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OCTOBER 8, 2006
California Farm Bureau Friday Review of bills

The Governor vetoed SB 1640 by Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). After seven roll call votes spread over three days in the Assembly, Senator Kuehl finally prevailed in passing her latest groundwater reporting bill. SB 1640 would have directed 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 had previously tried to work with the author, proposing amendments that would build on the existing voluntary local groundwater management planning process by making existing data more readily accessible. However, the senator declined those amendments and Farm Bureau remained opposed.

In a dramatic turn of events, AB 1665 (John Laird, D-Santa Cruz), which had been the Governor’s 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. CFBF opposed this bill.

The Governor signed SB 775 (Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks), which was unanimously approved by both houses of the legislature. 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), would have increased fees, reporting, and other requirements under agricultural water quality regulations, failed in the Assembly at the expiration of the session. This bill was carried over from the previous year 2005. Farm Bureau was opposed to the legislation.

As promised, the Governor signed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and Fran Pavely (D-Agoura Hills) working with the Governor, created AB 32. This bill will increase input costs for farmers and ranchers by capping greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources such as production of electricity, cement and oil refining. This is a California-only program and will put California businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Farm Bureau was opposed to this legislation, and now prepares to be a vigilant and active participant in the process of implementation.

SB 1205 by Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) failed to pass the legislature this year. It would have undermined the importance of government accountability by increasing the civil penalties for violations of any air pollution law, regulation, emission limitation, permit condition, or filing requirements from non-vehicular sources from $1,000 to $10,000, when sufficient fines already exist. CFBF opposed this bill.

SB 815, Don Perata (D-Oakland) would roll back part of the successful 2004 workers’ 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 workers’ compensation for employers. Farm Bureau was opposed and Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed SB
815 on September 19.

The Governor signed AB 1835 (Sally Leiber, D-Mountain View). 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 would sign this measure.

The Governor vetoed AB 2327 (Juan Arambula, D-Fresno) which would have created a more bureaucratic business climate by requiring farm labor contractors to print on the pay stubs they provide their employees, the name and address of the farmer or ranch that entered into the contract. It will create unnecessary paperwork and bookkeeping burdens on farm labor contractors. CFBF was opposed.

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 “California only” 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.

The Governor signed SB 1224 (Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata). 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. CFBF was in support.

The Governor signed SB 1237 (Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria). 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. CFBF was in support.

The Governor signed AB 3011 (John Benoit, R-Palm Desert). Initiated by the CHP, it will bring California into compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This measure recognizes the inequality in regulations dealing with foreign motor carriers entering California and will require them to meet the same state and federal proof of financial responsibility, maintenance and safety standards that domestic motor carriers must comply with. In addition, AB 3011 allows 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 have been 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. CFBF was in support.

SB 1056 authored by Dean Florez (D-Shafter); Barbara Matthews (D-Tracy) and Bill Maze (R-Visalia) easily passed out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee on a unanimous vote, moved to the Assembly floor where it passed on a 51-24 vote, and was returned to the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments, and there, because of political game playing, was never taken up for a vote and died the final night of session. This measure would have provided uniform law to clarify the state’s jurisdiction to determine what seeds and nursery stock may be planted on all of California’s farms, ranches and agricultural operations. This measure also would have ensured that the state’s growers could continue to choose from the best available management practices and technology for their operations. A county-by-county patchwork of regulations undermines agricultural viability.

California grows nearly 600,000 acres of biotech-improved crops. This acreage will need to expand significantly to meet renewable energy goals as the majority of bioenergy crops have been produced using biotechnology or are now in the research phase to improve their energy efficiency for fuel production. If we cannot grow these superior renewable bioenergy crops, they will have to be imported from other parts of the country and world. Importing feedstock into California for biofuel production will only increase our fuel prices and defeat the effort to assure energy independence and stability.

SB 1056 would have ensured that current and newly developed food, fiber and agricultural products could be grown in California once they have been thoroughly researched and properly reviewed through the regulatory process. SB 1056 would have also ensured that growers who produce organic, conventional or biotechnology-based commodities could mutually co-exist in a supportive manner that allows each sector to grow safe and healthy products for consumers.

SB 1342 by Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) was placed on the Assembly Inactive file due to the increasing opposition by CFBF and other groups. The bill would have allowed an extension of the length of Timber Harvest Plans (THP) only for those operations that practice uneven aged management and are not in the Southern Sub district of the Coast Forest District. CFBF was opposed to the bill due to the inherent inequities created by the restriction of forest practices and areas eligible for extended THP’s. The sponsors of the bill have expressed an interest in working with CFBF and other groups opposed to the bill to craft legislation that all parties could agree upon to be introduced in the next legislative session.

The Governor signed AB 450 authored by Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). This bill requires the Office of Emergency Services to incorporate the California Animal Response Emergency System into its standardized emergency management system. California’s livestock producers are well aware of the difficulties faced during emergencies when trying to evacuate or protect livestock. CFBF supports this bill as a way to improve coordination between the livestock industries and agencies tasked with emergency planning to ultimately reduce risks to livestock and livestock producers during emergencies.

The Governor signed SB 1578 (Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach), which bans the tethering of dogs for more than three hours in a 24-hour period. Before the final vote 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 went neutral on the bill.



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