May 2017 – This Month in Sacramento

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Legislative Update
by Richard Markuson
Region 9 Legislative Advocate


The Democratic leaders of the Legislature and Governor Brown reached an agreement on a comprehensive transportation funding agreement and incorporated it in Senator Jim Beall’s Senate Bill 1. As this is being published, the race is on to see if any Republicans will vote for the measure and its’ tax and fee increases or if they will be able to secure the 2/3 vote needed with just Democrats.

The legislation, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, invests $52.4 billion over the next decade – split equally between state and local projects:

Fix Local Streets and Transportation Infrastructure (50 percent):

  • $15 billion in “Fix-It-First” local road repairs, including fixing potholes
  • $7.5 billion to improve local public transportation
  • $2 billion to support local “self-help” communities that are making their own investments in transportation improvements
  • $1 billion to improve infrastructure that promotes walking and bicycling
  • $825 million for the State Transportation Improvement Program local contribution
  • $250 million in local transportation planning grants.

Fix State Highways and Transportation Infrastructure (50 percent):

  • $15 billion in “Fix-it-First” highway repairs, including smoother pavement
  • $4 billion in bridge and culvert repairs
  • $3 billion to improve trade corridors
  • $2.5 billion to reduce congestion on major commute corridors
  • $1.4 billion in other transportation investments, including $275 million for highway and intercity-transit improvements,

Ensure Taxpayer Dollars Are Spent Properly with Strong Accountability Measures:

  • Constitutional amendment to prohibit spending the funds on anything but transportation
  • Inspector General to ensure Caltrans and any entities receiving state transportation funds spend taxpayer dollars efficiently, effectively and in compliance with state and federal requirements
  • Provision that empowers the California Transportation Commission to hold state and local government accountable for making the transportation improvements they commit to delivering
  • Authorization for the California Transportation Commission to review and allocate Caltrans funding and staffing for highway maintenance to ensure those levels are reasonable and responsible
  • Authorization for Caltrans to complete earlier mitigation of environmental impacts from construction, a policy that will reduce costs and delays while protecting natural resources.

The transportation investment package is funded by everyone who uses California roads and highways:

  • $7.3 billion by increasing diesel excise tax 20 cents
  • $3.5 billion by increasing diesel sales tax to 5.75 percent
  • $24.4 billion by increasing gasoline excise tax 12 cents
  • $16.3 billion from an annual transportation improvement fee based on a vehicle’s value (from $25 to $175)
  • $200 million from an annual $100 Zero Emission Vehicle fee commencing in 2020.
  • $706 million in General Fund loan repayments.

Leadership in both the Senate and the Assembly expect the measure to be voted on by Thursday, April 6, 2017.

In the Senate, Senator Steve Glazer, Brown’s own former political adviser, may withhold support of the bill “because he wants a provision banning BART transit strikes.” Brown said he hoped to instead persuade Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, to back the deal. “Cannella is more open than Glazer is” to supporting the bill, Brown said in an interview Thursday afternoon. It’s unclear whether Cannella is willing to deal. Cannella’s spokesman said the senator had taken no position and is “open to continuing discussions.”

Brown called Glazer’s no-strike idea a “perfectly reasonable” one, but “a non-starter” in this case. “That would kill the bill,” he said.

SB 1 has a laundry list of other grants and allocations:

  • $5,000,000 each year to assist local agencies to implement policies to promote preapprenticeship training programs
  • $25,000,000 annually for expenditure on the freeway service patrol
  • $25,000,000 annually for local planning grants
  • $5,000,000 and $2,000,000 annually to the University of California and the California State University, respectively, for conducting transportation research and transportation-related workforce education, training, and development.
  • Any leftovers are split 50%/50% between the State and Locals.

Governor Brown signed ASCE supported AB 28 (Frazier D-Oakley) – an urgency measure – that reinstates California’s participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Pilot Program (later called the NEPA Assignment). The sunset means the authority will last only two years.


Governor’s Appointments

To the High-Speed Rail AuthorityErnest Camacho, Sierra Madre, president and CEO of Pacifica Services, Inc. Term ends December 31, 2018.

To State Water Resources Board: Tam Doduc (reappointed), Sacramento, board member since 2005; Joaquin Esquivel, La Quinta, assistant secretary for federal water policy at the CA Natural Resources Agency since 2015.


Recent Reports

Pacific Research Institute has released its issue brief on the state’s “housing crisis” and its causes, finds “housing in California is excessively expensive – four of the most expensive housing markets in the United States are found in California,” also finds “government policies that have dis-incentivized home building” have resulted in a “severe shortage,” and “perhaps the single-biggest hurdle to home building in California are burdensome regulations from the California Environmental Quality Act.”

Restore the Delta has released its report, “California’s Sustainable Water Plan,” highlights “projects in communities statewide that are far smarter investments than Jerry Brown’s controversial and expensive Delta Tunnels proposal,” includes the Water Replenishment District of Southern California’s proposal to build a water purification plant “that would make the district entirely self-reliant on local water.”

State Water Resources Control Board has released its report on water conservation by urban districts during the month of January, finds Californians’ monthly water usage was 20.5 percent lower compared to January 2013.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth released “Seismic Constraints on the Architecture of the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon Fault: Implications for the Length and Magnitude of Future Earthquake Ruptures.” [pdf link] “[T]wo earthquake faults … are actually a single system that could produce devastating temblors affecting Tijuana to the Los Angeles region…. If offshore segments … ruptured, they could generate a magnitude 7.3 quake capable of damaging much of the Southern California coastline.… An earthquake on a land-based portion of the system could reach magnitude 7.4 and create similarly widespread harm…. ‘This system is mostly offshore but never more than four miles from the San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles County coast. Even if you have a high 5- or low 6-magnitude earthquake, it can still have a major impact on those regions.’”

Legislative Analyst’s Office released Ten Years Later: Progress Towards Expending the 2006 Bond Funds. [web link] The $42 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2006 was “the biggest single approval of bonds in state history.” The money—allocated for transportation, housing, K-12 and higher education, flood control and natural resources—was mostly meant to be spent within a decade. By November 2016, about $36 billion (84%) of the authorized money had been expended, with differences among the bonds in spending pace (96% of Prop. 1D education bonds have been spent, but only 57% of Prop. 1E flood prevention bonds). Reasons for expenditure lag include challenges in coordinating with other entities, project size and complexity, and multiple funding allocations.

Journal of Hydrology released Resistivity Imaging Reveals Complex Pattern of Saltwater Intrusion Along Monterey Coast.” [web link] “Researchers … have transformed pulses of electrical current sent 1,000 feet underground into a picture of where seawater has infiltrated freshwater aquifers along the Monterey Bay coastline. The findings … help explain factors controlling this phenomenon, called saltwater intrusion, and could help improve the groundwater models that local water managers use to make decisions about pumping groundwater to meet drinking or farming needs…. [R]emoving too much of that groundwater can change the fluid pressure of underground aquifers, drawing seawater into coastal aquifers and corrupting water supplies. Saltwater intrusion is often irreversible.”

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