Legislative Update

May 10, 2017

Brian White, KP Public Affairs and FLC Legislative Advocate
Larry Camp, FLC Legislative Update

The sausage making in the California Legislature is in full swing as we enter the middle of the 2017 legislative session. As the month of April concluded, there was a flurry of activity as various Senate and Assembly policy committees rushed to meet an April 28 deadline for sending all policy bills with fiscal implications to the respective fiscal committees.

In the three months since legislators began actively introducing hundreds of bills, there has been a lot of activity, particularly from the Democratic leadership side in advancing various bills that seek to send a signal for infrastructure upgrades while also pushing back on President Trump's Administration. This has been witnessed in the in the areas of the environment, climate change and health care. Three areas in particular that appear to be garnering significant media attention are efforts to extend the State's cap-and-trade program beyond 2020, adopting a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard, and adopting a state-only universal health care plan.

But the most significant measure enacted to date was the recent passage of a $52 billion transportation plan that includes a controversial increase in the state's gas and diesel taxes. Signed by Governor Brown under SB 1 (Chapter 5, Statues of 2017), the bill calls for major infrastructure upgrades to California roads and obtains funding for such projects by requiring drivers that purchase gas in California to pay 12 cents more per gallon starting in November 2017, and imposes higher vehicle registration fees for California drivers starting next year. The bill also increases the excise tax on diesel by an additional 20 cents per gallon. The $52 billion that is expected to be raised over the next 10 years will be split between state and local roads to repair and maintain roads, highways, bridges and culverts. Several agricultural groups strongly opposed the bill but to no avail so they will likely pursue efforts, along with taxpayer groups, to try and have it overturned.

With the policy committee discussions finished in each house of origin, the Senate and Assembly Appropriations committees will now consider hundreds of bills to determine their fiscal impact, if any, for various the bills that could have cost implications for the State to implement. This action will commence at the same time the Governor and legislative leaders begin serious discussions to pass a state budget by the June 15 deadline. In the meantime, the Legislature has a May 26 deadline of moving all bills out the fiscal committees for consideration for full votes on wither the Senate and Assembly Floors.

Since the Appropriations Committees do not consider the fiscal impacts that bills could have on business, consumers or taxpayers, it is up to stakeholders to find ways of convincing legislators that the policy implications of certain bills will not only impact their constituencies but could have a positive savings or a negative costs impact to the State. If a bill is viewed as too expensive for the State to implement from the General Fund (usually more than $100,000), the bill is sent to the proverbial bone yard known as the "Suspense File" where bills are quietly dealt with and left to die without any further discussion. They can come off Suspense if they're amended to address the fiscal costs. But there are often situations when legislative leadership decides to keep bills on the Suspense File for political reasons to avoid having a controversial discussion taken up on the Floor as a way to protect certain legislators from casting an unpopular vote. For bills that make it out of the fiscal committees by May 26, the Senate and Assembly will have until June 4th to pass all bills out of their house of origin.

Below is a list of bills the Forest Landowners of California are actively tracking, most of which remain alive and will soon be considered by the fiscal committees. More information about these bills can be obtained by clicking on the bill number or by accessing the Legislative Counsel's webpage at www.leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

This bill would expand the existing Forest Fire Prevention Pilot Program by allowing the construction of up to 600 feet for temporary roads for the purposes of treating and thinning overstocked forests in need of management with minimal impact to forest resources. Last year, legislation was enacted (AB 2029, Chapter 563, Statutes 2016) which extended and expanded the sunset date for the La Malfa exemption by allowing for the removal of trees less than 24 inches in diameter without the need for a timber harvest plan. CalFire opposed the roads provision in AB 2029 so AB 425 seeks to resolve CalFire's concerns by providing additional protections and restrictions that were not included last year. Support. Assembly Appropriations - ALIVE

This bill would extend the deadline to either pay the state responsibility are (SRA) fire prevention fee or file a petition for redetermination of the fee from 30 days to 60 days. The Intent of the bill is to give property owners an additional 30-day grace period to pay the SRA fee without incurring a 10% mandatory penalty. The bill also requires the Board of Equalization to offer a penalty and interest amnesty program to fee payers who agree to enter into a payment plan to pay past due fees. Support. Assembly Appropriations - ALIVE

This bill originally would have required retail sellers of electricity to contract for a minimum of 20% of "renewable baseload generation" by December 31, 2024.The bill is intended to establish a 20% renewable baseload procurement mandate on load serving entities to meet the existing requirements of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The bill is technology neutral but renewable baseload power would most likely include generation from geothermal, biomass, and biogas sources to compliment wind and solar. Due to strong opposition from IOUs, POUs, and the wind and solar industry, the author was forced to take amendments that struck the 20% procurement mandate. The bill now requires the CPUC to evaluate each load serving entity's integrated resource plan (IRP) to ensure there is a balanced mix of baseload, dispatchable, and peaking power. The bill also requires the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to assess whether a renewable baseload generation procurement mandate is needed to meet the state's greenhouse gas reduction goals. Support. Assembly Appropriations - ALIVE

This bill originally contained language that would have continuously appropriated $100 million from the cap-and-trade fund to CalFire, and $200 million to CalRecycle for greenhouse gas reduction projects.

Projects eligible for funding could include projects for forest management, wildfire reduction, and improving resiliency of lands prone to wildfires. Due to uncertainty of cap-and-trade dollars, the bill was amended to ensure that the funding would only become available upon appropriation by the Legislature. Support. Assembly Appropriations - ALIV

This bill would expand the area protected in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System from immediately adjacent to the river segment to within a quarter mile of the river. Existing law states it is the policy of the state that certain rivers possess extraordinary scenic, recreational, fishery, or wildlife values be preserved in their "free-flowing" state, together with their immediate environments, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the state. The bill goes way beyond the intent of trying to align state law with federal law and would essentially allow every portion of every river to be designated as "Wild and Scenic." A significant coalition has formed to oppose the bill, including business groups, water districts, landowners and agricultural groups. The bill will is expected to be brought up for a Floor vote the week of May 8th. Oppose. On Assembly Floor - ALIVE

This bill would expand a specific definition of public works in the phrase "demolition" to include tree removal.Expanding the definition of public works to include tree removal would have the unintended effect of requiring prevailing wage at a time when forest management, particularly in rural counties, must have minimal cost pressures to avoid the disproportionate impacts of the tree mortality crisis. Oppose. In Assembly Appropriations - ALIVE

This bill would require state agencies to adopt standards that are "at least as stringent as" the baseline federal standards in the federal Clean Air Act, the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the federal Water Pollution Control Act, the federal Endangered Species Act, and "other federal laws" defined as unidentified laws relating to "environmental protection, natural resources, or public health." The bill also includes a private right of action provision that will require the Attorney General to review 60-day notices of intent to sue filed by private citizens against state and local agencies, in addition to businesses, who are alleged to have not complied with the bill's more stringent baseline standard. Oppose. In Senate Appropriations - ALIVE

SB 726 (Weiner-D) Estate Transfer Taxes - Death Tax

This bill would place a ballot measure on the 2018 General Election to overturn two 1982 initiatives that abolished California's inheritance tax and impose a 40 percent death tax on California's family businesses. Since many family owned businesses, farms and landowners are land-rich and cash-poor, this bill would put California landowners at a huge disadvantage compared to the rest of the nation. Oppose. In Senate Appropriations - Two-year bill

This bill would allow CalFIRE to provide advances and loans to landowners for work agreed to as part of the CA Forest Improvement Program (CFIP). Funding would be intended to allow landowners to upgrade the management, protection and enhancement of their forestlands who can't afford to conduct forest fuel treatments. The bill specifies that CalFire can make loans for forest resource improvements to cover all or part of a smaller nonindustrial timberland owner's share. The landowner would also agree in writing to undertake work for which the advance was provided for, with recognition that any funds for uncompleted work would allow for a claim and lien against the property. Note: Brown Administration is proposing $5 million for CFIP in the proposed 2017-18 budget. Watch. In Assembly Appropriations - ALIVE

This bill would require CalFIRE to create a uniformed prescribed burn plan template for forest fuel treatment. The bill also requires CalFIRE and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop a webpage that contains the uniformed prescribed burn plan template and centralizes state information pertinent to prescribed burning for the purpose of promoting prescribed fire as a fuel treatment technique. Unfortunately, the bill does not address any of the liability issues associated with prescribed burning. It should also be noted that a similar bill was vetoed by Governor Brown in 2015. CalFire has estimated the cost to implement the bill will be about $2.5 million. Watch. In Assembly Appropriations - ALIVE

This bill would allow CalFIRE to enter into agreements to provide funds through CFIP to conduct vegetation management. The bill specifies that CalFIRE can only provide CFIP funds for vegetation management if the person's income is at or below 500% of the federal poverty level. It is intended to help property owners address defensible space. Watch. In Assembly Appropriations - ALIVE

This bill originally would have required an annual transfer of 20% of cap-and-trade revenues to fund grants and programs that facilitate actions to protect and improve the resilience of "natural and working lands." The most recent amendments delete the 20% carve-out and Creates a so-called "Climate Adaptation and Resilience Based on Nature (CARBON)" account to be housed within the Wildlife Conservation Board for the purpose of providing grants to projects that restore natural habitats, promote climate adaptation, resilience in natural and working lands, and provide multiple ecosystem benefits. The bill defines "working lands" to mean lands used for farming, grazing, or the production of forest products. The bill defines "natural lands" to defined aslands consisting of forests, grasslands, deserts, freshwater and riparian systems, wetlands, coastal and estuarine areas, watersheds, wildlands, wildlife habitat, and other similar open-space land. Watch. In Assembly Appropriations - ALIVE

This bill would establish an overall state target of 100% clean energy for California by 2045 by directing the CPUC, CARB, and the California Energy Commission to adopt policies and requirements to achieve total reliance on renewable energy and zero carbon resources by that date. The bill would also accelerate the current 50% mandate for clean renewable energy from 2030 to 2026, and establishes a new RPS benchmark of 60% by 2030 to ensure more clean energy in the California grid sooner.Last, the bill would establish new policies for energy companies to capture uncontrolled methane emissions from dairies, landfills and waste water treatment plants and use these clean renewable fuels to replace natural gas. Watch. In Senate Energy - ALIVE

Would require the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to prioritize the review of safe harbor agreement applications from landowners who have lands enrolled in a conservation easement and requires DFW to rely on the easement to the extent practicable to fulfill the statutory requirements of the safe harbor agreement. Among other things, the bill would expand DFW's capability to approve consistency determinations beyond the two provisions in the federal act that are currently referenced in state law, and would prohibit the take of listed species if it causes jeopardy to those species for two programs run by DFW. Watch. In Senate Appropriations - ALIVE