Legislative and Regulatory Update
By Brian White, KP Public Affairs, and Larry Camp, Legislative Committee Co-Chair
After a significant hiatus, the Legislature is back in session. The first order of business is consideration of bills that were carried over from the last session. Two bills of interest to Forest Landowners of California (FLC) were AB 522 (Fong) and AB 1154 (Patterson). Assemblymember Fong’s bill would extend the provisions of the Fire Safe exemption from 2024 to 2026. Assembly member Patterson’s bill would waive CEQA requirements for construction of alternative/additional access routes in communities in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). FLC submitted letters in support of both bills and they have moved to the Assembly floor. On January 27, both bills were approved by the Assembly with bipartisan support.
New Bills and Budget Plans in the Works
There were a total of about 2,100 new bills introduced by the February 18 bill introduction deadline. All indications point to another huge budget surplus (between $30-$50 billion). In December 2021, both the Senate and Assembly Democrats released their budget priorities. The Assembly Republicans released their budget priorities on January 4, 2022. The one thing all of their budget plans have in common is a continued desire to fund and strengthen wildfire mitigation. The devil will be in the details.
The Legislature came back in session January 3, 2022. They are settling into a new building while the Capitol is being refurbished for the next four years. There are a lot of new legislative offices in the so-called “Swing Space” located across from the Capitol at 10th and O Streets. For now, the public doesn’t have access to the new Swing Space and most of the hearings will continue to take place in the old part of the Capitol. If you need contact information, please contact Deidre.
Redistricting Forces Early Exits
Meanwhile, there has been a lot of political activity during the last few weeks with several legislators deciding their futures given newly redrawn legislative districts. The new districts are forcing many legislators to consider retirement and others are moving to new districts to stay in office. As of this writing, at least 12 legislators have indicated they will retire and will not seek reelection after 2022. For the most part, this won’t change the balance of power since Democrats will still control 75% of the seats in the Senate and Assembly, but there will be several new faces once the November elections are complete.
New Committee Chairs
At the same time, there are new Committee Chair assignments that have been announced in the Assembly, largely due to the announced retirements. This could change the political dynamics for some bills as the Assembly Appropriations Committee has a new chair in Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) who takes over for Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). Assemblymember Gonzalez is retiring to accept a job as the next CEO for the powerful California Labor Federation. The Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee also has a new Chair in Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella Valley) who takes over for Assemblymember Holden. The Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee also has a new Chair in Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) who takes over for Assemblymember Garcia. On the Senate side, no new chairs have been announced but that could change by the middle of the year. It should be noted that Senator Henry Stern, the current chair of Senate Natural Resources, is planning to run for a county supervisor seat in November. Senator McGuire (North Coast of California) has been appointed as Majority Leader (second in command) of the State Senate.
CALFIRE and Board of Forestry
Joseph Tyler, 50, of Rancho Cordova, has been appointed Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, where he has been Deputy Director of Fire Protection Programs since 2017 and has served in several positions since 1991, including Assistant Deputy Director of Fire Protection Programs, Staff Chief, Assistant Chief, Battalion Chief, Fire Captain, Paramedic, Fire Apparatus Engineer, Fire Fighter II and Fire Fighter I. Edith Hannigan, a long-time board staff member was recently appointed as the new Executive Director for the Board of Forestry.
The January Director’s Report to the Board indicated that the State hopes to resume operations on the Jackson State Forest Casper 500 timber sale but because of delays in approval it is not planning any additional timber sales in 2022. The Report also indicated that LaTour Demonstration Forest will not offer any large timber sales in 2022.
The Board of Forestry continues to develop both policy and regulation in the following areas:
- New regulations governing access and improvements to reduce fire hazards as mandate by legislation continue to be controversial. Because of legislative deadlines it is likely that regulations will be finalized by late summer or early fall.
- New guidance document regarding Botanical Surveys. This document will likely be finished in late spring.
- The use exemptions by public utilities to maintain and reduce fire danger along their rights-of-ways continues to be a controversial subject. It is likely that the Board will take some action later this spring.
- A small working group of land managers, foresters and land owners is reviewing opportunities to revise the regulations governing Basal Area stocking standards in light of recent research and the severity of fires in the last several years. The group will hopefully have some recommendations for the Board by late spring or early summer.
Federal Taxation Changes
Since the 2017 tax act was approved, the opportunity to claim a casualty loss due to fires has been generally limited to those areas within a Presidentially Declared Disaster area. The Build Back Better legislation proposed to change this provision of the tax code to be more favorable to all forest owners. FLC will continue to monitor this legislative issue in 2022.
Educational Opportunity for Forest Landowners
If you wish to learn more about federal income taxation and your forest, please visit the following website: https://forestrywebinars.net/sponsor-pages/woodland-stewards/ for the recorded seminars that might be of interest to you. They are available on-demand.
Some of the recent seminars include:
- February 23,2021Getting Started Managing your Land in Webinars
- January 18, 2022 Seeing the Forest for the Trees: An Overview of Forestry Taxes in Webinars
- January 25, 2022 Basics of Timber Basis (Cost): Re(setting) the Table in Webinars
- February 1, 2022 Timber Management Expenses and Deductions
- February 8, 2022 Keeping More of Your Timber Income following a Timber Sale
- February 15, 2022 Coping with Losses from Nature and Chance
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: