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California Farm Bureau Friday Review of bills and laws  September 1, 2006

After seven roll call votes spread over three days in the Assembly, Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) finally prevailed in passing her latest groundwater reporting bill. SB 1640 would direct either a local water district or the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to establish a groundwater monitoring network in every groundwater basin in the state and charge every well owner in the basin for the costs of performing the monitoring. Farm Bureau is opposed to this legislation and is urging the governor to veto it.

In a rather dramatic turn of events, AB 1665 (John Laird, D-Santa Cruz), which had been the Governorís flood control bill, was held without a vote in the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee after it was amended in the Senate to include several more controversial provisions from various other flood control bills. Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata had decided to hold most of the pending flood control bills in the Senate, and then reversed course and combined several features of most of the bills into AB
1665, which was approved in the Senate on the last day of the session and sent back to the Assembly. The final form of the bill was broadly opposed by a variety of flood control stakeholders, including Farm Bureau, on a wide range of issues. But the most contentious items were the inclusion of a provision that would make local governments liable for flood damages even where they are not involved in design, construction, or maintenance of levees and flood channels, and the exclusion of a provision that would have required local governments to require a certain level of flood protection before approving new residential subdivisions. In the Assembly, the bill was referred to the Water Committee for a hearing, and held without a vote. The chair of the Assembly Water Committee, Lois Wolk (D - Davis), had been the author of the excluded land use provisions. During a hastily called hearing of the Assembly Water Committee, late in the evening of the last day of the session, nobody testified in support of the bill, and numerous local government and development interests testified in opposition based on the local government liability provisions. After discussion, the Committee decided to hold the bill without action, preventing it from being taken up on the Assembly floor that evening.

As previously reported, SB 775 (Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks) was unanimously approved by both houses of the legislature, and has gone to the Governorís desk where it is expected to be signed. This bill, which is sponsored by Farm Bureau, will clarify procedures for improving the cost effectiveness of watermaster service in Northern California by replacing the Department of Water Resources as the watermaster with a local agency acceptable to the local courts.

SB 646 (Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica), which would have increased fees, reporting, and other requirements under agricultural water quality regulations, failed in the Assembly at the expiration of the session. Farm Bureau was opposed to the legislation.

SB 815, Don Perata (D-Oakland) has been passed by the Legislature and now moves to the Governorís desk. If signed the measure would roll back part of the successful 2004 workersí compensation reforms by doubling the permanent disability benefits paid to injured workers over three years. This bill was carried by the Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata for organized labor and will substantially increase the cost of workersí compensation for employers. For these reasons, the Farm Bureau and other employer groups are urging Governor Schwarzenegger to veto the bill when it reaches his desk.

AB 1835 (Sally Leiber, D-Mountain View), passed by the Legislature, now moves to the Governorís desk for his signature. Governor Schwarzenegger, joined by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D- Oakland) and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) agreed to increase California's minimum wage to $8 an hour from the current $6.75. The wage will increase by 75 cents on January 1, 2007 and 50 cents on January 1, 2008, but will not include indexing every year to the rate of inflation, as originally proposed. CFBF policy supports a national uniform minimum wage and is therefore opposed to this legislation, however the Governor has publicly stated that he will sign this measure.

SB 1578 (Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach), which bans the tethering of dogs for more than three hours in a 24-hour period, passed off both the Assembly and Senate floors yesterday and is now on its way to the Governorís desk. Last week Senator Lowenthal agreed to amend the bill to exempt working dogs used on farms and ranches and dogs used for hunting from the restrictions in the bill. With these amendments, CFBF removed its opposition and is now neutral on the bill.

Thanks to the diligent efforts by the large business coalition in opposition and the many letters sent by Farm Bureau members SB 419 by Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) was placed on the Assembly Inactive file in the final hours of session. This bill would have imposed ďCalifornia onlyĒ regulations on rail tank cars entering the state and would have resulted in the shortage of necessary raw materials, fuel, gases and chemicals used for crop production and protection, sewage treatment, the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and electronic equipment in California. Many thanks to all of you who voiced your opposition by sending a letter to your legislator.

SB 1224 (Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata) passed unanimously out of the Senate and has been sent to the Governor. This bill will extend the exemption in current state law to January 1, 2012, and will allow licensed carriers of livestock utilizing semi-trailer combinations, which do not exceed 70 feet in total length and kingpin to rear axle settings of 40 feet, access to Humboldt and Del Norte counties via Highway 101.

SB 1237 (Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria) passed out of the Senate on a 29-1 vote. This bill will continue the exemption currently in law, that allows agricultural product haulers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties to use motor truck two-pull trailer combinations up to 75 feet in length, until January 1, 2009. This measure now goes to the Governor for his action.

AB 3011 (John Benoit, R-Palm Desert) passed out of the Assembly on a unanimous vote. This Highway Patrol sponsored bill will bring California into compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. AB 3011 will also create an exemption for hay growers, hauling their own hay, in the course of conducting their farming operation to continue to secure their hay loads using the same tie-down methods and safety measures that they are accustomed to. This exemption is in recognition that the new federal load securement regulations do not specifically address the uniqueness of this commodity. Commercial or for-hire hay haulers will be required to comply with the new load securement regulations on January 1, 2007, as mandated by this legislation. The bill is on the Governorís desk awaiting his signature.

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