, and UCC Host 2017 Counties Cannabis Summit
New Cap-and-Trade Deal Passes Legislature
SMARA Reform Continues
Assembly Bill 1665 Pulled from Committee Hearing
House Committees Continue Debate on Rural Infrastructure
Agriculture, Energy and Water Senate Appropriations Markup
RCRC Rural Photo Contest
KEEPING UP
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, CSAC, and UCC Host 2017 Counties Cannabis Summit

On Wednesday, RCRC, the California State Association of Counties, and Urban Counties of California hosted a one-day summit for County Supervisors, CAO/CEOs, and senior staff covering the changing policy landscape of cannabis, local authority and policy development, as well as local opportunities and lessons learned from various members of the county family. 

RCRC Chair Bob Williams (Tehama) welcomed the 200 plus attendees, stating “our statewide advocacy organizations have been at the forefront of the cannabis discussion for the past several years, and we must remain in this position as we have a stake in shaping the broader statewide landscape of cannabis regulation in California.”

Detailed information and materials from the event can be accessed here.

New Cap-and-Trade Deal Passes Legislature

On Monday evening, the Legislature passed an extension of the State’s Cap-and-Trade auction program, a bipartisan deal championed by Governor Jerry Brown.  Since the beginning of the year, Governor Brown has been working to extend the program with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, which safeguards the auction system against current legal actions insisting it is an unconstitutional tax on the industries that must comply with the program.

The package consists of Assembly Bill 398 (Eduardo Garcia), which sets the parameters for the program as it relates to participating industries, and Assembly Bill 617 (Cristina Garcia), which establishes an air quality monitoring program for communities most impacted by large industrial emitters.  Combined, the two bills include a compromise between industry and environmental interests for which the Governor was able to rally bipartisan support, and included such components as a suspension and backfill of the State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fee through 2030, then a full repeal in 2031.

While the Cap-and-Trade extension was almost certain to happen in one form or another, Republican supporters felt the final package gave more assurances to both industry and agriculture, while preventing a much worse scenario from playing out by majority vote if this extension were not approved.  Many felt that a more environmental justice-friendly program, or even straight command-and-control measures, would be the chosen route if this package did not get the support needed to pass.  During the legislative negotiations, RCRC was also busy advocating for pieces in the package that would benefit rural communities, including the SRA Fee repeal, prioritization of forest health funding once the allocation piece is addressed, and pushing for a change in the way disadvantaged communities are defined for dissemination of auction proceeds.  Allocation of Cap-and-Trade proceeds has yet to be addressed, but RCRC will continue the work to advance our member county priorities as funding priorities are discussed.

RCRC’s “Support if Amended” letter can be accessed here.

SMARA Reform Continues

The State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB) continues to implement significant reform to the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) due to the enactment of Assembly Bill 1142 (Grey, 2016) and Senate Bill 209 (Pavley, 2016).  Working with the Department of Conservation’s Division of Mine Reclamation (DMR,) the statutory changes have been divided into “packages” for the regulatory process, based upon subject matter, fee calculations, financial assurance cost estimates, inspections, recreation plans, financial assurance mechanisms, and vested rights determinations and mining ordinance.

The most recent posting for the formal regulatory process is the notice of availability of modifications to the text of the proposed regulations for surface mining operation inspections, which can be accessed here.  The proposed amended regulation is intended to ensure inspections are conducted by qualified lead agency employees or certain California state-licensed persons, be clear that those conducting inspections seek input from a California state-licensed person or specialist when required by state law, and specify the ethical conduct of using contract employees and third-party contracts.   

RCRC submitted comments on the initial formal draft primarily seeking further clarification when a state-licensed professional is necessary and that a mine inspector can accept reports from the mining operator when prepared by a state-licensed professional.  While the modified text reflects some of our suggested language, RCRC believes further clarification is needed and will be submitting additional comments.  RCRC is working with SMGB staff seeking to further refine the language to avoid uncertain interpretations in the future.  The written comment period closes on July 26, 2017 and the hearing for adoption is scheduled for August 10, 2017. 

Assembly Bill 1665 Pulled from Committee Hearing

On Tuesday, Assembly Bill 1665, authored by Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), was pulled and not heard in the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee.  As currently written, AB 1665 would negatively impact the ability of rural communities to bringing much-needed broadband service to its area, which would further limit access to educational and economic opportunities.  Recent amendments have forced RCRC and the California State Association of Counties to adopt an “Oppose Unless Amended” position.

RCRC and CSAC are requesting that AB 1665 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 an alternative definition of “disadvantaged communities” 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. Because the bill is an urgency measure, it is exempt from standard hearing deadlines and may continue to move forward this legislative session.

RCRC’s joint “Oppose Unless Amended” letter can be accessed here.

House Committees Continue Debate on Rural Infrastructure

With the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare all but dead, Congress began to shift the agenda towards tax reform and infrastructure. Members of the House Committee on Agriculture met on July 19 to discuss the state of infrastructure in rural America.  The Committee recognized that there is an inability for small communities to finance necessary upgrades due to people moving out of rural towns to urban areas. The Committee also addressed a need for investment in infrastructure, from which they hope to leverage the investment to get greater broadband internet access in order to bridge the digital divide. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) remarked “Strong infrastructure is necessary in rural America to get products to market. There are large rural areas that lack broadband programs, and there’s no sustainable funding source to finance broadband expansion.”  Many panelists and Committee members voiced concerns about the digital divide and a lack of basic broadband access in their regions, which is important for tools such as telemedicine, emergency response, agriculture research, and basic business functions.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources also held a hearing on infrastructure titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Implementation of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 and the Water Resources Development Act of 2016.”  The purpose of the hearing was to examine current water infrastructure projects and evaluate possible reforms to strengthen implementation of these ventures. In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Ranking Member Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) criticized the Trump Administration for striking the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule and reinstating the pre-existing regulation.  Throughout the question and answer segment of the hearing, members pressed witnesses from the Army Corps of Engineers for updates on water infrastructure projects in their districts.  Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) took the opportunity to enquire about the status of the Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project, which is behind schedule, according to the witnesses. The Corps’ inability to complete projects on time prompted committee members to brainstorm strategies to improve agency efficiency and effectiveness. Throughout the hearing, Committee members called on the Army Corps of Engineers to meet project deadlines and improve their budgetary process.

Agriculture, Energy and Water Senate Appropriations Markup

On Thursday, July 20, 2017, the full Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the FY2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill and FY2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.  In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) stated that the FY 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill does a good job of increasing funding where necessary, even under relatively tough constraints, and that the Committee should move forward using FY2017 funding until a new budget agreement is reached.  Senators from both sides of the aisle highlighted rural development programs supported by the bill, including watershed management, wastewater disposal, low-income housing loans, and farm ownership and operating loans. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Ranking Member of Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, raised an amendment that would increase funding for rural development and conservation programs. The Merkley Amendment provided funding for emergency forest restoration programs, broadband investment, and single-family housing loans, but Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) pushed Republicans to reject the amendment because it exceeded the bill’s budget constraints.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved the FY2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.  Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), praised the bill for including provisions that will improve and maintain waterways, and thanked Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein’s office for its cooperation on the bill.  Before the bill was approved, the Committee passed an amendment introduced by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) calling for farmers participating in pilot programs to be allowed to use water passing through federal water projects to irrigate or cultivate their crops.

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…

KEEPING UP

Grant Davis, 54, of Petaluma, has been appointed director of the California Department of Water Resources. Davis has been general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency since 2009, where he was assistant general manager from 2007 to 2009. The agency provides wholesale water, wastewater treatment and flood control. It is the largest energy user in the county and became carbon-free in 2015 by providing its water through 100 percent renewable energy. He was executive director of the Bay Institute from 1997 to 2007, senior district representative in the Office of Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey from 1993 to 1997 and principal of Impact Consulting from 1990 to 1993. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $194,600. Davis is a Democrat.

Michael Ertola, 55, of Auburn, has been reappointed to the Board of State and Community Corrections, where he has served since 2014. Ertola has been chief probation officer of Nevada County since 2012 and has served in several positions at the Nevada County Probation Department since 2001, including probation program manager for adult services. He was a deputy probation officer at the San Mateo County Probation Department from 1988 to 2001. This position requires Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Ertola is a Democrat.

Dean Growdon, 46, of Susanville, has been reappointed to the Board of State and Community Corrections, where he has served since 2012. Growdon has been sheriff-coroner for Lassen County since 2011 and has served in several positions at the Lassen County Sheriff’s Department since 1994, including assistant sheriff, lieutenant, sergeant, deputy sheriff and correctional officer. This position requires Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Growdon is a Republican.

BULLETIN BOARD

DGS and Department of Technology Release Joint Bulletin on Kaspersky Labs Products

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 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 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 275 (Wood): Long-Term Care Facilities: Requirements for Changes. Assembly Bill 275 would expand the notice and planning requirements that a skilled nursing facility provides before any change in the status of license or in the operation of the facility that results in its inability to care for its residents.  Status: AB 275 passed in the Senate.  AB 275 pending concurrence in the Assembly.  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 Natural Resources and Water Committee.  Status: 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 (Second Reading File). RCRC Position: Removal of Opposition

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 Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 1250 (Jones-Sawyer): Counties and Cities: Personal Contract Services.  Assembly Bill 1250 would establish specific standards for the use of personal services contracts by counties.  Status: AB 1250 awaits action in the Senate Appropriations 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

Senate Bill 167 (Skinner): Housing Accountability Act.  Senate Bill 167 would make significant changes to the HAA with new terms and definitions; broaden the ability to sue local governments, and increases fines on local governments. The author has committed to taking amendments to address local government concerns.  Status: SB 167 awaits action in the Assembly Rules Committee. RCRC Position:  Neutral

Senate Bill 252 (Dodd): Well Permits. Senate Bill relates to new well permits issued in critically over-drafted groundwater basins. Status:  Awaits action in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Position: Neutral

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 Assembly.  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 Appropriations Committee. 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

Extension of Public Comment on Proposed Amendment to General Permit for Storm Water Discharges from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4 General Permit).  The proposed amendment revises the implementation requirements of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) in Attachment G and modifies the corresponding Findings, Provisions, and Fact Sheet of the Small MS4 General Permit accordingly.  The proposed amendment specifically addresses the implementation of 73 Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).  Agency:  State Water Resources control Board.  Status:  The proposed amendments were first released June 5, 2017.  Submission of written comments has been extended to noon Monday, August 21, 2017.   The notice and proposed amendments can be accessed hereRCRC Comments:   Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Staci Heaton sheaton@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 held an additional workshop on July 14 and has two more scheduled for 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