Aug. 10, 2009
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on State Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Budget Update
  • Budget deal signed - - Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed the revisions to the 2009-2010 Budget Act, after cutting an additional $489 million in General Fund appropriations, to make-up for additional budget shortfalls.The newly enacted budget contains approximately $24 billion in program cuts, borrowing and funding shifts. The Legislative Analyst’s Office created a synopsis of the July 2009 Budget Package, which can be located on LAO’s website at http://www.lao.ca.gov/laoapp/main.aspx.
     

Williamson Act

  • Williamson Act funding cut by Governor - - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on July 29, 2009 eliminated state support for a farmland preservation program. Funding for the Williamson Act was one of 21 vetoes the governor announced in order to bring the state’s 2009-10 budget back into balance after the Legislature  passed a plan that was slightly in the red.  Under the Williamson Act, the state pays subventions to local governments – money that replaces property taxes lost when jurisdictions enter contracts with landowners to preserve farmland in exchange for lower tax assessments. Local governments must honor the lower assessment rates even if they don’t receive the subventions. Supporters say that without the subventions, local governments will be less likely to enter into agreements with farmers. Schwarzenegger cut the state’s $35 million subvention fund to the token amount of $1,000, “effectively suspending the program,” a summary from the governor’s office said. The move was consistent with Schwarzenegger’s attempts to cut the Williamson Act in his budget proposals of the past two years. That leaves the door open for possible future action, believes John Gamper, a governmental affairs specialist with the California Farm Bureau Federation. “That says that it’s a suspension and not an elimination,” Gamper said. “We’re hopeful that in August this issue can be revisited."
     

Water

  • Water package introduced in Sacramento - - Sacramento Democrats in the Senate and Assembly have introduced five bills they said would "restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and create a more reliable water supply for California." The bills will get their first public hearing on Aug. 18, 2009, the second day lawmakers are back from summer break. The proposals from Democrats include creating an appointed oversight commission with unprecedented authority over water issues in the fragile Sacramento Delta.  One piece would authorize unspecified fees from those who draw water out of the delta to help pay for various programs. Other provisions in the measures include mandatory conservation of 20 percent for cities and incentives for urban and agriculture to conserve, specifically giving those saving water priority for existing grants. To learn more about the bills, please visit the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee website.  

State Legislation

  • Here is the current status of legislation  of interest to the almond industry that has  been introduced in Sacramento. The Legislature returns from summer recess on Monday Aug. 17. Key deadlines: Aug. 28 is the last day for fiscal committees to meet and report bills to the floor. Sept. 11 is the last day for each House to pass bills. Oct. 11 is the last day for the Governor to sign or veto legislation.

Active Bills as of Aug.  8, 2009

  • Ag Burning - - SB 382 by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) provides that a permit to burn agricultural waste  within the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control  District (SJVUAPCD) is not valid for any day the district prohibits operation of a wood burning fireplace or heater. The measure was approved by the Senate May 14, 2009 on a 23-14 vote and was approved July 6, 2009 by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. It is now awaiting action by the Assembly.

  • Carbon footprint labeling - - Legislation  that would require the California Air Resources Board to develop a voluntary program for labeling the carbon footprint of products sold in California was approved July 6 by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee by a 5-2 margin and sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It was approved  June 3 by the Assembly by a 47-32 margin. AB 19 was introduced by Assemblyman Ira Ruskin (D-Los Altos)  Chair of the Assembly Budget Sub-Committee on Natural Resources. As chair he will oversee the implementation of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The bill’s principal sponsor is Carbon Label California. The bill was first introduced in March 2008.

  • Card Check - SB 789  (Steinberg) Permits agricultural employees to select their labor representatives by submitting a petition to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board accompanied by representation cards signed by a majority of the bargaining unit. The board would be required to conduct an immediate investigation to determine whether to certify the labor organization as the exclusive bargaining representative for the particular agricultural employees. Within 5 days after receiving a petition, the board would be required to make a non-appealable administrative decision. If the board determined that the representation cards meet specified criteria, then the labor organization would be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative. If the board determined that the representation cards were deficient, it would notify the labor organization of the deficiency and grant the labor organization 30 days to submit additional cards. The measure was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee July 1, 2009 on a 10-5 vote and is awaiting action on the Assembly floor.

  • Food Safety -  -AB 1327 by Assemblyman Feuer. The Food Safety Analysis and Control Plan requires food processing establishments to adopt and implement Hazard Analysis& Critical Control Points Plans (HACCP) as prescribed by the Department of Health & Human Services. The HACCP will require the implementation of procedures to prevent food and ingredient contamination including monitoring, preventive controls, testing, corrective actions and record keeping. The department will have to be notified within 24 hours when positive test results indicate the presence of poisonous or deleterious substances or other contaminants. Department inspectors will also have complete access to facilities and any vehicles used to transport food and ingredients. The bill was approved by the Assembly Health Committee by a 13-5 vote on May 5 and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. As of July 9, 2009, the bill was being held in the Appropriations Committee.

  • Food Safety - - SB 173  by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) was approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee July  1, 2009 on a 5-2 vote and sent to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The Senate  on June 3 , 2009, passed the bill by a 26-12 vote. Instead of mandating recalls as originally proposed, the bill has been amended so it only allows state public-health officials to adopt regulations for voluntary recalls.

  • Transition to Organics Act - - AB 1401 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) would  establish the Transition To Organics Fund to be administered by the CDFA, consisting of money from federal, industry, and citizen sources. It passed the Senate Food and Agriculture Committee by a 4-1 vote on July 7, 2009 and is now before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • Williamson Act  - -  SB 715 (Wolk) Makes several substantive changes including the authorization for a county board of supervisors to require the county assessor to send an annual survey to verify continuous agricultural income from one or more agricultural uses or agricultural commodities, in the form the board prescribes, to all owners of land under a contract. The owner or owners would be required to return the completed survey to the assessor within 60 days. The bill would define "agricultural income" to mean continuous income derived from either an agricultural use or an agricultural commodity, or both. A hearing that was set for July 2, 2009 in the Assembly Ag Committee was canceled at the author's request and the bill is pending as of July 9, 2009.

Inactive Bills for current session

  • VOC’s - - AB 835 by Monning (D-Monterey) Specifies that any regulation adopted by the Air Resources Board, or adopted by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, or pesticide product registered by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, that reduces an environmental hazard associated with a pesticide product shall not lead to the registration of, or increased use of, any product that’s more toxic. After lengthy testimony, this bill was held in the Assembly Agriculture Committee  after a hearing April 15, 2009.  The bill failed on a 3-1 vote but was granted reconsideration at a later date.

  • Aerial Spraying - - SB 759 (Leno) Requires the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to use prescribed information regarding the effects of pesticides, including inert ingredients, to develop educational material for distribution to physicians and surgeons and to the public when pesticides are aerially applied near residential or sensitive areas. On May 28, 2009, the bill was held in committee pending further action.

  • Aerial Spraying - - AB 622, by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, would establish a 3.3-mile "safety zone" between target fields and residential areas or other "sensitive sites," a category that includes schools and hospitals.  The bill was made a two-year bill at the author's request following a April 15 hearing at the Assembly Ag Committee.

Food Safety- Federal

  • Federal food safety legislation passes House - -A comprehensive food safety bill that gives the FDA broad new powers to take preventative steps to stop food borne illnesses   was approved by the House July 30, 2009 by a 283 to 142 vote.  The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions which is expected to consider the bill  following Congress' summer recess.  The bill, HR 2749 Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), would give the Food and Drug Administration broad new enforcement tools, including the authority to recall tainted food, the ability to "quarantine" suspect food, and the power to impose civil penalties and increased criminal sanctions on violators.  Among other things, the proposal would put greater responsibility on growers, manufacturers and food handlers by requiring them to identify contamination risks, document the steps they take to prevent them and provide those records to federal regulators. The legislation also would allow the FDA to require private laboratories used by food manufacturers to report the detection of pathogens in food products directly to the government. The bill is pending in the Senate.  The Senate companion bill is by Sen. Durbin - S 510 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

Global Warming - State

  • California Climate Adaptation Strategy Released  - - Along with California's efforts to crack down on its own greenhouse gas emissions, state officials have begun preparing for the worst: heat waves, a rising sea level, flooding, wildlife die-offs and other expected consequences from what scientists predict will be a dramatic temperature increase by the end of this century. California's Natural Resources Agency on Aug. 3, 2009 issued the nation's first statewide plan to "adapt" to climate change. It offers strategies to cope with threats in seven sectors from firefighting to public health and water conservation. Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman called the plan an effort to acknowledge the problem and suggested that Californians "recognize their role in solving that problem and alter their behavior so that the change lasts." To view the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy Discussion Draft in its entirety, visit
    http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/adaptation/.


     

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