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in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

September 27, 2013


Ag Council Works to Minimize Impact of Waste Discharge Fee Increases

This week, the State Water Resources Control Board reduced the fee increase on Combined Animal Facilities under the Waste Discharge Permit Fund from the previously proposed 46 percent to 27 percent. Ag Council and others had been advocating for a freeze in the fee at 2012-2013 levels given that California dairy families, in particular, are already facing severe economic pressures.

Though Ag Council certainly does not support the revised 27 percent fee increase, Ag Council staff spoke at this week’s hearing to express appreciation to the Board for taking into consideration the difficulties facing the dairy community and for greatly reducing the fee increase for Combined Animal Facilities. The Board voted to approve the new fees at its meeting this past Tuesday.

Ag Council also advocated for a freeze in the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) fees at 2012-2013 levels. Unfortunately, the request was not granted and fees for farmers in the ILRP will increase by 34.5 percent.

The fees are being increased in 2013-2014 because state General Fund monies are no longer provided for the Waste Discharge Permit Fund. As a result, the Fund is now an entirely fee-based program, which was a decision made by the Legislature in 2011.

In the long term, Ag Council and others from the ag community proposed that the Board work with stakeholders earlier in the budgeting process to provide a stronger level of involvement for those affected by the fees before budget decisions are made. This is a priority given that Ag Council and other stakeholders were given just a few days to engage in the process this year, which prevented interested parties from being able to impact decisions on fee increases.

The Board and staff communicated during this week’s meeting that they are receptive to working together earlier in the budget process, and Ag Council looks forward to beginning these conversations as soon as possible.

Minimum Wage Increase Signed into Law

Governor Brown signs bill to raise California's minimum wage. Photo by Nick Ut

Governor Brown signs bill to raise California’s minimum wage. Photo by Nick Ut

On Wednesday, Governor Brown signed a measure, AB 10, to increase California’s minimum wage. Ag Council and many other organizations oppose a minimum wage increase because it will escalate employer costs and stunt job growth at a time when half of our counties in the state face double-digit unemployment.

Currently, minimum wage in California is $8 per hour. The new law raises the minimum wage to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014 and then to $10 per hour on January 1, 2016. At $10 per hour, California will have the highest minimum wage in the nation.

Click HERE to read Governor Brown’s statement upon signing the minimum wage bill.

Legislature in Adjournment – Bills Sent to Governor’s Desk

With the Legislature having concluded its business two weeks ago, Governor Brown has until October 13 to sign or veto measures on his desk.

Hundreds of measures await Governor Brown’s consideration including a bill to extend Carl Moyer funding (AB 8), legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a California driver’s license (AB 60) and several bills to improve drinking water for those living in disadvantaged communities, among others.

Legislative Overview In case you missed Ag Council’s recent overview of key legislation affecting our members, click HERE to read the legislative update.

Annual Meeting March 2-4, 2014

SavetheDate_frontWe invite all members to join us March 2-4, 2014 for Ag Council’s 95th Annual Meeting to be held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa in Huntington Beach, California.

This event is held in conjunction with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer Meeting. Further details will be available at a later date. In the meantime, please save March 2-4, 2014 on your calendars.

September 13, 2013


Legislature Concludes Business & Adjourns

sacramento-pictureLate last night, the California State Legislature concluded its business and adjourned for 2013. Many issues affecting agriculture were in play during the final days of legislative activity, and Ag Council was active in the Capitol on our members’ behalf. Please read on for the outcome of key measures that were under consideration.

Labor

Minimum wage hike passes & mandatory mediation bill stalls

AB 10 (Alejo) – Passed the Legislature – Raises California’s current $8 minimum wage to $9 starting in July 2014 and again raises it to $10 in January 2016. Ag Council and many business and ag groups staunchly opposed a minimum wage hike.

Unfortunately, after Democrat leaders garnered the support of Governor Jerry Brown earlier this week, the momentum existed to move forward and the measure was approved by the Legislature yesterday. Given his support, AB 10 is expected to be signed by the governor.

SB 25 (Steinberg) – Held in the Legislature – Ag Council is pleased to report the mandatory mediation measure, SB 25, was not considered prior to Senate adjournment this week. It would have allowed a party to prolong collective bargaining negotiations under the Ag Labor Relations Act and then call for mandatory mediation of a renewal contract. The contract would not have been subject to worker ratification, which marginalizes workers.

Ag Council and many agricultural organizations had worked to oppose SB 25 throughout the year, and the fact the bill did not move out of the Senate yesterday is a positive outcome for the ag community.

Air Quality

Penalty bills shelved & Carl Moyer measure passes

SB 691 (Hancock) – Held in the Legislature – SB 691 would have subjected Title V permit holders under the Clean Air Act to a $100,000 strict liability penalty for the first day of a nuisance violation that releases a toxic air contaminant. Ag Council strongly advocated against this measure and, in a win for our members with Title V air permits, this bill was not considered before the Legislature adjourned.

AB 1330 (Speaker Perez) – Held in the Legislature – This last minute “gut and amend” measure would have, among other provisions, doubled certain regulatory penalties (including air violations) against businesses located in areas identified by the California Environmental Protection Agency as Environmental Justice Communities. Ag Council and many ag and business groups ardently opposed this bill, which was not considered before adjournment.

AB 8 (Perea) – Passed the Legislature – Extends funding for the Carl Moyer program, among other air quality and transportation programs. Ag Council supported this measure because it is a useful tool in agriculture to incentivize significant reductions in air emissions by funding cleaner than required engines. The bill is now on its way to Governor Brown’s desk.

Energy

Changes to NEM contracts

AB 327 (Perea) – Passed the Legislature – Written to prevent energy cost increases on low-income ratepayers. Unfortunately, AB 327 was amended in a manner that could considerably raise energy costs, particularly for those who have installed renewable energy projects and provide energy back to utilities under the Net Energy Metering (NEM) program.

The final bill includes intent language stating that by March 31, 2014 the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will consider how long exiting NEM contracts operating under the previous NEM tariff will be allowed to continue. Ag Council remains concerned for those with existing NEM contracts and will work with other organizations to try and protect these contracts in the PUC process. AB 327 is now on the governor’s desk for his review.

Climate Change

Ag groups join together to prevent more on-farm regulations

SB 726 (Lara) – Passed the Legislature – An attempt to regulate on-farm carbon emissions was thwarted earlier this week by a united group of agricultural organizations, including Ag Council, Farm Bureau and others. SB 726, addressing transparency issues relating to the World Climate Initiative, was amended with language that would have further regulated black carbon (soot) in agriculture.

Given that black carbon is already being reduced under current regulations, very strong opposition built up against the provision and the language affecting farms was successfully removed. The bill then proceeded to pass the Legislature and is now on the governor’s desk.

Dairy

AB 1038 (Gray) – Held in the Legislature – AB 1038 would have codified the California Dairy Future Task Force. AB 1038 has a new author, Assemblyman Gray (D-Merced). The bill was approved on the Senate floor yesterday and moved to the inactive file in the Assembly with no further action taken on the bill before adjournment.

Driver’s Licenses

AB 60 (Alejo) – Passed the Legislature – Allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a California driver’s license. The bill was approved by state lawmakers late Thursday after Governor Brown said he would sign the bill. Click HERE to read more about AB 60.

Taxes

AB 106 (Budget Committee) – Passed the Legislature – Allows for an income tax credit, equal to the sales tax paid on qualified capital equipment, to be claimed if the equipment is purchased before the end of the calendar year and placed in service prior to January 1, 2015.  Ag Council supported this measure, and it is now pending on the governor’s desk.

AB 1173 (Bocanegra) – Passed the Legislature – Reduces the additional 20 percent California income tax penalty to five percent for Internal Revenue Code Section 409A violations for nonqualified deferred compensation. Essentially, the bill provides partial relief from this penalty tax, which must be paid by workers, not the employer. Ag Council supported this measure.  AB 1173 now awaits the governor’s consideration.

Water

AB 21 (Alejo) – Passed the Legislature – AB 21 creates the Safe Drinking Water Small Community Emergency Grant Fund to provide grants for emergency drinking water projects to serve disadvantaged communities. This bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate.  This measure is pending the governor’s consideration.

AB 115 (Perea) – Passed the Legislature – AB 115 expands the eligibility for grants and loans from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund allowing multiple water systems to apply as a single applicant and allows funding of a project to benefit a disadvantaged community. AB 115 now moves to the governor’s desk.

AB 118 (Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee)-Passed by the Legislature- AB 118 improves flexibility in the disbursement of loans from the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund to help underprivileged communities pay for the cost of rectifying deficiencies in small water systems. AB 118 is on its way to Governor Brown’s desk.

GOP Legislators Urge Congress to Pass Immigration Bill

This week, 15 California Republican state legislators called on Republicans in the House of Representatives to act on and support the stalled immigration bill in Congress. The measure, with respect to agriculture, would allow undocumented workers living in the United States to earn legal status if they meet certain criteria.

The group of legislators, led by Senator Anthony Canella (R-Salinas), wrote a letter urging Congress’ action on the immigration bill because much of our state’s economy in the agriculture and construction sectors depends on immigrant labor forces. California Republicans are also hopeful this effort will be a step toward repairing the political party’s relationship with minority voters in the state.

Click HERE to read more.

 

September 6, 2013


Prop 65 Reform Shifts to Regulatory Effort

Stakeholders involved in the Prop 65 reform effort championed by Governor Jerry Brown were unable to reach a consensus over the past few weeks in order to drive support for a two-thirds vote needed in the Legislature. As a result, the governor and his administration are no longer pursuing reforms in the Legislature.

However, discussions continue regarding certain reforms that can be achieved through regulation instead of legislation. Ag Council remains committed to work with the Brown Administration to improve Prop 65 through the regulatory process. Issues for consideration include:

  • A more meaningful and contextual warning label system.
  • Memorializing the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s past work with the California Environmental Protection Agency and working toward a memorandum of understanding between the two agencies when chemicals used for food production come under consideration.
  • Creating a meaningful solution for chemicals that are naturally occurring in soil.

As background, Governor Brown announced a proposal in May to make changes to Prop 65 to restore its intent since the law has been abused by some unprincipled lawyers driven by profit rather than public health.

Ag Council actively participated in Governor Brown’s Prop 65 stakeholder group. In the end, the proposal developed did not garner the support needed in order to move forward with legislation.

Ag Council greatly appreciates the governor’s interest in this very important issue affecting our members, and we will stay involved with the regulatory agencies as the discussion regarding reform continues.

Legislature Nears Adjournment

Photo courtesy of www.sacmuseums.org

Photo courtesy of www.sacmuseums.org

The California State Legislature’s adjournment date of September 13 is fast approaching. However, due to the upcoming Yom Kippur Jewish holiday, the Legislature plans to complete its business by midnight on September 12.

Some of the hot issue areas during the final week of business include prison reform, hydraulic fracturing and changes to the California Environmental Quality Act, among others.

The last date for fiscal committees to meet and report bills was August 30 and hundreds of measures were approved last week and moved out of committee.

Please see the next newsletter article for an update of key bills.

Legislative Activity

Below is a brief summary of some of the key legislation of interest to our members.  This list is not comprehensive. Changes to bills occur quickly during the final days of session, and Ag Council will apprise members of the final outcome of these and other measures after adjournment next week.

Labor

SB 25 (Steinberg)-Allows a party to prolong collective bargaining negotiations under the Ag Labor Relations Act and then call for mandatory mediation of a renewal contract. The contract would not be subject to worker ratification, which marginalizes workers. Ag Council opposes SB 25 and is advocating against the measure. It is pending a concurrence vote in the Senate.

AB 10 (Alejo)-Incrementally increases minimum wage in California from the current $8 to $10 by the year 2018. AB 10 is pending action in the Senate Committee on Rules. Ag Council opposes this bill.

Energy

AB 327 (Perea)-Written to prevent energy cost increases on low-income ratepayers. However, AB 327 was recently amended in a manner that could considerably raise energy costs, particularly for those who have installed renewable energy projects and provide energy back to utilities under the Net Energy Metering program. Ag Council opposes this provision unless it is amended or eliminated. AB 327 awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

Air Quality

SB 691 (Hancock)-Increases air penalties for nuisance violations for Title V permit holders from $10,000 to $100,000 for the first day of an air violation. Ag Council opposes this bill, which is now awaiting an Assembly floor vote.

AB 8 (Perea)-Extends funding for the Carl Moyer program, among other air quality and transportation programs. AB 8 is pending a vote in the Senate. Ag Council supports this measure because it is a useful tool in agriculture to incentivize significant reductions in air emissions by funding cleaner than required engines.

SB 11 (Pavley)-Identical to AB 8, SB 11 extends funding for the Carl Moyer program, among other air quality and transportation programs. SB 11 is awaiting an Assembly floor vote, and Ag Council supports SB 11.

Dairy

AB 1038 (Dr. Pan)-Codifies the California Dairy Future Task Force and specifies funding. AB 1038 was held in the Senate Committee on Appropriations and any further action is uncertain.

Water

The water bills below are part of a larger package of measures intended to improve state drinking water programs for Californians who lack access to safe drinking water. The list is not comprehensive of all water bills.

AB 21 (Alejo)-Creates the Safe Drinking Water Small Community Emergency Grant Fund to provide grants for emergency drinking water projects to serve disadvantaged communities. This bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate.

AB 115 (Perea)-Expands the eligibility for grants and loans from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund allowing multiple water systems to apply as a single applicant and allows funding of a project to benefit a disadvantaged community. AB 115 is pending a vote in the Senate.

AB 118 (Alejo)-Improves flexibility in the disbursement of loans from the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund to help underprivileged communities pay for the cost of rectifying deficiencies in small water systems. AB 118 is pending a vote in the Senate.

AB 145 (Perea)-Transfers authority of drinking water programs from the Department of Public Health to the State Water Resources Control Board. AB 145 was held under submission in the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and it could be considered at a later date.

Water Bond Bill Introduced in Assembly

Photo courtesy of the Department of Water Resources

Photo courtesy of the Department of Water Resources

The Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife introduced a bill on August 26 that includes a proposal for a 2014 water bond. AB 1331, entitled the Climate Change Response for Clean and Safe Drinking Water Act of 2014, is based on the framework prepared by the Committee and the Water Bond Working Group earlier in August. As background, the Water Bond Working Group is a panel of eight lawmakers appointed by Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles).

The original framework entailed a $5 billion dollar bond that would fund five categories of programs equally. The bill has increased the total bond amount to $6.5 billion, increasing the funding for certain categories. The clean and safe drinking water and Delta sustainability categories would receive $1 billion each. Categories for protecting watersheds, regional water security, and water storage would receive $1.5 billion each. Water Bond Working Group held an informational hearing to present a new framework for a revised water bond.

Given that the Legislature adjourns next week, it is anticipated that a final water bond package will not be completed and voted upon in the Legislature until next year.

Tentative Ruling on Carbon Auctions

Under a tentative August 28 ruling by the Sacramento Superior Court, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has the authority to hold cap and trade carbon auctions under AB 32

The California Chamber of Commerce sued CARB, alleging that while the state legislature granted CARB the ability to create a cap and trade system for carbon emissions, it did not intend to allow CARB to raise huge sums of money by auctioning emissions offsets. AB 32 gives CARB the authority to “design” the “distribution of emissions allowances.”

Since auctions and free distribution are generally accepted as means of distributing allowances, Judge Timothy Frawley held that such auctions are included in the tasks delegated to CARB by AB 32. Because auctions are deemed to be included, CARB then has the authority to conduct its carbon auctions.

At this time, the ruling is only tentative because the Chamber’s suit is ongoing. The case also involves a tax issue related to Proposition 13, which is still being litigated. When this issue is resolved, a final ruling on both the tax question and CARB’s authority to hold carbon auctions will be released.

Click HERE to read more.