The Barbed Wire - June 30, 2017

June 30, 2017
RCRC-Opposed Small Cell Legislation Moves Forward
Tree Mortality Funding Bill Heads to Assembly Floor
State Supreme Court Rejects Cap-and-Trade Appeal
Well Permitting Legislation Moves Forward
Federal PILT Payments Issued
House and Senate Move FAA Authorization and Reform Legislation
Congress Debates Agriculture Appropriations and 2018 Farm Bill
EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Announce Plan to Repeal and Replace WOTUS
RCRC Launches Rural County Photo Contest
BULLETIN BOARD
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

RCRC-Opposed Small Cell Legislation Moves Forward

This week, the Assembly Local Government Committee approved the 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 bill. 

RCRC Delegate Supervisor Kim Dolbow Vann of Colusa County presented as one of the lead witnesses in opposition of SB 649.  The Assembly Local Government Committee heard testimonies and debated the bill for over two and a half hours.  Ultimately, SB 649 gained passage in the Assembly Local Government Committee with five “Aye” votes, one “No” vote, and two abstentions.  The sole vote in opposition was casted by Assembly Member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), while Assembly Members Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) and Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) abstained from the vote.

SB 649 will be amended to address issues identified by the Assembly Local Government Committee staff before it is sent to the Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee.  It is expected to be heard in the Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee on July 12th. RCRC and a coalition of local government partners continue to work hard to defeat this poorly-crafted bill, and RCRC has been in discussions with legislators and key staff to share the extensive and negative impacts this bill will have on local governments.

RCRC continues to urge Member Counties to join in opposition of this legislation.  The text of the bill can be accessed here.

RCRC’s joint opposition letter can be accessed here. RCRC’s press release can be accessed here.  

Tree Mortality Funding Bill Heads to Assembly Floor

Assembly Bill 524, authored by Assembly Member Frank Bigelow (R-Madera), is headed to the Assembly Floor for consideration after passing out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.  The measure, which is an urgency bill requiring 2/3 approval to take effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature, redirects approximately $8 million in funds collected from citations against utility companies found negligent in the 2015 Butte Fire to CAL FIRE’s State Responsibility Area Fund and Tree Mortality Grant Program.  

While members of the Committee were supportive of the action in light of the Governor’s 2015 Emergency Proclamation on tree mortality and the magnitude of work that still needs to be done to mitigate the public safety threats from the 102 million dead and dying trees in the Central and Southern Sierras, the Department of Finance opposed the bill on the grounds that funds were already made available for tree mortality mitigation activities in the State Budget Package.  AB 524 now awaits action on the Assembly Floor. 

State Supreme Court Rejects Cap-and-Trade Appeal

The California State Supreme Court declined on Wednesday to hear a challenge from business groups on the legality of the State’s Cap-and-Trade auction program. The California Chamber of Commerce has led the way on the legal challenge of the program as a de facto, unconstitutional tax on industries required to participate in the auction, but the State’s highest court denied review of an earlier Court of Appeal decision that upheld the program.  

Amid the legal challenges, Governor Brown has continued to work toward an extension of the program beyond its current 2020 sunset, and has refused to allocate any auction proceeds to carbon emissions reductions programs until an extension of the program is negotiated and approved by the Legislature by a two-thirds vote.  The extension is expected within the next few weeks. 

Well Permitting Legislation Moves Forward

This week, the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee approved Senate Bill 252, authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa).  This measure relates to new well permits issued in critically over-drafted groundwater basins. 

Initially, RCRC had an “Oppose Unless Amended” position on SB 252; however, Senator Dodd accepted amendments proposed by RCRC.  These amendments 1) further clarify that the procedural steps required are themselves ministerial in nature; and, 2) confirm that local governments retain the authority to determine whether issuance of new well permits in the critically over-drafted basins will be ministerial or made discretionary.  SB 252 continues to recognize the ‘local control’ element that has been a key aspect to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation. 

The Committee had a lengthy discussion on various aspects of the measure, particularly around how to best recognize and incorporate county-adopted ordinances. In addition, several members acknowledged the need to recognize the tension between the need for protecting drinking water and water for agriculture.

In closing, Senator Dodd committed to addressing the concerns raised by the opponents, including language to protect local governments from legal challenges, as SB 252 moves to the Assembly Local Government Committee.

RCRC’s removal of opposition letter can be accessed here.

Federal PILT Payments Issued

This week, the U.S. Department of Interior began distributing Fiscal Year 2017 Federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) monies to counties.  California’s counties are scheduled to receive approximately $48.2 million.  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.  

“Modoc County’s $600,000 PILT payment is vital to preserving our law enforcement services as well as other critical programs,” said RCRC Board Member and Modoc County Supervisor Geri Byrne.  “Like so many other rural counties in California, much of the land-mass of Modoc County is owned by the federal government.  Thus, we must rely on federal PILT payments to continue these important local services.”

While the future of Fiscal Year 2018 Federal PILT funding remains uncertain, RCRC and federal government partners continue to advocate for permanent and full funding of the Federal PILT program.  

County-by-county Federal PILT payment’s for California can be accessed here.

House and Senate Move FAA Authorization and Reform Legislation

This week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved by a vote of 32-25, H.R. 2997, the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act, a six-year authorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  The bill would increase funding for the Airport Improvement Program, which provides capital development grants to airports, without increasing federal cap on the airport user fee, the passenger facility charge.  

The bill also continues the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which has provided subsidized air service to many rural communities, and the Small Community Service Development Program, which has helped maintain limited air service to small and rural communities.  The bill also includes a new pilot program, the regional air transportation pilot program, which would allow states and local governments to apply for grants to help subsidize air service to small and rural communities. The bill also proposes to create a not-for-profit corporation to operate the nation’s air traffic control system, making it independent from the federal government.  Dozens of amendments were added to the bill, including one which provided further increases in funding to the Airport Improvement Program and one that would allow the same airport to apply for a Small Community Air Service Development Program for the same project once within ten years, as currently they can only apply for the same project once.  The legislation now moves to the full House of Representatives.

Also this week, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved by voice vote, S. 1405, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017, a five-year authorization bill for FAA.  The bill provides increases to the Airport Improvement Program, though not as high as the House bill, reauthorizes the EAS program and the small community air service development program, protects and maintains the contract tower program, and develops a framework for regulating drones.The bill did not include a proposal to move air traffic control out of the FAA.  The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Congress Debates Agriculture Appropriations and 2018 Farm Bill

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture rejected several of President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the Department of Agriculture. The subcommittee held a markup of the bill on Tuesday, where it received bipartisan praise for funding critical programs for rural communities that were zeroed out by the President’s budget request. The bill will provide $2.6 billion for rural development programs, including $1.25 billion for rural water and waste program loans. 

 The spending bill includes $20 billion in discretionary funding, $876 million more than the current level but $4.64 billion more than President Trump’s proposal. The Agriculture appropriations bill provides $144.9 in total spending, $8.5 billion less than the previous year.

The Agriculture appropriations bill was released the same week as the Senate Agriculture’s hearing on Conservation and Forestry in the 2018 Farm Bill. During the hearing, Senators discussed the important role Farm Bill funded programs play in managing forest land and wildlife in America’s rural areas. Wildfires and drought threaten permanent damage to America’s forest land and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) used this opportunity to call for greater support for America’s forest land. Despite threats being posed to rural America’s natural resources, Farm Bill budget talks are drawing criticism from the right-wing of the Republican party. Heritage Action blames House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX-11) for delaying the budget process by refusing to make cuts to mandatory spending for agriculture and rural development programs. Despite bipartisan support from Representatives and Senators from rural America, the Farm Bill is under intense scrutiny as right-wing conservatives pursue budget cuts across all agencies.

EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Announce Plan to Repeal and Replace WOTUS

This week, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency have announced that they will be officially rescinding the WOTUS rule.  This move is the first step in a two-step process by the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to undo the 2015 WOTUS rule finalized during the Obama Administration and define the term “Waters of the US.” 

Many entities throughout the Country, including state and local governments, were concerned that the 2015 rule would greatly broaden the definition of waters of the US, thus greatly expanding the jurisdiction of the EPA.  In October of last year, the 6th Circuit court of Ohio issued a stay for the rule nationwide.  Earlier this year, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to review and rescind or revise the WOTUS Clean Water rule. 

RCRC Launches Rural County Photo Contest

RCRC has launched the 2017 Rural County Photo Contest!  Kicking off July 1, 2017, 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.  Read More

BULLETIN BOARD

California WaterFix Receives Authorization under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Click here

CDFA Seeks Comments on Requests for Grant Applications for the Healthy Soils Program.

Click here

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Assembly Bill 64 (Bonta): Cannabis: Medical and Nonmedical. Assembly Bill 64 would amend the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. Status: AB 64 awaits action in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. RCRC Position: Watch

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 Elections and Constitutional Amendments 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 Health Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 174 (Bigelow): California Transportation Commission (CTC): Membership.  Assembly Bill 174 would require that at least one voting member serving on the California Transportation Commission reside in a rural county with a population less than 100,000 individuals.  Status: AB 174 awaits action in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.  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 Environmental Quality 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 Natural Resources and Water 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 awaits the consideration of the Governor.  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 263 (Rodriguez): Emergency Medical Services Workers: Working Conditions. Assembly Bill 263 relates to the Emergency Medical Services System and the Prehospital Emergency Medical Care Personnel Act and would require an employer that provides emergency medical services as part of an emergency medical services system or plan to authorize and permit its employees to take prescribed rest periods. Status: AB 263 awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Position: Oppose

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 awaits action in the Senate.  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 376 (Chavez): Veteran’s Benefits: Veteran Farmers or Ranchers.  Assembly Bill 376 would require the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, in coordination with other state agencies to identify and disseminate specified information to assist veterans in entering farming or ranching careers.  Status: AB 376 awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  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. 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 Assembly.  Status: Support

Assembly Bill 851 (Caballero): Local Agency Design-Build Projects. Assembly Bill 851 would extend the sunset on county authority to utilize the construction manager at risk (CMAR) project delivery method. Status: AB 851 awaits action in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 920 (Aguiar-Curry): Electricity: Integrated Resource Plans.  Assembly Bill 920 would require 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 Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 975 (Friedman): Natural Resources: Wild and Scenic Rivers. Assembly Bill 975 would expand the area protected in the state’s Wild & Scenic Rivers System from immediately adjacent to the affected river segment to one-quarter of a mile, including both public and private lands. Status: AB 975 awaits action in the Assembly.  RCRC Position:  Oppose

Assembly Bill 1066 (Aguiar-Curry): Public Works: Definition.  Assembly Bill 1066 would revise the definition of the term “demolition” as it relates to public works to include tree removal for the purposes of payment of prevailing wages. Status: AB 1066 awaits action in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.  RCRC Position: Concerns

Assembly Bill 1069 (Low): Local Government: Taxicab Transportation Services.  Assembly Bill 1069 would make changes to the local licensing of taxicabs.  Status: AB 1069 awaits action in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.  RCRC Position: Oppose

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 Governance and Finance Committee.  RCRC Position: Oppose

Assembly Bill 1414 (Friedman): Solar Energy System Permits. Assembly Bill 1414 would set a hard cap on permitting fees for solar installations. Status: AB 1414 awaits action in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. RCRC Position: Oppose

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 awaits action in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. RCRC Status: Watch

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 concerns. The author has committed to taking amendments to address local government.  Status: SB 167 awaits action in the Assembly Local Government Committee. RCRC Position:  Oppose

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

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 Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 506 (Nielsen): Streambed Alteration Agreements.  Senate Bill 506 would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to update its Website to provide more useful information to landowners regarding streambed alteration agreements. Status:  SB 506 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 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 Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee.  RCRC Position: Watch

Senate Bill 649 (Hueso): Wireless Telecommunications Facilities.  Senate Bill 649 would amend 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 Communications & Conveyance Committee. RCRC Position: Oppose