Budget and Legislative Update – As of July 7, 2022
By Brian White, KP Public Affairs
Governor Newsom and Democrat leaders inked a budget deal just before the Legislature adjourned for a month-long summer recess starting July 1. The budget deal came together after agreements were reached to return several billion dollars back to taxpayers in the form of tax rebates. The Governor signed the overall $300 billion budget framework contained in SB 154 (Skinner), which was followed up by the signing of two additional “budget bill juniors” (AB 178 – Ting and AB 180 – Ting). The Governor also signed 27 other budget trailer bills that will implement various policy provisions that are tied to funding requests in the areas of education, resources, energy, health care, transportation, housing and public safety.
Unlike normal policy bills, budget bills take effect immediately, which means their provisions and the affected agencies are now law. One of the more controversial budget trailer bills (AB 205 - Ting) reshapes the state’s ability to procure energy to address reliability issues. Among other things, the bill provides state funding to procure fossil fueled resources while also providing a voluntary streamlined permit process for developers of utility scale solar, wind, energy storage and transmission projects to help expedite development of their projects with minimal local government input. The bill overwhelmingly passed with Democrat votes despite opposition from various environmental justice advocates and local government groups.
There are still some outstanding budget issues that will need to be resolved before the Legislature officially adjourns on August 31. This includes concerns with language in AB 180 that uses an undefined term called “non-commercial forestry” lands as a qualifier for lands that could receive part of the $50 million in state funding for post-fire reforestation and regeneration. FLC expressed its concerns to the Governor and legislative leaders that this term will make the reforestation funding unusable and legally indefensible. As a result, FLC has learned the issue is expected to be resolved in a cleanup bill when the Legislature returns on August 1.
There are approximately 1,000 bills that remain alive for the 2020 legislative session. When the Legislature returns from its summer recess on August 1, there will be a sprint to move all bills out of the respective Senate and Assembly fiscal committees by August 12. If bills are held in the fiscal committees due to cost and/or political issues, they will be dead for the remainder of session. Legislators will also try to resolve outstanding budget-related issues recognizing that August 25 is the last day to amend bills on the Senate and Assembly Floors. But technically, bills must be in print for at least 72 hours before they receive a final vote so they may have until August 28 to amend bills before the August 31 end of session deadline. Below is the status of some key bills FLC is tracking:
AB 267 (Valladares) extends, for an additional three years (until 2026) a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for prescribed fire, thinning, or fuel reduction projects on federal lands. Status: In Senate Appropriations. Position: Support
AB 522 (Fong) extends the forest fire prevention exemption from five years after the effective date of emergency regulations adopted by the Board of Forestry (BOF), which is February 19, 2024, until January 1, 2026. Status: In Senate Appropriations. Position: Support
AB 1154 (Patterson) exempts from CEQA an egress route project to improve emergency access to and evacuation from a subdivision without a secondary egress route if the subdivision has been identified by the Board of Forestry, and the Board of Forestry recommends the creation of a secondary access to the subdivision. Status: In Senate Appropriations. Position: Support
AB 1717 (Aguiar-Curry) expands the definition of public works, for which prevailing wage must be paid to workers, to include publicly funded fuel reduction work performed as part of a fire mitigation project. This would increase the time and costs for completing needed wildfire prevention projects, simply because they may have received some state funding. Status: In Senate Appropriations. Floor. Position: Oppose
AB 2278 (Kalra) requires the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to prepare and submit, beginning on or before March 31, 2024, an annual report to the Legislature on the progress toward achieving the goal to conserve 30% of state lands and coastal waters by 2030, as established by Governor Newsom’s 2020 executive order. Status: In Senate Appropriations. Position: Watch
AB 2322 (Wood) requires the Building Standards Commission (BSC) to adopt, approve, codify and publish mandatory building standards for fire resistance based on occupancy risk categories in very high, high and moderate California fire severity zones in state responsibility areas and local responsibility areas. Status: In Senate Appropriations. Position: Watch
AB 2377 (Muratsuchi) requires the Secretary of Natural Resources to be responsible for consulting with the State Water Board, Department of Fish and Wildlife, CALFIRE, and the Board of Forestry in coordinating and synchronizing all necessary permits and agreements for forest management, wildfire prevention, and fuel reduction, including a goal of treating 500,000 acres annually by 2025. Status: Senate Appropriations. Appropriations Committee. Position: Watch
AB 2878 (Aguiar-Curry) establishes the Forest Biomass Waste Utilization Program to develop an implementation plan for using biomass waste, including requiring the CPUC to adopt measures to use biomass waste that could support rural microgrids; provide incentives for electricity and pipeline interconnection for forest biomass projects; and consider increasing the megawatt cap of the Bioenergy Market Adjusting Tariff. Status: In Senate Appropriations. Position: Recommend Support
SB 396 (Bradford) establishes a process for an electrical corporation that owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission and distribution line to cut, fell, or trim trees where the electrical corporation does not have existing rights or express permission to do so. Recent amendments require an electrical corporation to provide notice to the land owner and an opportunity for the land owner to be heard before cutting, trimming, or felling trees, and requires all cutting to be done in compliance with the Forest Practice Rules and the California Coastal Act. Status: On Assembly Floor. Position: Watch
SB 926 (Dodd) requires CALFIRE, on or before January 1, 2023, to establish the Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program (PFL Pilot Program) and a $20 million Prescribed Fire Claims Fund (Fund) to support coverage for losses from permitted prescribed fires by individuals and nonpublic entities. The Legislature enacted FLC-supported prescribed burn liability relief bill in 2021 (SB 332 – Dodd), so this funding for a pilot program would help implement that legislation. Status: In Assembly Appropriations. Position: Recommend Support
SB 1109 (Caballero) extends requirements on electrical corporations and community choice aggregators (CCAs) to procure energy from biomass generating electric facilities by five years and requires extension of existing contracts by five years. Recent amendments deleted the increase of the additional 100 MW due to concerns raised by utilities and the Senate Energy Committee. Status: In Assembly Appropriations. Position: Support
Appellate Decision on WFMP Case
Good News -- Exemptions and NTMPs
CAL FIRE has reversed its policy change regarding the acceptance of exemptions for NTMPs. Please refer to the link below to view the letter from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Ken Pimlott) to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Keith Gilless).
Should you have any questions, please send an email to the FLC Legislative Committee at email@example.com.
Letter and Supporting Content from CAL FIRE to Board of Forestry
Legislative Committee Assignments
Public Policy Institute of California
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) issued a report in mid-September on the status of forest health in the Headwaters Forests. On September 20, there was a panel debriefing on the report. Click on the links below to download the documents.
If you are interested in wathcing the panel debrief, the video is posted on the PPIC's website: