Sept. 10, 2013

California Legislature 

  • State Legislative Update Sept. 10, 2013 

    Governor Brown Appoints John Eisenhut of Turlock to the CARB

    Governor Brown appointed John Eisenhut of Turlock to the California Air Resources Board (CARB).  Eisenhut has been manager of grower relations at Hilltop Ranch Inc. since 1994 and owner of Eisenhut Farms since 1975.  He is a member of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau.  He replaces DeeDee D’Adamo, who resigned from the CARB after her appointment to the State Water Resources Control Board. 

    Andy Vidak sworn in the 16th Senate District seat   

    Andy Vidak, R- Hanford, was officially sworn in the state Senate for the 16th Senate district on August 10.    Senator Vidak won the San Joaquin Valley seat that has long been held by Democrats, defeating Leticia Perez in a special election called after the resignation of Democrat Michael Rubio of Bakersfield.  

    Assembly narrowly passes Steinberg's farm worker contract bill - - A controversial bill to change mandatory mediation procedures in farm labor contract disputes  has narrowly cleared the Assembly and is in the Senate awaiting concurrence for Assembly amendments.  Proponents of Senate Bill 25 by Sen. President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) say it is needed to avoid lengthy delays in contract disputes by forcing agricultural employers into mediation. Farmers who oppose the bill have argued that it limits the ability of farm workers to vote on contracts and hurts relations between management and agricultural employees.

    Assembly passes bill to raise minimum wage - - Legislation to raise the minimum wage passed the Assembly May 30 by a 45-27-7 vote and is now awaiting action in the Senate.  Assembly Bill 10 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salias) would increase the state minimum wage over a five-year period from $8 to $10. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and in California the minimum wage is $8. The bill was passed on a 5-2 vote by the state Senate Appropriations Committee on August 30, 2013 and is awaiting further action in the legislature. California’s minimum wage has remained at $8 an hour since 2008. It is not tied to the cost of living and any changes require legislative action. Two efforts to raise it since 2008 failed to get out of the Legislature. AB 10 would increase the hourly minimum pay to $8.25 in 2014, to $8.75 in 2015 and to $9.25 in 2016.

    Fertilizer tax legislation in Senate Ag Committee - - AB 69, Nitrate at Risk Fund. authored by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) would impose a 1 percent tax on all fertilizer sales, dedicated to reduce the presence of nitrates in drinking water, with the authority to increase the tax up to 4 percent based on certain conditions beginning in 2016.The measure is currently at the Senate Agriculture Committee awaiting further action by the legislature.

    Orth named to California Water Commission - -  David Orth, general manager of the Kings River Conservation District, has been appointed to a four-year term on the California Water Commission, which advises the Department of Water Resources on many issues. Orth, 55, of Clovis, is well-known in the farm water community after holding several positions, including general manager, with Westlands Water District from 1986 through 2000. He has been general manager at the conservation district since 2002. The water commission position must be confirmed by the Senate. Compensation is $100 per diem.

    Dianne Feinstein supports state fracking regulation bill - - U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on has endorsed a controversial state bill that would regulate but allow “fracking” and another new means of extracting oil and gas. “The discovery that fracking and acidization of oil and gas formations could produce approximately 23.9 billion barrels of petroleum in the continental United States — 64 percent of which is estimated to lie within the Monterey Shale formation underlying portions of Central and Southern California — points to the need for action to ensure protection of the state’s natural resources,” said Feinstein. SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas, would require the state Secretary of Natural Resources to work with state and regional water boards and the state air board to create regulations governing “well stimulation” treatments, which includes hydraulic fracturing – commonly known as “fracking” – and acidization.

    Water bond bill Introduced in Assembly

    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 Sept. 13, 2013, it is anticipated that a final water bond package will not be completed and voted upon in the Legislature until next year.

    Court rules that air board has authority to hold cap and trade 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.

     State Legislation of Interest 

    SB 504, sponsored by Sen. Tom Berryhill, authorizing county agricultural commissioners to obtain judgments from a superior court to expedite recovery of civil penalties levied again violators of the Fruit, Nut and Vegetable Standards Law was passed and sent to the Governor for signature.  Currently, ag commissioners must turn to district attorneys for criminal prosecution or county counsels to seek an injunction against violators who have not paid required fines.  This law allows them to obtain judgment without the additional court procedures.    

    • AB 426, sponsored by Asm. Rudy Salas, providing an optional, voluntary process for water right holders to gain permission from the State to transfer their water rights to other parties, was passed by both the State Senate and Assembly and will now go to the Governor for signature.


    • The State Senate and Assembly will adjourn on September 13.  The following bills are awaiting action prior to adjournment:


    • AB 8 would extend extra fees on car and boat registration and tire sales until January 1, 2024 to fund California’s clean air and clean vehicle incentive programs such as the Carl Moyer Program.    A similar bill, SB 11, is being considered as well.


    • AB 21 would create the Safe Drinking Water Small Community Emergency Grant Fund which would be administered by the Department of Public Health and used to provide grants for emergency drinking water projects that serve disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities


    • AB 227 changes the enforcement provisions of Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.  The bill intends to reduce or eliminate frivolous legal actions.  This bill allows businesses two weeks to correct any violations upon being served a notice of a violation and assesses them a $500 fine with 75% of the fine being deposited into the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Fund and the remaining 25% being paid to the person that served the notice of the violation.  This bill applies only to four types of exposures:  tobacco, alcoholic beverages, food/beverages prepared for immediate consumption and engine exhaust.   


    • AB 327 addresses residential electrical rates, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley and other warm regions of the state that have above average electricity usage.  The bill was amended so that customers who installed solar systems and other renewable energy projects under the Net Energy Metering program before July 1, 2017, would be subject to significant changes after 2017 on how they are compensated for energy they produce and provide back to the utility.  The rate of compensation could be dramatically reduced for existing customers who have already entered into long-term investments and other contracts.  


    • SB 4 establishes a comprehensive regulatory program for hydraulic fracturing and acid well stimulation including a study on the hazards and risks, creating a permitting program and adding a requirement for notifying communities before well stimulation begins.  


    California High Speed Rail Authority Violated Proposition 1A

    Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny said the California High Speed Rail Authority “abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law.”  He did not, however, halt funding for the project, but plans to hold another hearing to determine what happens next.  Proposition 1A required the agency to identify funding for the entire first segment of the project and clear all environmental hurdles before starting construction, but to date only a portion of the complete funding has been identified.  Governor Brown has stated this is not a setback and that the project is moving forward adding that “It raises some questions, and I think they’ll be answered within that judge’s framework.” 

    California High Speed Rail Not Subject to California Environmental Quality Act

    California's high-speed rail project is no longer subject to the state's rigorous environmental laws after a federal transportation board ruled that it has oversight of the project, the state attorney general's office argues in a brief filed Friday. The June decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board—which was sought by opponents of the bullet train—pre-empts the authority of the California Environmental Quality Act, the state argued in the filing made on behalf of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. "The STB's decision concluding it has jurisdiction over the entire high-speed train system fundamentally affects the regulatory environment for the project going forward," the state said in the brief submitted to the Third District Court of Appeals, which was obtained by The Associated Press 

    Contract for first section of California High Speed Rail signed

    The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) signed the contract with the consortium of Tutor Perini Corp of Sylmar, Zachry Construction of Texas, and Pasadena-based Parsons Crop for the first construction segment from Avenue 17 east of Madera to American Avenue at the south end of Fresno.  Their bid of $985 million was approved by the CHSRA board on June 6.  No date has been set for the work to begin, but the first tangible work will include clearing property, demolishing buildings and relocating utilities.  Actual construction is not expected to begin until 2014.



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