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California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review
AUGUST 31, 2007
UFW sponsored legislation to circumvent the secret ballot election process, under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, has finally been sent to the Governor. The measure SB 180 (Carole Migden, D-San Francisco), was passed by the Senate on a straight partisan vote of 23 to 14. The final vote was for the approval of Assembly amendments. CFBF, along with other employer groups, are urging Governor Schwarzenegger to veto SB180 on the basis that it totally undermines the right of agricultural employees to cast a secret ballot for union representation by substituting it with a signature card presented to them by a union organizer. CFBF urges County Farm Bureaus and their members, if they have not already done so, to write the Governor urging him to veto SB180. Please refer to the “Farm Team Alert” for a sample letter or click here.

SB 974 (Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach) sailed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a 11-5 partisan vote and now goes to the Assembly Floor. This measure would impose a $30 per Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) fee on all containerized cargo moving in or out of the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland. This fee will have the greatest impact on agriculture with the Port of Oakland being a key destination for nearly 75% of California’s agricultural products. The cost of doing business for California’s farmers and ranchers is already much higher than out-of-state and foreign competitors, putting our food producers at a competitive disadvantage. While the intended purpose of SB 974 is to improve security and efficiency and to reduce pollution around ports, this one-size fits-all $500,000,000 per-year tax on all containerized cargo will do nothing, but hurt California’s global economy. The bill is expected to pass out of the Assembly and then to the Governor. Farm Bureau and the coalition of more than 200 businesses and organizations will continue to work together in opposition to SB 974.

SB 1001 (Don Perata, D–Oakland) was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee yesterday, and will be considered on the Assembly Floor next week. SB 1001 would restructure the nine member regional water quality control boards which regulate water quality of farm runoff by reducing the membership to seven and eliminating the requirement for one member to be associated with irrigated agriculture. This bill would harm the business climate by reducing balance in the makeup of these important regulatory agencies. The author agreed to amendments that will be taken on the floor. Once those amendments are available, Farm Bureau will be revising its analysis and advising Friday Review readers and Farm Team members of their effect.

In related news, the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Senator Perata, declined to confirm two of Governor Schwarzenegger’s appointees to the State Water Resources Control Board this past week. While these two State Board members can still serve until January of 2008 and remain eligible for confirmation until then, it is now in question whether they will be confirmed. In a letter to the Governor, Senator Perata stated that he had declined to confirm the two appointees because the state is, in his view, doing a very poor job enforcing its water quality laws. As a bizarre example to support this claim, Senator Perata referenced last Fall’s spinach food safety event, which was shown by an exhaustive food safety investigation to most likely be the result of wild pigs or other wildlife having access to growing fields, and not a water quality issue at all. It is also important to note that while the State Water Board plays an important role in setting statewide policy, it is actually the Regional Water Boards that enforce most state water quality laws. Ironically, on the same day as the Senate Rules Committee declined to confirm the two State Water Board members, it recommended confirmation of several appointees to these regional water boards at the same hearing.

SB 719 (Mike Machado, D-Linden) expands the current San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control Governing Board from 11 to 15 members. While two of the new members would be elected representative from valley city councils, SB 719 requires the Governor to appoint two public members, subject to Senate confirmation with medical expertise. It would be nice if improving the valley’s air quality was this simple. Adding two medical representatives on the SJV air board’s governing board will not clean the air. It only allows two individuals to make important decisions without any accountability to the voters of the eight SJV counties. SB 719 is eligible to be taken up for a vote on the Assembly floor. CFBF opposes.

In an interesting end of session twist, the issue of metal theft is back before the state legislature. On Thursday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to allow SB 691 (Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield), a bill dealing with nurses, to be used as a vehicle by Senator Calderon to carry language sponsored by the scrap metal recyclers. This bill now requires recyclers to pay by check for certain transactions, but creates a huge loophole allowing frequent sellers to still be paid in cash. The bill also preempts all cities and counties from passing ordinances to address the issue of metal theft. Unfortunately, with the huge loophole and preemption issues CFBF is now in opposition to the bill on an issue that we originally initiated in the legislature.

There was action by the legislature on both cloning bills this week. SB 63 (Carole Migden, D-San Francisco) and AB 1100 (Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City) both would require labeling of all meat and milk products from cloned animals or their progeny. SB 63 came off of the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s suspense file on a party line vote and now moves to the Assembly Floor. On a more positive note, AB 1100 was held on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s suspense file. CFBF opposes both SB 63 and AB 1100.

AB 1180 (Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo), which would allow the director of the California Department of Conservation (DOC) to administer grants from sources other than the California Farmland Conservancy Program Fund (CFCPF) for the acquisition of voluntary agricultural conservation easements, was held on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Suspense File. This measure is sponsored by the Schwarzenegger Administration, and supported by Farm Bureau, to allow DOC greater access to funds approved as part of the infrastructure bond package and Prop. 84. For example, Proposition 1E, the Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006, provides $290 million for the protection, creation, and enhancement of flood protection corridors and bypasses through acquisition of easements to protect or enhance flood protection corridors, while preserving agricultural or wildlife uses. Since the CFCPF cannot be used for easements that restrict agricultural practices, AB 1180 is needed to allow the director access to funding for the propose of protecting multiple resources on the same land while requiring minor compromise of the exclusive agricultural or habitat use. The bill had been moving through the process unopposed and the decision to hold the bill came as a complete surprise to DOC.

A bill to provide property tax relief for victims of the January freeze was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor. AB 297 (Bill Maze, R-Visalia) would allow trees severely damaged in last winter's freeze to qualify for the four-year property tax exemption. An identical bill, SB 148 (Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta) was held on the Assembly Appropriation Committee’s Suspense File.

AB 762 (Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara) that would modify the state’s most important farm worker housing program was amended in the Senate Appropriation Committee and sent to the Senate Floor. This Farm Bureau-supported bill is sponsored by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to provide loans to projects targeting extremely low-income farm workers. HCD would also be authorized to waive or reduce the matching requirement for grants if the grantee is unable to secure additional funding, and provide a permanent waiver of the matching requirement for migrant farm worker projects. The committee’s amended the bill without consulting the author to remove the pilot program allowing agricultural employers to become grantees under the program if they assist with or make arrangements for supporting project operations on an ongoing basis.

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