The Barbed Wire - September 16, 2016

September 16, 2016
RCRC’s 2016 Annual Meeting – REGISTER TODAY!!!
Annual Meeting Preview: There’s an App for That: The Impacts of the Internet on California’s Rural Economy
Governor Brown Urged to Re-Affirm Commitment to California PILT Counties
Governor Signs Slate of Urban-Focused Climate Bills
Congress Continues Efforts to Provide Federal Funding
Senate Passes WRDA Bill

RCRC’s 2016 Annual Meeting – REGISTER TODAY!!!

RCRC’s 2016 Annual Meeting will be held September 28-30 at the Resort at Squaw Creek in Placer County.  This year’s program will feature experts discussing a wide range of topics of interest to rural counties including:

  • An Insider’s Perspective on the U.S. Supreme Court;
  • Balancing the Benefits and Challenges of Drones;
  • There’s an App for That: The Impacts of the Internet on California’s Rural Economy;
  • Too Much At Once?  Criminal Justice Reform in California;
  • Emerging From the Shadows – Regulating the Medical Marijuana Industry;
  • Rebuilding the American Dream: The Changing Focus of Housing Needs;
  • Expert Commentary on the Current Political Landscape; and,
  • Navigating the Foster Care System.

To register for RCRC’s 2016 Annual Meeting or to access the current program, click here.

Annual Meeting Preview: There’s an App for That: The Impacts of the Internet on California’s Rural Economy

The digital revolution has been bringing about changes for years, and consistently driving new laws and regulations at the state level. Recent trends in online storefronts, transportation, and lodging all provide new, unlimited opportunities for entrepreneurs in every part of the state. But how has this changing business model impacted traditional marketplace retailers, and the State’s regulatory framework?

  • Lucas Puente, Economist, Thumbtack
  • Lauren Kimzey, State & Local Government Affairs Manager, Internet Association
  • Devin Whitney, Senior Manager, State Government Relations, PayPal

Governor Brown Urged to Re-Affirm Commitment to California PILT Counties

Patricia Megason, Rural County Representatives of California

Jay Ziegler, The Nature Conservancy

Natural resource restoration programs are complicated.  To be successful, science must align with local planning and land use, and the program must provide a balanced solution acceptable to a variety of stakeholders.  One such program currently awaiting Governor Brown’s review seeks to restore the State’s commitment to its county partners involving the restoration of state wildland areas.  

Overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature, Senator Mike McGuire’s (D-Healdsburg) Senate Bill 1188 reflects a bipartisan effort to restore Fish and Game Code language making State Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments to counties a requirement.  This is an important element to keep local government “whole” in meeting larger statewide resource management objectives.

When adopted in 1949, State PILT was established to offset the reduction in county property tax revenues resulting when the State acquired property for wildlife management areas.  When such property is acquired, the State is required by law to pay annually to the county in which the property is located an amount equal to the county taxes levied upon the property at the time title was transferred to the State.  However, while the State continues to obtain property for wildlife management areas, the State’s payment of PILT had fallen off for more than a decade when the Department of Fish and Wildlife failed to meet its obligations.  Further aggravating the State/County “promise,” the 2015 final State Budget Package included language in the Fish and Game Code that changed “shall” to “may” to make future State PILT payments permissive.

36 California counties rely on State PILT to fund a variety of programs and services for residents, including public safety, fire and emergency services, and local roads and streets.  California counties are already doing everything they can to reduce expenses, tighten budgets, and find funding for critical programs and services for residents.  Removing the State’s obligated PILT funding could cripple some rural county budgets, resulting in serious secondary consequences for California residents.

While Governor Brown has honored the State’s commitment to PILT, the language change reflected in the 2015-16 State Budget Package allows future Administration’s to view State PILT as permissive, as opposed to obligatory.  The Legislature recognizes the importance of State PILT, and we urge the Governor to re-affirm the State’s commitment to 36 California counties and sign SB 1188. 

Governor Signs Slate of Urban-Focused Climate Bills

Over the past week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a number of bills related to climate change that he hopes will further the State’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals. 

Beginning last week with the signing of Senate Bill 32 (Pavley), which establishes greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets for the year 2030, and Assembly Bill 197 (Eduardo Garcia), which gives the Legislature increased oversight of the California Air Resources Board, the Administration has now approved a number of measures placing stricter requirements on various industries and placing increased emphasis on benefits to residents in urban areas and the Central Valley.  Continuing the trend, the Governor approved additional climate change measures earlier this week, including a spending plan for California’s available pot of Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds and Assembly Bill 1550 (Gomez), a bill that further narrows where those proceeds can be spent to benefit disadvantaged communities.

While the Governor and various authors of the bills lauded the measures as beneficial to California’s low income residents, they will still largely provide little benefit to poor, disadvantaged communities in rural, forested areas in the northern part of the state.  The final Cap-and-Trade spending plan whittled away almost all of the funding to forest health projects that the Administration had previously promised to uphold for most of the session, leaving only $25 million of the $1 billion plan dedicated to wildfire prevention, tree mortality mitigation, carbon sequestration, and other vital climate change efforts in the forests.  Similarly, while AB 1550 began its life with a provision requiring 25 percent of all Cap-and-Trade proceeds to be spent in low income communities statewide, giving rural areas currently excluded from the definition of “disadvantaged” by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) hope for a competitive boost for the funds, that number was dropped to a disappointing 5 percent during the last two weeks of session.  One bright spot was the Governor’s signing of Senate Bill 859, a budget trailer bill including a provision requiring utilities to procure specific amounts of generating capacity from bioenergy facilities using feedstock from high hazard tree mortality areas.  The provision was a last minute effort to help keep some of the state’s imperiled biomass facilities from closing while counties, State agencies, and the USDA Forest Service continue to work with utilities and private entities to mitigate the tree mortality disaster in California.  

Congress Continues Efforts to Provide Federal Funding

This week, Congress continued to face a September 30, 2016 deadline to pass legislation to ensure federal funding is available in fiscal year 2017.  Congressional leaders worked through the week to finalize an agreement but were unable to close funding negotiations and vote on a short-term funding solution through a continuing resolution (CR). 

The major issues that have delayed negotiations are Zika funding, funding to address Flint, Michigan’s lead-contaminated drinking water, and funding to help Louisiana recover from recent floods.  Congressional leadership expects negotiations to be finalized on a CR by next week leading to votes in the Senate and possibly in the House during the upcoming week.

Senate Passes WRDA Bill

The Senate passed a version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) (S. 2848) by a vote of 95-3.  WRDA authorizes projects and activities related to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The legislation includes funding for Lake Tahoe Restoration projects, authorizes help for the Salton Sea as well as some funding for Sacramento-area flood control projects among others in California.  

While the $10.6 billion Senate-passed bill contains $220 million in direct funding to help Flint, Michigan, the WRDA bill pending in the House does not contain funding for Flint.  This is expected to be an issue once the two bills go to conference.  Finally, passage of the Senate WRDA bill places additional pressure on the House to find a way to get the House WRDA bill (H.R. 5303) to be considered on the floor before Congress goes into recess until after the November elections.  Recent conversations convey a general sense of cautious optimism that WRDA will, in fact, be taken up and approved.


Rural Advanced Manufacturing and Emerging Renewables

Rural America, and especially rural California, offers many benefits to both domestic and international firms seeking potential sites for advanced manufacturing facilities.  With the world’s sixth largest economy, major transportation thoroughfares, available regional workforce, and general lower cost-of-living compared to its urban counterparts, California’s rural communities offer a plethora of potential benefits for investors.  If coupled with local government officials and community stakeholders championing these efforts, rural California has the potential to attract job-creating enterprises into its communities.

The issue of declining manufacturing in America has been a prevalent topic of discussion from mainstream presidential candidates and the media throughout the current election cycle, and there will undoubtedly be continued focus on how America can rebuild this sector of the economy.  As solar, wind and geothermal increasingly play a greater role in energy generation and become more proliferate in the market, the need for advanced manufacturing may well follow, and rural America has many benefits that could attract investment.  There are valuable resources available to assist local communities in attracting potential investors.  The Department of Commerce’s SelectUSA program, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development’s International Affairs and Trade Development program and California Business Investment Services Unit offer services to assist local communities in connecting with interested investors, help prepare the communities for site visits, provide specific data and informational sources, and serve as a liaison between potential investors and various governmental and regulatory entities.

In order for this potential emerging economic driver to become a reality, addressing infrastructure needs in rural areas is absolutely critical, and the infrastructure investment is not merely limited to transportation projects. Investment in reliable water supplies, grid capacity, broadband and more, are all necessary pieces of the puzzle.

USDA Rural Development Water Infrastructure Funding

The USDA offers loan, loan guarantees and grants to communities with fewer than 10,000 residents through its Water and Waste Water Disposal Loan and Grant Program.  This program helps fund projects that provide clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal and solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.  Eligible applicants include municipalities, county districts, authorities or other political subdivisions of a state, territories, or federally recognized Tribes.

Eligible water, waste water, sewage or solid waste project purposes may include the following:

  • To construct, enlarge, extend or otherwise improve rural water, sanitary sewage, solid waste disposal, and storm wastewater disposal facilities
  • To construct or relocate public or private buildings, roads, bridges, fences, or utilities, and to make other public improvements necessary for the successful operation or protection of facilities
  • For payment of other utility connection charges as provided in service contracts between utility systems

Funds may be used for the following purposes:

  • Legal and engineering studies
  • Land acquisition, water and land rights, permits and equipment
  • Start-up construction, operations and maintenance
  • Interest incurred during construction
  • Purchase of existing facilities to improve service or prevent loss of service
  • Other costs determined necessary for completion of the project

For the latest award information in California and the U.S., please click here.

Prop 1 Fund Expenditures

In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 1, which provides more than $7 billion in general obligation bond funding to improve water quality, supply and infrastructure.  To date, approximately two percent, or $177 million of the funds have been invested.  In this article by Water Deeply, Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California outlines the  reasons for the lengthy fund deployment process and what stakeholders at the local and regional level can expect in the near and long-term future.

Senate Passes $9.4 Billion Water Bill to Improve Waterway Infrastructure and Aid Contaminated Water Supplies

On a 95-3 vote, the Senate passed legislation aimed at improving waterway infrastructure and providing assistance to communities with contaminated water supplies.  There has been significant media related to the Flint, Michigan crisis, but it is fairly well-known both Californians and Americans alike are experiencing similar emergencies throughout the State and country.

Water Investment and Affordability

As California prepares to deploy funding to construct and rehabilitate desperately needed water projects throughout the state, it will be critical for utilities, regulatory agencies, investors, state and local officials, and customers to engage in the rate setting process to ensure there is a balance between return on investments and the potential impact on ratepayers.  The Brookings Institute released an article which starts to address some of the issues that all stakeholders may want to consider as projects start to receive funding.


Broadband deployment throughout rural California will continue to be a critical component to economic growth and job creation, but there are significant challenges that are unique to rural communities.  High-cost build-outs in rugged and remote terrain, vast geographical areas, and limited potential customer bases to support the high-cost and many other challenges have limited the available high-speed broadband options for rural communities.  The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released this toolkit to assist communities in obtaining more broadband infrastructure opportunities.

In addition, the NTIA and National Science Foundation are seeking stakeholder comments to help inform the National Broadband Research Agenda.  The purpose of this effort is to obtain public's input will help to improve data collection, analysis and research for the benefit of broadband policy development, program implementation and program evaluation.

The information sought includes input in four areas:

  • Broadband technology
  • Broadband access and adoption
  • Socioeconomic impacts
  • Opportunities for federal leadership

The questions generally include:

  • What research proposals regarding broadband access should be prioritized?
  • How can cross-disciplinary collaboration in broadband research be enhanced?
  • What is needed to understand how to reach population groups that have traditionally under-utilized broadband technology?

If you or your agency is interested in submitting comments, please click here.  Comments are due by October 11, 2016.


As technological advancements rapidly increase into the early 21st century, the issue of whether technology will create jobs and economic growth looms large.  In this Bloomberg article, two economists put forth competing views about the near and long-term impacts technology may have on future U.S. productivity. 


Mono County Seeks Deputy County Counsel I/II/III, Assistant County Counsel

Click here

CETF 2016 Annual Survey of Local Government Officials

Click here

Water-Energy Grant Program Solicitation

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2016 California Preseason Flood Coordination Meetings

Click here

Vibrant Communities and Landscapes Draft Report Released

Click here

2015 American Community Survey

Social and economic characteristics data, such as, income, poverty, education, marital status, health insurance coverage, disability and much more.

Click here

Notice of Filing and Public Comment Period: Amendment to the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary and Supporting Draft Revised Substitute Environmental Document

Click here


RCRC members are encouraged to share letters addressed to state and federal representatives and regulatory bodies with RCRC’s Government Affairs staff.  Click “Read More” to access information related to the current status of legislation impacting California’s rural counties.  

AB 1546 (Olsen): Vital Records.  Assembly Bill 1546 authorizes a certified copy of a birth, death, or marriage record to include a feature other than intaglio print that provides equal or greater security protection than intaglio print.  Status:  Signed into law by the Governor.  RCRC Position: Support

AB 1628 (Committee on Budget): No Place Like Home Program: Financing.  Assembly Bill 1628 establishes the bond financing mechanism and structure for funding the $2 billion No Place Like Home homeless housing package that was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in late June 2016.  RCRC worked with a coalition of stakeholder groups to secure amendments on both the No Place Like Home programmatic and financing bills.  Status:  Signed into law by the Governor.  RCRC Position: No Position

AB 2476 (Daly): Notice of Parcel Tax Increases.  Assembly Bill 2476 requires a local agency to notify an out-of-jurisdiction property owner of an approved parcel tax following its successful passage.  Status:  Signed into law by the Governor.  RCRC Position:  Oppose

SB 838 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review): Transportation.  Senate Bill 838 is a 2016-17 budget trailer bill that, in addition to other non-related policy changes, increases the annual vehicle registration fee by $10 from $43 to $53 per year.  The increase in revenues would provide funding to the California Department of Motor Vehicles to support programs and operations.  Status:  Signed into law by the Governor.  RCRC Position: No Position

SB 1029 (Hertzberg): Debt Issuance.  Senate Bill 1029 requires local governments to submit various reporting elements to the California Debt and Investment Advisory Committee for all bond debt that has not been fully repaid or redeemed.  RCRC worked with CSAC and the author’s office over several months to address county concerns.  Status: Signed into law by the Governor.  RCRC Position: No Position


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.  

Update to the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (Proposed CalEnviroScreen 3.0).  The CalEnviroScreen uses a suite of statewide indicators and assigns scores for each indicator in a given geographic area (census tracts).  Scores for the pollution burden and population characteristics categories are then multiplied together.  The intent of this tool is to provide State agencies with a means to prioritize and direct their resources and make policy decisions intended to benefit the most impacted communities.  This latest update incorporates recent data for nearly all indicators, improvements in the way some indicators are calculated, and two new indicators – cardiovascular disease and rent-adjusted income.  The update also includes additional information on pollution sources in Mexico.  The tool precludes 30 counties (27 RCRC counties) from being defined as having any “Disadvantaged Communities.”  Agency: Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Status: Draft released September 6, 2016, available for public comment until October 22, 2016.  Draft proposal and related documents can be accessed hereRCRC Comments: RCRC is seeking member county input.  RCRC Advocates: Mary Pitto and Staci Heaton