End of Session Wrap-Up
A little after midnight, the Senate and Assembly adjourned for the final time this year, marking the close of the 2013 Legislative Session. The session was technically scheduled to end tonight, Friday September 13, but because of the observance of Yom Kippur, the final deadline was advanced by one day. The adjournment follows an extremely hectic week of all-day floor sessions where hundreds of bills were passed to the Governor. Several measures also ultimately failed passage in the final days either because they lacked support, or in some cases, authors simply ran out of time. There was no shortage of end-of-the-session antics, with shortly noticed “off the floor” committee meetings, a plethora of “gut and amend” introductions and negotiations on several key last-minute legislative proposals happening late into the night. Several major pieces of legislation were constructed in these final days to address pressing concerns from the Governor’s office, including a major budget adjustment to address prison population following an unfavorable legal ruling against the State, as well as a measure to adjust the state’s minimum wage.
Several important measures of interest to CASA members remained active in the final days of Session, including the following:
AB 537 (Bonta) – OPPOSE
This bill, sponsored by several public employee unions and the California Professional Firefighters (CPF), would make significant changes to impasse procedures during labor negotiations. Specifically, AB 537 requires the governing body at a publicly noticed meeting to adopt the Tentative Agreement within 30 days, among other provisions. If the Tentative Agreement is rejected, an unfair labor practice charge could be filed against the governing body. CASA, along with several local government organizations, has been opposed to the measure all year. While it has been significantly amended since its introduction, CASA remains opposed. The bill was passed and sent to the Governor on Thursday from the Assembly Floor on a partisan vote of 51-20, with Republicans voting “no.”
SB 556 (Corbett) – OPPOSE
This bill, co-sponsored by the California Labor Federation and CPF, was initially introduced in an effort to target contracted (non-union) ambulance operators. As drafted the bill would prohibit a person, firm, corporation, or association that is a nongovernmental entity and who contracts to perform labor or services relating to public health or safety for a public entity, from displaying on a vehicle or uniform a logo that reasonably could be interpreted as implying that the labor or services are being provided by employees of the public agency, unless the vehicle or uniform conspicuously displays a disclosure. A significant portion of the public sector falls under these provisions, and as such a coalition of local government groups, including CASA, have been opposing the bill. The bill was ultimately sent to the “Inactive File” on the Assembly Floor Wednesday after the sponsors decided not to pursue the measure this year.
SB 691 (Hancock) – WATCH
This bill would have increased civil penalties for discharging toxic air contaminants that have significant impacts on surrounding communities. The sponsors, Breathe California and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, introduced the measure in response to the Chevron refinery fire after hundreds of people in the community were significantly impacted and the sponsors felt the penalties against Chevron were disproportionate to the community impact. While CASA originally had some concerns relating to penalties for nuisance odors, the author’s office and sponsors accepted amendments that enabled CASA to move to a “Watch” position. However, several major business groups continued with significant opposition on the bill, and on Thursday morning, the bill was placed on the “Inactive file” on the Assembly Floor.
SB 322 (Hueso) – SUPPORT
CASA supports this water recycling measure which would require the State Department of Public Health in consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board, to investigate the feasibility of developing uniform water recycling criteria for direct potable reuse and to provide a final report on that investigation to the Legislature on or before December 31, 2016. This bill will also require the department to complete the public review draft of its report by September 1, 2016. The bill will help to expedite potable water recycling projects in the future, which will be of great benefit to CASA members involved in water recycling. The bill has received bipartisan support throughout the Session and was passed to the Governor on Wednesday.
SCA 3 (Leno) – DISAPPROVE
SCA 3, if signed by the Governor, will put a measure on the November 2014 ballot asking voters to consider whether compliance with provisions of the Brown Act and Public Records act should be absorbable costs to the local agency or remain a state reimbursable mandate. CASA has taken a “Disapprove” position on the bill, with the concern that if enacted by the voters, SCA 3 could require agencies to comply with unforeseeable future cost impacts resulting from further changes to the Brown Act and Public Records Act. SCA 3 passed both houses with strong bi-partisan support and was sent to the Governor on Tuesday.
SB 731 (Steinberg) – OPPOSE, UNLESS AMENDED
SB 731, authored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, was the major CEQA reform vehicle in the 2013 Session. A very large group of stakeholders, including CASA, local government, business, environmental and others were providing input to alleviate some longstanding problems associated with the CEQA process. CASA ultimately ended up taking an “Oppose, Unless Amended” position on the bill because in its later iterations, CASA and other public agencies felt that it would have done more harm than good. On Wednesday night, after discussions with Governor Brown, who has been vocal on his desire to see meaningful CEQA reform, Senator Steinberg amended several provisions of SB 731 into another one of his bills (SB 743) relating to expediting the new Sacramento Kings arena construction, and declared SB 731 a two-year bill. While Wednesday’s amendments to SB 731 seem to alleviate some of the more prominent concerns of CASA and the Public Works Coalition, CASA will remain involved in discussions on CEQA reform when the topic resurfaces next year.