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FEBRUARY 8, 2008

California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review

It was a quiet week in the Capitol with regard to specific legislative activity with much of the focus being on the February 5th primary and the aftermath of Tuesday’s election results. By now most have seen the major results with Propositions 91 (Transportation Funds) and 92 (Community College Funding) going down to defeat and all four Indian Gaming initiatives (Props. 94, 95, 96 and 97) being approved. The gaming initiatives will allow four tribes to place 17,000 additional slot machines in their casinos. The initiatives are projected to bring up to $9 billion dollars into the state’s coffers over the next twenty years although estimates of actual revenues vary.

The defeat of the legislative term limit initiative (Proposition 93) generated a flood of activity under the dome this week with legislative Democrats in both houses jockeying for position to succeed Senate President pro tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Both Perata and Nunez will be termed out of office later this year as a result of Proposition 93 failing along with 32 other legislators. The measure was defeated with 54% of the voters opposed and 46% in favor on the initiative.

In the Senate, Senator Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento moved quickly to secure sufficient support to be designated the next president pro tem. A formal vote will not be taken until August 21 and Perata will serve as pro tem until November. Steinberg will become the first Sacramentan to hold the senate leadership position since 1883. Steinberg, 48, currently chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. He also sits on the Appropriations Committee, the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee and the Health Committee. He also served six years in the state assembly.

Who will become speaker of the assembly is much less certain. There are 8-10 assembly democrats who have expressed interest in the post with two members already declaring their candidacy for the top spot in the lower house yesterday. Both Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada) and Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) have announced their interest in becoming speaker. Bass is said to be the “front runner” at this time. Others interested in the leadership position include Alberto Torrico of Newark, Fiona Ma of San Francisco and Charles Calderon of Whittier. Calderon may be best remembered for being one of the “Gang of Five” during Speaker Willie Brown’s reign. Assembly democrats are planning to vote for a new speaker on March 11, but Nunez will stay on as speaker until the end of the legislative session.

CFBF testified Thursday before the California Fish and Game Commission hearing regarding a petition to list Longfin smelt. The Commission voted unanimously to classify the Longfin smelt as a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). In August 2007, The Bay Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council submitted a petition to list the Longfin smelt to both the Fish and Game Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Commission’s decision starts a process that provides the Department of Fish and Game up to one year to complete a status review of the species and provide recommendations on listing, habitat necessary for recovery, and management activities necessary for recovery.

Candidate species receive the same protections under CESA that listed species have, meaning take is prohibited without an incidental take permit. Such an outcome would potentially have rendered operations of the state water project, as well as other diversions immediately liable for take of the species. To avoid an absurd outcome in the widely expected event of a listing, CFBF, Westlands Water District, State Water Project and others requested a special rule to allow operations to continue during the candidacy period, subject to certain terms and conditions, including potential additional pumping curtailments under certain conditions and at certain times of the year. The Commission’s temporary emergency rule also provides incidental take authority to local diverters, but new diversions or making repairs or upgrades to diversions may trigger screening requirements subject to the Delta smelt criteria.

The last day for new legislation to be introduced for the 2007-08 Legislative Session is February 22. Hundreds of new bills will be in print shortly thereafter at which time Farm Bureau’s Governmental Affairs staff will begin reviewing and analyzing the reams of new bills to determine their impact on Farm Bureau members. More on what new has been placed in the legislative hopper in a few weeks.

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