Legislature Adjourns 2013 Session without Action on AB 145, Water Bond Bills
The Legislature adjourned the first year of the 2013-’14 session early Friday without acting on bills that would have modified the 2014 water bond and transferred the state’s drinking water program to the State Water Resources Control Board.
As the session gaveled down, AB 145 (Perea) remained in the Senate Appropriations Committee as a two-year bill. The ACWA-opposed measure, which proposed to transfer the state’s entire drinking water program from the Department of Public Health to the State Board, was placed on the suspense file Aug. 30, but discussions continued between the author and Senate leadership.
On Sept. 6, Perea amended AB 1393, which previously dealt with workers compensation, to include language that would have transferred just the administration of the state’s drinking water State Revolving Fund to the State Board. ACWA and its coalition partners had suggested the language since February as a middle ground alternative to transferring the entire drinking water program, as proposed in AB 145.
Utlimately, AB 1393 did not advance during the last week of session amid concerns from AB 145 supporters that moving the fund to the State Board this year would make it more difficult to move the entire program in 2014.
The Brown Administration has indicated its interest in moving the entire program to the State Board next year. The administration would have a variety of procedural options for doing that.
ACWA and its coalition partners maintained throughout the 2013 session that solutions are needed to assist disadvantaged communities that do not have sustainable supplies of safe drinking water. The association argued, however, that moving the state’s entire drinking water program to the State Board as proposed by AB 145 was not the right solution and would in fact undermine the program’s focus on public health, disrupt key drinking water program functions and force the program to compete with other critical priorities before the State Board.
ACWA and the coalition consistently called for AB 145 to be amended to focus on improving management of the SRF and suggested that transferring just the administration of the SRF to the State Board – while leaving the rest of the drinking water program at CDPH – would be a more targeted solution.
Water Bond Bills
Meanwhile on the water bond front, two bills that would repeal the existing 2014 bond and place a modified measure on the November 2014 ballot were amended but not taken up for a vote before lawmakers adjourned.
As amended Setp. 11, Assembly Bill 1331 by Assembly Member Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) proposes a $6.5 billion bond that would be known as the Climate Change Response for Clean and Safe Drinking Water Act of 2014. The proposed bond, based on a framework developed by a working group of Assembly Democrats headed by Rendon, would fund clean and safe drinking water projects ($1 billion); protection of rivers, lakes, streams and watersheds ($1.5 billion); climate change preparedness for regional water security ($1.5 billion); Delta sustainability ($1 billion); and water storage for climate change ($1.5 billion continuously appropriated).
On the Senate side, SB 42 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) as amended Sept. 11 proposes a $5.6 billion water bond for the 2014 ballot that would be known as the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Flood Protection Act of 2014.
SB 42 would fund safe drinking water projects ($1.5 billion), water quality and watershed protection projects ($1.8 billion), flood control and stormwater management ($1.3 billion), water system operation improvements, including storage ($1 billion).
AB 1331 and SB 42 are currently in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. A joint informational hearing on the water bond has set for Sept. 24 in in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.
ACWA’s Position on the 2014 Water Bond
ACWA’s Board of Directors has directed staff to support modifications to the existing 2014 water bond to protect key priority areas and reduce its size. As a statewide organization, ACWA is prioritizing funding for elements that have statewide importance, including water storage and Delta ecosystem restoration. ACWA is also prioritizing funding for disadvantaged communities that do not have safe drinking water.