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in the KNOW

August 9, 2014

Legislature Returns with Full Agenda

With the end of the legislative session fast approaching, legislators returned to the State Capitol this week after a month-long recess.  August 31 is the deadline for legislators to pass bills in both the Assembly and Senate, and several issues remain that impact Ag Council members.  The legislative docket includes groundwater legislation and the water bond, among other bills.  Please read on for further details.

Ag Council and Others Oppose Groundwater Bills

Ag Council and other ag organizations, including many of our members, signed onto a letter this week opposing the recently amended groundwater bills in the Legislature, AB 1739 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) and SB 1168 by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). The impact on existing water rights, higher costs, increased litigation, and devaluation of land are among the many concerns with the legislation.

With the end of the legislative session looming and the drought crisis front and center, a strong push is being made in the Capitol to pass legislation to regulate groundwater from a groundwater basin management perspective. One of the authors of groundwater legislation, Assemblyman Dickinson, told the Washington Post this week, “The old phrase ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ applies.”

Given the desire to move legislation on a highly complex issue that could change the future of agriculture, it is critical that legislators understand our concerns with the current groundwater bills. The opposition letter communicates those concerns and is being provided to legislators during our advocacy efforts.

Click HERE to read the letter opposing AB 1739 and SB 1168.

Water Bond at the Forefront

The water bond remains a high priority on the legislative agenda in the Capitol and discussions continue among legislators on how to proceed. Water storage remains a key focus for Ag Council as elected leaders work to resolve differences. Ag Council supports efforts in the Legislature to lower the total amount of the bond while maintaining a strong commitment to water storage funding that is continuously allocated.

As background, the current water bond on the November ballot includes $11.14 billion in funding for water infrastructure, ecosystem restoration and projects to address water supply issues. Negotiated back in 2009, the $11.14 billion bond has been removed from two previous statewide ballots due to concern over the lack of public support.

Members of the Legislature have worked over the past year to develop legislation to replace the existing bond, primarily with the goal to lower its overall cost to improve public support for the measure.

Any bill to replace the water bond on the ballot must garner a 2/3 vote in both the Assembly and the Senate. This is a high bar to reach on a contentious issue like water, and it remains uncertain as to whether enough votes can be garnered to pass a new bill to replace the existing water bond.

Governor Jerry Brown recently weighed-in on the water bond discussions with a $6 billion bond proposal including $2 billion for water storage. Though his water bond proposal is under the $3 billion amount we support for water storage, the governor’s perspective is strongly influencing the discussions on a revised water bond.

The governor said in a statement this week, “I’m proposing a no-frills, no-pork water bond that invests in the most critical projects without breaking the bank.” The governor went on to say that California cannot afford the $750 million a year the current bond would add to the state’s $8 billion in annual bond debt service.

With respect to public opinion, a July survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) on the existing $11.14 billion water bond shows stronger public support for the bond than previous polls due to the drought. According to PPIC, the current bond is polling at 51 percent among likely voters, and if the bond amount is reduced, 59 percent of likely voters said they would support it.

Given that the conversations in the Capitol remain fluid, the outcome is uncertain. It is also unclear as to whether legislators can coalesce around a bill and attain the 2/3 vote needed for passage in the Legislature. Regardless, Ag Council remains involved on behalf of our members.

Please do not hesitate to contact Ag Council at ph. (916) 443-4887 if you have any questions.

Job Announcement

Government Affairs Specialist

Ag Council is seeking a Government Affairs Specialist to join its growing team in Sacramento. This new position at Ag Council requires an understanding of the state public policy and political processes, the ability to analyze legislation and communicate effectively with a wide array of audiences, including growers, managers and policymakers. Strong analytical and interpersonal skills are required. This position reports to Ag Council’s Vice President and President.

Click HERE for further details regarding this position and for information regarding the application process.