Final State Budget, Trailer Bills Signed by Governor

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Final State Budget, Trailer Bills Signed by Governor

ACWA Legislative Advisory, June 26, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown this week signed a final 2015-’16 state budget and an ACWA-opposed budget trailer bill that includes language authorizing the State Water Resources Control Board to mandate consolidation of public water systems.

The trailer bill, which cleared the Assembly and Senate on party-line votes, also includes provisions related to CEQA exemptions for water recycling and groundwater replenishment projects, measuring and reporting of water diversions, local drought penalties and enforcement authorities, and appropriation of some Proposition 1 funding for water use efficiency upgrades.

Though the consolidation language included in the final SB 88 trailer bill was narrower in scope than earlier versions, ACWA remained opposed along with a coalition of statewide local government organizations. ACWA members sent nearly 150 letters of opposition and made numerous phone calls to Senate and Assembly members and their staffs on the trailer bill by the time the measure was taken up for floor votes on June 19. ACWA and coalition members testified against the language at a five-hour hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on the evening of June 18.

Action on the trailer bill came after the Legislature approved a final 2015-’16 state budget bill June 19 that reflected an agreement reached with the governor earlier that week.

The Legislature also approved revised trailer bill language related to drinking water fees as part of an omnibus resources trailer bill known as SB 83. The language keeps the existing drinking water fee structure in place for one year and creates a stakeholder process to provide input on proposed changes moving forward. It also requires the State Water Board to adopt the first round of changes through the regulatory process instead of by emergency regulation as previously proposed. These changes were sought by an ACWA-led coalition of water agencies.

Details on Consolidation Language

The final language in SB 88 allows the State Water Board to order public water system consolidations or extensions of service when a system serving a disadvantaged unincorporated community “consistently fails to provide an adequate supply of safe drinking water.” According to a fact sheet, the State Water Board would have to take several steps before ordering a consolidation or extension of service, including notifying the affected systems, consulting with the relevant local agency formation commission (LAFCO), and allowing time to negotiate another means of providing an adequate supply of safe drinking water.

The State Water Board also would have to provide technical assistance and work with the affected systems to develop a financing package that benefits both systems, and hold at least one public hearing as close as feasible to the affected areas.

Thank You to ACWA Members

ACWA thanks all member agencies who responded to ACWA’s alerts by writing letters and making phone calls to their local Senate and Assembly representatives opposing the trailer bill language on consolidations. The letters and phone calls definitely had an impact in elevating concerns about the measure and requiring proponents to narrow the trailer bill language significantly.

ACWA will continue to monitor developments related to consolidations in the coming months.

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