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June 5, 2009 California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review - Legislative Update

AB 64 (Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles and Paul Krekorian, D-Burbank) the Assembly’s omnibus renewable portfolio standard legislation passed out of the Assembly on a 44-31 vote and now moves over to the Senate. It is the most controversial of the 3 legislative vehicles to increase the requirement to procure electricity from renewable resources from the current 20% by 2010 to at least 33% by 2020.  Farm Bureau will continue to oppose the bill on the Senate side despite extensive amendments. A key issue is the establishment of an Energy Planning and Infrastructure Coordinating Committee, which will be tasked with designating and ranking transmission corridors. Currently there is no provision in the bill for providing any notice to landowners about the designation of transmission corridors.

SB 7 (Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa), which would extend the length of time customers are able to offset usage of energy against generation under net metering for solar and wind passed out of the Senate on a 29-0 vote and now moves to the Assembly. Farm Bureau will continue to support the legislation as it advances to the Assembly.

AB 243 (Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara) passed off the Assembly Floor with a vote of 65-12 on Tuesday.  This bill would require the courts to prohibit anyone convicted of certain crimes against animals from owning an animal for five or ten years, depending on the severity of the crime. Farm Bureau, along with other animal agriculture organizations, is opposing this bill due to several unintended consequences, which could cause severe harm to farmers or ranchers. The sponsor of the bill, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, has expressed a willingness to address our concerns and Farm Bureau is working with the author and sponsor to create amendments that would remove our opposition. The bill now moves to the Senate.   

AB 1066 (Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia) passed off the Assembly Floor on a vote of 53-12 on Wednesday.  This bill would extend the length of Timber Harvest Plans (THP) from three years to five years, with the possibility of two one-year extensions, so long as listed species have not been found in the plan area. The bill also provides that THPs set to expire in 2009 that have begun work but not completed it are eligible for up to four one-year extensions. Farm Bureau supports AB 1066 because of the improved ability it would provide for timber harvests to better match the market. The bill now moves to the Senate.   

SB 144 (Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica) passed off of the Senate Floor on Wednesday with a vote of 21-17. This bill would require mitigation and fees for any conversions of forestland in California to address the impacts these conversions have on climate change. This bill would apply not only to timberland, but oak woodlands as well. Farm Bureau is opposed to SB 144 because of cost issues and its duplicative nature; the state already requires mitigation for oak woodland conversions. However, the author and sponsors have expressed interest in providing incentives to keep forestlands as working landscapes and we will continue discussing these options. SB 144 now moves to the Assembly, where the author has committed to holding the bill until it is in a more complete form with defined incentives and mitigation. 

SB 173 (Dean Florez, D-Shafter) passed off the Senate Floor on Wednesday with a vote of 24-12.  Originally the bill essentially required Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans and product testing for growers, food processors, and food facilities. It also provided the Department of Public Health (DPH) with the authority to issue mandatory recalls when it believes foods may contain substances or pathogens injurious to human health. However the bill was amended significantly as it left the Appropriations Committee. In its current version it simply provides DPH the ability to adopt regulations allowing it to voluntarily recall food. It seems likely that the bill will be amended further when it reaches the Assembly, because DPH can already ask food producers to voluntarily recall food items. Farm Bureau will continue to monitor SB 173 as it moves to the Assembly. 

After failing passage on Monday and being granted reconsideration, SB 250 (Dean Florez, D-Shafter) ultimately passed off of the Senate floor on Tuesday with a vote of 21-16. Senator Florez once again promised to amend the bill to exempt dogs used by hunters, farmers, and ranchers in return for obtaining the necessary votes to pass his bill. This bill requires all dogs and cats in California to be spayed or neutered, unless the owner obtains an “intact” permit for the dog, or keeps the cat indoors at all times.  If the dog owner has been cited for certain pet related violations, they are ineligible to obtain an intact permit. Included in the list of violations, is allowing a dog to run at large. Farm Bureau remains opposed until an exemption for working dogs used on California’s farms and ranches is included in the bill. SB 250 now moves to the Assembly.   

SB 416 (Dean Florez, D-Shafter) failed passage on the Senate Floor with a vote of 15-20 on Wednesday. The bill was granted reconsideration and moved to the inactive file where it can be acted on next January. Originally this bill would have banned the use of antibiotics for “nontherapeutic” or preventative uses in livestock and required schools to try to purchase meat products not treated with antibiotics and to document and report their purchases to the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) if they are not able to obtain those products. However, Senator Florez amended the bill as it came out of the Appropriations Committee to strip it down to only require the SPI to gather information from USDA regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock production and meat products in the school lunch program.  Farm Bureau remained opposed to this bill despite the recent amendments and is very appreciative of the numerous Senators who recognized the bill was still problematic and voted against it.

AB 854, (Juan Arambula, D-Fresno), would require a Farm Labor Contractor to certify there are no court judgments or Labor Commissioner orders related to unpaid wages against him or her when seeking renewal of his or her state FLC license. Farm Bureau supports the bill because it will facilitate removal of undercapitalized and unscrupulous FLCs from the industry. AB 854 was passed by the Assembly this week and now goes to the Senate.

A measure to override local zoning in order to facilitate the construction of farmworker housing was approved by the Assembly on a vote of 63 to 11. AB 494 (Anna Caballero, D-Salinas) expands the provisions of a 1999 law that allows up to five acres of Williamson Act land to be sold or leased to a non-profit, a city, a county, a housing authority, or a state agency for the development of farmworker housing. This measure would expand those provisions to all agricultural and open space zones prohibiting jurisdictions from enforcing or imposing any local ordinance or regulation or development standard that requires a minimum parcel size on subdivisions, such as percolation standards for septic systems. Farm Bureau still has concerns about Planning and Zoning Law provision that would allow up to 5 acres of apartments or trailers on septic systems. We will continue to work with the author to address these concerns in the Senate.

SB 715 (Lois Wolk, D-Davis) relative to the Williamson Act was approved by the Senate on a vote of 34-3. This bill makes modest changes to the Williamson Act by increasing local enforcement authority over contract compliance and conditioning the subdivision of land for development if the land is under contract. The bill was amended on the Senate floor prior to passage to address concerns that Farm Bureau raised in the Senate Local Government Committee. We are continuing to work with the sponsors of the bill, Yolo County, to insure that landowners are given due process should the county non-renew their contracts “for cause.”

AB 49 (Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles & Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael) sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council would require a 20 percent reduction in urban per capita water use by 2020 and require agricultural water suppliers to implement, by July 31, 2012 certain best management practices for water use efficiency. The measure narrowly passed off the Assembly Floor this week with a vote of 41-27. Because AB 49 is simply the wrong framework Farm Bureau and a large, diverse coalition of agricultural organizations and agricultural water interests drafted their own agricultural water use efficiency language and thus oppose AB 49.

SB 460 (Lois Wolk, D-Davis) co-sponsored by the Solano Water Agency and the Association of California Water Agencies addresses urban commercial, industrial and institutional water conservation, and agricultural water use efficiency. The measure was held in suspense and is now a two-year bill. Farm Bureau and a diverse agriculture lobby coalition had been working with the author to address agriculture water use efficiency options in the bill.

SB 261 (Bob Dutton, R-Inland Empire & Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego) sponsored by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority is the third measure introduced this session to address urban water conservation. The measure passed off the Senate Floor this week with a vote of 39-0. Farm Bureau has been working with the authors on amendments to address the implementation of past, current and potential agricultural water use efficiency measures.

SB 122 (Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica) would have required additional monitoring wells and authorized the Department of Water Resources to recover costs from the local groundwater users where they perform the monitoring functions. A similar bill (SB 178) failed in 2007. The measure was held in suspense and is now a two-year bill. Farm Bureau was opposed.                              

SB 681 (Pavley) would have required reporting all surface water diversions with substantial penalties for violators. The measure also proposed to create an annual fee for all diversions, including pre-1914 water rights, increase civil liability amounts to $1,000 per day and $1,000 per acre-foot, allow the State Water Resources Control Board to initiate adjudications, and require submittal of information under penalty of perjury, with a $25,000 fine for false reporting. The measure failed to garner the votes necessary to pass off the Senate Floor. Farm Bureau was opposed.

Five water bond proposals were introduced early in this Legislative Session, for the purpose of financing water supply reliability and environmental restoration programs, similar to last year’s water bond proposal by Senator Feinstein and Governor Schwarzenegger. Although all five measures failed to get out of their house of origin the Legislature continues to work on a water infrastructure legislative package. The five measures are:

AB 1187 (Jared Huffman, D-Marin & Anna Caballero, D-Salinas) would authorize the issuance of $10.035 billion general obligation bonds and impose a new fee on water users.

SB 301 (Dean Florez, D-Shafter) would authorize the issuance of $15 billion general obligation bonds.

SB 371 (Dave Cogdill, R-Fresno) would authorize the issuance of $9.98 billion general obligation bonds.

SB 456 (Lois Wolk, D-Davis) would authorize the issuance of $9.805 billion general obligation bonds.

SB 735 (Darrel Steinberg, D-Sacramento) would authorize the issuance of $9.785 billion general obligation bonds and impose new fees on residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural water users to finance the debt service on the bonds issued. 

Each measure would have funded regional water supply reliability, allocated among a dozen hydrological regions; drought relief projects; conservation and watershed protections from invasive species; habitat restoration and improved fish passage on rivers and streams; prevention or reductions of groundwater contamination, most included but where not limited to disadvantage communities drinking water; levee and water quality improvements, agriculture protection, and fish and wildlife enhancements; provided for the California Natural Resources Agency or a new Delta governing body to consider recommendations from the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan for a comprehensive Delta sustainability program that included both ecosystem and water conveyance improvements; and provided for new surface and groundwater storage and some local or regional storage projects. Additionally, all five proposals would have provided to “counties and watersheds of origin assurances that their priority to water resources would be protected.” California voters would have had to approve any bond measure that passed.

SB 12 (Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto) was introduced to serve as an implementation plan, or the details for a water bond(s). The measure passed off the Senate Floor this week with a vote of 21-16. The initial language in this bill was straight out of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations. Three working groups were established in late January, (1) Governance, (2) Conveyance & Storage, and (3) Conservancy & Finance. Each working group has diverse representation of 25 or more interests, including environmental, local government, Delta, urban and agricultural water suppliers, business and agriculture. Farm Bureau provided input, however the measure is still inconsistent with Farm Bureau policy, and we will continue to work on the language in the bill as it moves through the Assembly.

In addition to the water legislation covered in the above articles  there were nine bills introduced in both houses to address the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and sustainability. Seven of those bills passed out of their House of Origin and continue to be “works in progress.” Farm Bureau is actively engaged with the authors and other agricultural organizations on these measures.


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