The Barbed Wire - September 15, 2017

September 15, 2017
RCRC Hosts Global Trade Services Workshop in Nevada County
CAFWA Kicks-Off Water Education Foundation Headwaters Tour
USDA Officially Declares 2017 Most Expensive Fire Suppression Season on Record
Funding the Federal Government – Appropriations Bills
Emergency Funding Package – SRS? Wildfire Borrowing?
Federal Tax Reform
2018 Farm Bill Hearings

RCRC Hosts Global Trade Services Workshop in Nevada County

On Thursday, RCRC’s Economic Development team organized the second in a series of Global Trade Services Workshops.  Nevada County Supervisor Dan Miller provided opening remarks. 

In partnership with the Nevada County Economic Resource Council, Sacramento Center for International Trade Development, and U.S. Commercial Services-Sacramento, the workshop provided a high-level overview of the exporting process, the “need to knows,” the resources and funding available to businesses new to exporting, and ways to enhance exporting opportunities for businesses already exporting. 

"RCRC is constantly looking for ways to assist rural counties in the area of economic development," said Supervisor Miller.  “The workshop is a great opportunity for local businesses to receive training and gain a better understanding of the international markets available to them.”

Details of the workshop can be accessed here.  The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development presentation can be accessed here.

CAFWA Kicks-Off Water Education Foundation Headwaters Tour

On Wednesday, Justin Caporusso, RCRC Vice President of External Affairs, and Chair of the California Forest Watershed Alliance (CAFWA), kicked-off the Water Education Foundation’s 2017 Headwaters Tour.  CAFWA co-sponsored the tour, and was given a platform to discuss the importance of California’s forested watersheds, and CAFWA’s priorities related to ecologically-based forest management practices.

The two-day tour included various stops within the El Dorado and Placer watersheds, offering participants a firsthand look at the water facilities, rivers and regions critical in the debate about the future of water resources.  Issues of water supply, water quality, environmental restoration, flood management, groundwater and water conservation are addressed by a wide range of speakers representing different viewpoints.

The Water Education Foundation’s stated mission is to create a better understanding and resolution of water resource issues through facilitation, education and outreach. 

Founded in 2014, CAFWA is a nonpartisan, urban-rural coalition representing water interests, local governments, the conservation community, agriculture, and the forestry sector, created to promote the restoration and improvement of California’s forested watersheds.

USDA Officially Declares 2017 Most Expensive Fire Suppression Season on Record

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that wildland fire suppression costs for this fiscal year have exceeded $2 billion, making 2017 the most expensive fire suppression year in USDA Forest Service (USFS) history.  The costs of fighting wildfires on national forest lands consistently exceeds 55 percent of the USFS budget annually, with that percentage rising slightly each year as the agency’s resources are pulled away from forest management projects that would help prevent such a large number of high severity wildfires.  The implications are particularly great in California, where one-fifth of the total land mass is managed by the USFS and more than 70 percent lies in RCRC member counties. 

The practice of moving funds from forest management to fire suppression activities has become known as “fire borrowing.”  Several federal measures have been proposed in recent years to end fire borrowing and fund fire suppression activities from emergency funds, but none have successfully passed through Congress.  Both USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue and newly-appointed USFS Chief Tony Tooke once again called for Congress on Thursday to end fire borrowing by committing to passing legislation to fund fire suppression activities from emergency funds as other disasters are funded to allow the USFS to direct its funds toward wildfire prevention and forest management projects.  

The USDA press release can be accessed here.

Funding the Federal Government – Appropriations Bills

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the remaining eight appropriations bills, completing all 12 appropriation bills through the House.  These measures attempt to provide funding for the 2018 Fiscal Year for a variety of federal programs and departments. 

The House’s effort was of limited value as the U.S. Senate will not be able to pass appropriations bills at the reduced funding levels.  Earlier in the week, President Trump reached an agreement with Democratic leaders to pass a Continuing Resolution and raise the debt limit until December 8, 2017.  Thus, Senate appropriators are now talking in earnest about raising the budget caps imposed by previous fiscal agreements – ideally more than one year – with some members openly talking about removing the caps all together.  It is expected that leaders in both chambers will reach an agreement on a new funding level in October, and negotiations on “new” appropriations bills and funding levels will take place in October and November, leading to an Omnibus appropriations package in December.   

Emergency Funding Package – SRS? Wildfire Borrowing?

Members of both parties and both houses of Congress continue to negotiate the next emergency supplemental package in response to Hurricane’s Harvey and Irma.  There is speculation about what additional items might be included into this “must pass” relief package. 

In meetings on Capitol Hill this week, RCRC staff and its federal lobbying team were made aware of language to address wildfire funding and a possible two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program (SRS) being included.  RCRC’s federal lobbying team will be monitoring this closely and updating as additional intelligence is confirmed.

Federal Tax Reform

Congressional Republicans want to avoid a repeat of their failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare by focusing on adopting a legislative strategy on tax reform.  On Wednesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) outlined a plan for House Republicans to move ahead with tax reform. 

According to Brady, Republican leadership will release the framework of a bill on September 25, 2017.  This will only be a framework because the details of a tax reform bill cannot be negotiated before the House and Senate reach an agreement on a budget resolution.  The House Republican leadership’s goal is to begin the markup process within the Ways and Means Committee in October, and will attempt to approve a final budget resolution by then.  Representative Brady is releasing the framework ahead of time to provide Republican tax negotiators with enough of a cushion to persuade conservatives on the bill before heading into budget talks.

2018 Farm Bill Hearings

Republicans continued to push their legislative agenda while privately fuming over President Trump’s deal-making with opposition leaders.  On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee held its eighth hearing in preparation for the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill.

The focus of this hearing was on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other related nutrition programs under Title IV of the Farm Bill.  In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) emphasized the importance of the hearing process as an opportunity to review U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and “ensure that they are operating efficiently and effectively.”  Chairman Roberts expressed concern regarding the SNAP program’s lack of oversight.  SNAP accounts for over 75 percent of Farm Bill spending, but Chairman Roberts claimed states are cheating the system, preventing USDA from measuring the program’s mission success.  Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) also acknowledged that SNAP is problematic, while discouraging Committee members from punishing families who rely on the program.


Save-the-Date: Webinar to Review BLM Report on Streamlining Planning & NEPA

Earlier this year, Secretary Ryan Zinke, U.S. Department of the Interior, directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to begin a focused effort to identify and implement results oriented improvements to its land-use planning and NEPA processes.  As part of this effort, BLM was tasked with identifying redundancies and inefficient processes and eliminating them, while fulfilling its legal and resource stewardship responsibilities.  Upon completion of this analysis and evaluation, BLM was tasked with preparing a report to provide recommendations for any regulatory and legislative actions necessary to streamline and improve the land use planning and NEPA processes.

On September 21, 2017, BLM will host a webinar presenting the contents of the report and addressing any questions before it is finalized.


RCRC members are encouraged to share letters addressed to state and federal representatives and regulatory bodies with RCRC’s Government Affairs staff. 

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 to include rural area clinics that have 30 percent of patients from medically underserved populations. Status: AB 148 awaits final consideration in the Senate Appropriations 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 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 final consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 524 (Bigelow): Public Utilities: Fines and Settlements. Assembly Bill 524 Appropriates moneys resulting from specified citations relating to the 2015 Butte Fire to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to be expended for the Department's program known as the State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fund and Tree Mortality Grant Program. Status:  AB 524 awaits the consideration of the Governor.  RCRC Position: 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 on the Senate Floor. RCRC Position: Support

Assembly Bill 979 (Lackey): Local Agency Formations Commission: Representation. Assembly Bill 979 would facilitate special district representation on Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs). Status: AB 979 has been signed into law by the Governor. RCRC Position: Support

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 on the Assembly Floor.  RCRC Position: Removed Opposition – Neutral

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 consideration in the Senate Rules Committee. RCRC Position: Oppose

Assembly Bill 1410 (Wood): Emergency Services and Children’s Health Care Coverage.  Assembly Bill 583 would amend existing law to rename the Emergency Medical Air Transportation Act Fund as the Emergency Medical Air Transportation and Children’s Coverage Fund. Authorizes the department to use money to fund children’s health care coverage relating to emergency medical air transportation. Status: AB 1410 gained passage in the Senate and Assembly, and awaits the Governor's consideration. RCRC Position: Support

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 the consideration of the Governor. RCRC Position: Oppose

Assembly Bill 1479 (Bonta): Public Records: Supervisor of Records: Civil Penalties.  Assembly Bill 1479 would amend the Public Records Act. Requires public agencies to designate a person or office to act as the agency’s custodian of records who is responsible for responding to any request made under the Act and any inquiry from the public about a decision by the agency to deny a request for records. Requires specified state and local agencies to establish written guidelines for accessibility of records.  Status: AB 1479 awaits the consideration of the Governor. RCRC Position: Removed Opposition – Neutral

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 on the Assembly Floor. RCRC Position: Oppose Unless Amended

Senate Bill 25 (Portantino): Elections: Ballot Orders.  SB 25 would establish a revised order of offices on the ballot requiring that local offices and local measures appear first and be listed under a specified heading. Require that county offices and measures appear next, then state offices and measures, and then state judicial offices, all appearing under a specific heading. Requires that nominees for federal offices, including President and Vice President, appear last and appear under a specific heading.  Status: SB 25 awaits consideration in the Assembly Higher Education Committee.  RCRC Position: Watch

Senate Bill 187 (Berryhill): Sport Fishing Licenses. Senate Bill 187 would revise the duration of sport fishing licenses to twelve consecutive months. Status:  SB 187 awaits final consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 252 (Dodd): Well Permits. Senate Bill 252 relates to new well permits issued in critically over-drafted groundwater basins. Status:  SB 252 gained passage in the Senate and Assembly, and awaits the Governor's consideration. 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:  AB 265 awaits final consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 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 gained passage in the Senate and Assembly, and awaits the Governor's consideration. RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 568 (Lara): Primary Elections: Election Date.  Senate Bill 568 would permanently place the Presidential Primary Election and the Gubernatorial Primary Election in March.  Status: SB 568 awaits action on the Assembly Floor.  RCRC Position: Oppose

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 623 awaits consideration in the Assembly Rules Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

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: SB 649 gained passage in the Senate and Assembly, and awaits the Governor's consideration. RCRC Position: Oppose