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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review, 7/13/07
SB 180-Secret Ballot Elections
SB 178-Groundwater Legislation
AB 1338-Non-point source pollution
AB 1634-Pets, Spaying and Neutering

Legislation, that would allow farm workers to unionize by merely signing authorization cards instead of through secret ballot elections, has passed the Assembly on virtually a partisan vote of 45 to 33. The only Democrat that voted against the measure, along with all the Republicans, was Assemblymember Nicole Parra, (D-Bakersfield). Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani (D-Modesto) abstained from voting. The Measure, SB 180, authored by Senator Carole Migden, (D-San Francisco), and sponsored by The United Farm Workers Union, now goes back to the Senate for approval of Assembly amendments before going to the Governor. If the Governor should sign this into law, it will totally undermine a farm worker's right to a secret ballot election that currently allows them the opportunity to cast a ballot privately without fear of coercion or manipulation by any interested party. County Farm Bureaus and their members are urged to immediately write the Governor to veto SB 180 when it reaches his desk. Please refer to the "Farm Team Alert" for a sample letter or click here.

Breakthrough On Groundwater Legislation. For the past three legislative sessions, the Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee has pursued legislation to create a statewide groundwater monitoring and reporting mandate. California Farm Bureau has lead the charge to ensure that groundwater remains a local resource and that the overlying groundwater rights of farmers and ranchers are fully protected. In both 2005 and 2006, legislation by State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D – Santa Monica) was passed by the legislature and vetoed by the governor. This year, the new committee chair, Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), introduced SB 178, which is identical to the Kuehl groundwater reporting mandate that was vetoed last year.

Last week, in the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee, Senator Steinberg offered amendments to SB 178 which eliminate the groundwater monitoring and reporting mandate, and which add protections in local groundwater monitoring programs for farmers and ranchers with overlying groundwater rights. This is a significant breakthrough, resulting in a bill that is consistent with California Farm Bureau policy on groundwater. Once these amendments appear in print, CFBF will remove its opposition to the bill and will be neutral. The amendments do the following:

1. Eliminate the statewide mandate for groundwater monitoring and reporting, leaving it to each basin’s groundwater users to decide whether they need a local monitoring program or not;

2. Eliminate the authority of the Department of Water Resources to impose its own groundwater monitoring programs on local basins, and any fee associated with such programs, while expressing the legislature’s intent that the DWR continue to operate its own statewide monitoring well network;

3. Ensure that local monitoring programs that are reported to the state allow farmers and ranchers, as overlying groundwater right holders, the ability to submit data on their historic uses, if they want to, in order to protect those rights in groundwater management actions and adjudication proceedings;

4. State that nothing in the bill changes any provision of California groundwater law, thus ensuring that the bill cannot be read as applying the public trust doctrine to groundwater.

Much of the credit for this breakthrough must go to the many County Farm Bureaus and individual Farm Bureau members throughout the state who have tirelessly contacted their legislators, key committee members, and the Governor. This kind of significant breakthrough is an example of what coordinated action can do to protect the property and civil rights of California’s farmers and ranchers.

Coastal Commission Water Quality Bill Fails. AB 1338 failed in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee after the author, Assemblyman Jarred Huffman (D-San Rafael) refused to take amendments that were necessary to secure enough votes for passage. The bill would grant the Coastal Commission regulatory authority over non-point source pollution in the Coastal Zone that duplicates programs already in place with the regional water quality control boards. Senator Mike Machado (D – Linden) insisted that the author amend the bill to clarify that the regional water boards would remain the standard setting authority, thus preventing the coastal commission from imposing stricter or inconsistent standards. Assemblyman Huffman refused to take this amendment, and the bill failed passage, with Senator Machado joining the committee Republicans in declining to vote for the bill.

The Senate Local Government Committee held AB 1634 (Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys) this week. This bill would have required all dogs and cats in the state to be spayed or neutered unless they were eligible for and obtained intact permits from their local animal control agencies. The committee received over 20,000 letters on this bill and extensive testimony was given on the bill before it ultimately turned into a two-year bill. Senator Kehoe asked for an amendment that would have only required spaying and neutering of dogs and cats after they were found roaming free or if their owners were cited for another animal related violation. Ultimately the committee chair, Senator Negrete-McCloud (D-Chino), was unwilling to accept amendments that the committee had not had a chance to review and gave Assembly Member Levine the opportunity to bring his bill up next year after it had been amended. CFBF remains opposed to this bill, but will review potential amendments to see if they might address our concerns.
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