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January 20, 2023

Legislative Update – January 2023*

By Brian White, FLC Legislative Advocate
*This was distributed to members by email in late January; provided here in print.
State Legislature
Now that all 35 new legislators elected in November 2022 have settled into their offices, the coveted requests of committee selections have also been decided.  During the last two weeks, the Senate and Assembly leaders have announced new committee chairs and full committee assignments for the 2023-24 legislative session. While the Assembly has newer legislators than the Senate with at least 24 new members, the Senate is experiencing the most change in terms of its committee chairs. This includes committees that will have direct influence over forest management, wildfire, and land use policies. The Senate has appointed new chairs for the Senate Natural Resources Committee (Senator Dave Min/D-Irvine), the Senate Energy Committee (Senator Steve Bradford/D-Gardena), and the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Resources (Senator Josh Becker/D-Palo Alto).
Meanwhile, the Assembly has kept most of its existing chairs from the previous legislative session but appointed a slew of new legislators to various committees. This is occurring just when a future leadership change will come in June with the election of Assembly Member Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) as the Assembly Speaker-designee.  It remains to be seen if there will be any changes once the new Speaker takes over. Attached are the new appointments to the committees which are highlighted by those that will likely have the most influence over forest management and natural resources policy.  
There are two key legislative dates pending with January 20 as the deadline for legislators to submit bill language to Legislative Counsel for drafting and February 17 as the deadline for legislators to introduce new bills. With all the new legislators, it’s expected to be a busy year with the usual introduction of at least 2,000 bills for the first year of the two-year session. Some of the key topics will include homelessness and housing, climate change, education, water, and wildfires.  Committee hearings on policy bills won’t start until late March to early April but hearings will start soon to discuss the state budget.
State Budget
By all accounts, the state is facing a potential $22 billion budget deficit, but state officials are calling it more of a “problem.”  Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposed 2023-24 fiscal year budget that outlines a much more cautionary approach than his previous spending plans which were marked by multibillion dollar surpluses. It’s possible the deficit could get worse, but we won’t know that until the Governor issues his May Revise.  In the meantime, he is proposing to delay $7 billion in spending while cutting another $9 billion, most of it from one-time funding for programs enacted last year which haven’t been spent yet. At this point, he is not proposing to use any of the $35 billion in reserves. However, legislators will begin negotiating with the Governor and they may be inclined to use some of the reserves to protect certain programs.
In the resources and climate budget, most of the core climate changes programs were spared, however the Governor is proposing significant cuts or delays to some climate change programs, including an 11 percent reduction ($6 billion) from the governor’s five-year $54 billion climate change funding plan (essentially keeping $48 billion of the plan). Most of the cuts are on the transportation side ($3 billion) for programs that seek to promote zero emission vehicles and infrastructure charging. Not surprisingly, the proposed $6 billion cut to climate change programs doesn’t sit well with climate advocates and environmental groups. But the governor also indicated he will be seeking federal funding (e.g., Inflation Reduction Act) to offset some potential “trigger” cuts that could be avoided if federal funds materialize. He also noted discussions are commencing with legislative leaders to try and enact a climate, water, and wildfire bond for the 2024 ballot. If passed by voters, he thinks this would provide supplemental funding to keep the state on track in meeting its climate change goals, in addition to building up its public safety infrastructure.
On the wildfire budget, the Governor is proposing to maintain $2.7 billion of the $2.8 billion provided over four years through the 2021 and 2022 budgets for wildfire and forest resilience. However, there is a proposed cut of nearly $100 million from some programs maintaining state-owned land, conducting defensible space inspections, and workforce training.  It’s also interesting that some of the wildfire funding could be backfilled with federal dollars as noted in the article below from Politico (please note that some links contained in the article may only show a portion of the article unless you register for a subscription).
Finally, it should be noted the release of the Governor’s budget just starts the budget process for the next six months. Legislators begin pouring over the budget through numerous hearings and proposing suggestions before the June 15 budget deadline. Attached are the highlights of the Governor’s budget and below are more specific links to climate change and resources programs.  

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Should you have any questions, please send an email to the FLC Legislative Committee at legchair@forestlandowners.org.
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If you are interested in wathcing the panel debrief, the video is posted on the PPIC's website:

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