California Bills Affecting Agriculture Approved Today

California Bills Affecting Agriculture Approved Today

August 31, 2013

Bills Moving Towards Votes in Legislature

The Monterey County Farm Bureau provided the following information:

The Assembly Appropriations Committee recently took up their Suspense File on Friday, August 30th, consisting of 152 bills that proposed to spend approximately $600 million. The committee chair, Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), announced that the committee was prepared to send 110 of the measures to the floor and, with the committee's amendments, the total cost would be $17 million. He said that continuing to safeguard state spending was his committee's top priority to help ensure the state's continued economic recovery.

All of the following, except SB 404 (Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara), were approved and sent to the Assembly:

SB 1 (Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento) would reinstitute the Community Redevelopment Law under the guise of Sustainable Communities Investment Authorities. The bill was amended, at the request of the author, to limit the bill's potential impact on farmland. Unfortunately, the specific language of the amendments will not be available until next week. We are gratified that the author has agreed to limit the potential of eminent domain to take productive farmland for a subsequent private development project but Farm Bureau remains opposed to SB 1.

SB 485 (Ron Calderon, D-Montebello) would require junk dealers and recyclers to provide documentation of the necessary permits and business practices to prove they are operating legally prior to obtaining a weighmaster certificate from a County Agricultural Commissioner and Sealer. It also allows an additional $500 fee to be charged to cover the costs of these inspections. The intent of this bill is to ensure that recyclers and junk dealers are complying with current law and are properly permitted to operate their businesses. There is a proliferation of "illegal" recyclers and this bill will help stop those activities. Farm Bureau supports.

SB 749 (Lois Wolk, D-Davis) would extend the sunset for the provision that allows accidental take for ongoing and routine farming and ranching activities under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). It also clarifies where lease revenues generated from agricultural leases on lands owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife are deposited. SB 749 ensures that these revenues can be used to support the maintenance and operations of the Department's lands, and it clarifies when the administrative record is closed for purposes of listing species under CESA. The bill was recently amended to also clarify that farmers transferring water can maintain non-irrigated cover crops so long as the water used by those crops does not diminish the amount being transferred. This bill is co-sponsored by Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen's Association, and the California Waterfowl Association.

SB 404 (Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara) includes "familial status" as a protected classification under the California Fair Housing and Employment Act. "Familial status" is a very broad term that will sweep in a massive number of employees and their relationships, such that virtually any employee could be covered by it. As a result, nearly any adverse employment decision by an employer could be construed as discriminatory if SB 404 becomes law. SB 404 was held on the Assembly Appropriations suspense file. Farm Bureau opposes.

The Senate Appropriations Committee did not provide the fiscal impact details of their Suspense File as provided by the Assembly. Bills that were approved by the committee and sent to the Senate floor for a vote in the next two weeks include:

AB 8 (Henry Perea, D-Fresno and Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley) continues the authority through 2023 to fund several air quality improvement programs. They include the Carl Moyer Program, widely used by the agricultural community, and the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Programs. SB 11 (Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres and Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) is basically the same bill and was sent to the Assembly floor. Farm Bureau supports.

AB 263 (Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina) would forbid employers from engaging in a series of "unfair immigration-related practices". This includes requesting more immigration documents than required under federal law, using E-Verify in a manner not required by federal law and threatening to contact immigration authorities. Farm Bureau and other business groups lifted opposition on the basis of amendments accepted by the author substantially reducing the possible penalties for the unfair immigration-related practices prohibited by the bill.

AB 1165 (Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley) would change current law so that abatement of a serious, willful, or repeated violation of a Cal/OSHA standard, or a failure to abate a prior violation cannot be delayed by an appeal of the citation by the employer. Farm Bureau and other employer groups are opposed.

AB 199 (Chris Holden, D-Pasadena) would encourage state institutions to purchase California grown agricultural products. Originally, the bill would have required state institutions to purchase California grown agricultural products as long as the price was within five percent of out of state agricultural products. However, state institutions raised concerns in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the bill was narrowed to only require the purchase, to the extent possible. Farm Bureau supports.

AB 10 by Assembly Member Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) will increase the California minimum wage to $10 on January 1, 2018. AB 10 was removed from the Senate appropriations suspense file and re-referred to the Senate Rules committee instead of the Senate floor. The Department of Finance had previously indicated that passage of AB 10 would incur significant enforcement costs to the Department of Industrial Relations and significant salary and employment tax costs to the state government as a whole. Farm Bureau is opposed.

SB 753 (Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento) that increases enforcement authority for the Central Valley Flood Protection Board was approved by the Assembly along party lines on a 52-25 vote. The measure would grant additional enforcement authority to the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, including cease and desist and fine authority.

Farm Bureau worked with the Flood Protection Board and the author to define a clear path early in the informal phase of the enforcement process to allow a landowner to fix any encroachment violations prior to the Flood Board imposing penalties. This path includes a well defined structure for penalty actions and amounts and a fair and reasonable process to address the removal of existing lawful encroachment permits approved by the Flood Board, as opposed to "illegal encroachments." With earlier amendments Farm Bureau removed opposition.

AB 1331 (Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife) was amended this week to modify the $11.14 billion Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2014 (Water Bond). The Climate Change Response for Clean and Safe Drinking Water Act of 2014 (AB 1331) would authorize the issuance of $6.5 billion in general obligation bonds in five separate categories. Four of the five categories would require legislative authority to appropriate the funds. The fifth category, water storage funding, would be continuously appropriated. The five categories include $1 billion for Water Quality and Clean and Safe Drinking Water, $1.5 billion for Protecting Rivers, Lakes, Streams and Watersheds, $1.5 billion for Climate Change Preparedness for Regional Security, $1 billion for Delta Sustainability, and $1.5 billion continuously appropriated for Water Storage for Climate Change. Farm Bureau is actively engaged in the process and is emphasizing the need for increased water storage, area of origin water rights protections, continuous appropriation for water storage dollars and we are highlighting farmers continued actions to implement even more efficient use of water in recent years. Farm Bureau has a support position for the current water bond as approved in 2009 and will continue to monitor this and all efforts to impact the size and structure of the water bond.

SB 168 (Bill Monning, D-Carmel) seeks to end the practice of subsequent "sham" formation of Farm Labor Contractor businesses in order to deprive workers of their rightful wages. Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups were initially opposed, but have since lifted opposition after the author accepted amendments addressing Farm Bureau's concerns. The Senate concurred in those amendments on August 30 and SB 168 now goes to the governor for his consideration.