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Legislative Update
By: Russell W. Noack, Public Policy Advocates, LLC
January 30, 2018

On January 3rd, the California Legislature reconvened the second half of the two-year Session under a dark cloud. Allegations of a pervasive atmosphere of sexual harassment in the workplace at the Capitol led to the hiring of a special counsel and scheduling multiple hearings early in the month. Two Assembly members under investigation, Raul Bocanegra and Matthew Dababneh have resigned and a third legislator, Senator Tony Mendoza, has been voluntarily suspended. The speculation is that more Members may be implicated. A fourth member, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, resigned from the Assembly for health reasons. The end result is the temporary loss of a 2/3 majority in both Houses for the Democrats and, perhaps, the beginning of a new enlightened era of behavior under the Dome. We shall see.

Within this altered environment the Senate selected a woman, Toni Atkins of San Diego, to be their next leader effective on March 21st. The former Speaker of the Assembly will replace Kevin de León, co-author of Senate Bill 5, the comprehensive water and park bond bill we labored so hard to enact last year.

SB 5 was signed on October 15, 2017, and now has been designated Proposition 68 on the June 2018 Ballot. Known as the California Clean Water and Safe Parks Act, if it meets with the approval of the electorate, the measure will provide $4 Billion to address various significant water, parks and natural resource needs of the State. Of particular note to CARPD members, Proposition 68 would provide $285 Million for local parks with $200 Million allocated for per capita grants for local park rehabilitation and improvement grants. Additionally, $40 Million would be allocated to districts that have approved local park revenue measures; $30 Million in competitive grants to regional districts and counties to enhance parks and $15 Million in grants to cities serving a population of less than 200,000 and to counties serving less than 500,000. The bond includes many other potential sources of revenue for districts and should be analyzed in depth. For example, $725 Million is allocated to “park poor neighborhoods.”

The Prop. 68 Campaign is already underway. We have been actively participating in Prop. 68 Coalition meetings. The Coalition has retained Rally Communications, a seasoned firm with a strong natural resource resume to manage the campaign. The Coalition has organized regional support committees to carry the message to the targeted public – those with a propensity to vote and those that traditionally support parks and green space. Endorsements are being added daily; the Coalition is producing promotional materials and will be conducting polling and focus groups soon. The overall campaign has a budget and a solid plan to win on the Ballot in June. 

The other developments of note in Sacramento were the release of the Governor’s final State Budget early in the month and his Cap-and-Trade Expenditure Program last week. The Governor’s Climate Change Plan is designed to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in several ways, including promoting zero emission vehicles, healthy and resilient forests, climate smart agriculture and encouraging greater use of climate change technology solutions.

The Governor’s Budget proposes $110 million from SB 5/Prop. 68 for multiple departments and conservancies to implement various climate resiliency projects, including $18.6 million for the Natural Resources Agency to provide grants to local agencies to enhance and expand urban parks, mitigate urban heat islands, and develop non-motorized urban trails, and $14.6 million for CAL FIRE to provide grants for the planting of trees in urban areas. In addition to these programs, the Cap and Trade Expenditure Plan includes the following program that integrates mitigation actions with resilience benefits:

• Transformative Climate Communities—$25 million for the Strategic Growth Council to support neighborhood-level transformative projects that reduce GHG emissions, increase resilience, and provide local economic and health benefits to disadvantaged communities. This program provides funding for a combination of community-driven climate projects, such as transit-oriented development, water-energy efficiency installations, and urban greening, in a single neighborhood.

January 31st is the deadline for bills introduced last year to move to out of the house of origin and to the opposite house; February 16th is the bill introduction deadline for 2018. CARPD Legislative Committee members will roll up their sleeves and meet on February 22nd to review and develop positions on all the new bills of interest to the recreation and park community.  

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