THIS MONTH IN SACRAMENTO – NOVEMBER 2021 NEWSLETTER
Fall Recess Begins
The Legislature recessed without some of the recent fanfare on September 10. They will return to Sacramento, tanned, rested, and ready on January 3, 2022, at 2:00 pm.
Following is the semi-final list of ASCE tracked bills. They are sorted by location – Chaptered, meaning the Governor has signed the bill and enrolled means they are awaiting his serious consideration. We’ll update this next month after Newsom has his final opinion on the more than 1,000 bills sent to him.
For reference, the Assembly introduced 1,811 bills, and the Senate 965 (reflecting twice as many Assembly members) equates to 23 well thought out, exquisitely drafted statutory changes per member. Of those 2,776 bills, so far, 703 were chaptered, 396 are enrolled, and five were vetoed – which, if this trend continues, will represent one of the historically lowest veto ratio in modern history. So let’s take a look.
AB 464 (Mullin – D) expands the types of facilities and projects EIFDs may fund to include the acquisition, construction, or repair of commercial structures of small businesses or facilities in which nonprofit community organizations provide health, youth, homeless, and social services, as specified. ASCE Position: Support
SB 414 (Jones – R) Senate Bill 414 extends a local agency’s time to hear an appeal to 45 days after an appellant files a request and makes conforming changes. SB 414 also creates a different definition of “cadastral surveying” to mean a survey that creates, marks, defines, retraces, or reestablishes the boundaries and subdivisions of the public land of the United States, or any other field survey of a cadaster that is a public record, survey, or map of the extent and ownership of land. ASCE Position: Favor
SB 640 (Becker – D) This bill authorizes local governments to sponsor local streets and roads projects jointly funded by the Road Repair and Accountability Act (SB 1, Beall, Chapter 5, Statutes of 2017). ASCE Position: Support
SB 776 (Gonzalez – D) This bill makes changes to the statute that guides the implementation of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water (SADW) Fund, including consolidating the State Water Resources Control Board’s authority to enforce the terms, conditions, and requirements of its financial assistance programs.
AB 1499 (Daly – D) This bill authorizes the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and regional transportation agencies (RTPAs) to use the design-build procurement method for transportation projects in California until 2034. ASCE Position: Support
SB 273 (Hertzberg – D) Authorizes a municipal wastewater agency to acquire, construct, expand, operate, maintain, and provide facilities to manage stormwater and dry weather runoff. ASCE Position: Favor
SB 403 (Gonzalez – D) Authorizes the State Water Resources Control Board to order consolidation between a receiving water system and an at-risk water system under specified circumstances ASCE Position: Watch
SB 626 (Dodd – D) This bill would authorize DWR to use the design-build and CM/GC processes for project delivery for facilities of the State Water Project, excluding through Delta conveyance. In addition, the bill would exempt PLA projects from skilled and trained workforce mandates.
SB 339 (Wiener – D) SB 339 extends the California Road Charge Pilot Program from 2023 until 2027. This extension will allow the California Transportation Commission (CTC) and California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) to continue their study of the viability of a road charge, or a fee based on road usage, as a replacement for the current gas tax. ASCE Position: Support
SB 319 (Melendez – R) Requires local agencies that do not comply with impact fee annual report requirements for three years to include each year they did not comply with these requirements in requested audits. ASCE Position: Watch
AB 43 (Friedman – D) Grants Caltrans and local authorities greater flexibility in setting speed limits based on recommendations the Zero Traffic Fatality Task Force made in January 2020. ASCE Position: Watch
AB 1035 (Salas – D) This bill would delete the condition in the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Program requirement imposed on the department and those cities and counties to use advanced technologies and material recycling techniques to the extent possible. ASCE Position: Watch
AB 1147 (Friedman – D) Makes numerous substantive changes to the required elements of MPOs regional transportation plans to ensure effective implementation of sustainable communities and alternative planning strategies. This bill also requires the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to develop a guidance document to provide best practices for establishing “15-minute communities”. It requires Caltrans to create a bicycle highway pilot program. ASCE Position: Watch
AB 1238 (Ting – D) This bill repeals provisions of law prohibiting pedestrians from entering a roadway and specifies that pedestrians shall not be subject to a fine or criminal penalty for crossing or entering a road when no cars are present.
SB 44 (Allen – D) Establishes expedited administrative and judicial review of environmental review and approvals granted for “environmental leadership transit projects” that meet specified requirements. The bill would exempt PLA projects from skilled and trained workforce mandates, the need to submit certified payroll records, and prohibit the State Labor Commissioner from enforcing the labor code. Requires prevailing wages and apprentices on private projects authorized by the bill. ASCE Position: Watch
SB 671 (Gonzalez – D) This bill requires the CTC, in coordination with other state agencies, to develop a Clean Freight Corridor Efficiency Assessment and incorporate the recommendations into their respective programs for freight infrastructure; and codifies existing CTC guidelines for eligible projects for the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP). ASCE Position: Watch
Reports of Interest
The National Groundwater Assn. has linked to U.S. Geological Survey study titled, “Increased Pumping in California’s Central Valley During Drought Worsens Groundwater Quality,” it finds “long-term rates of groundwater-level decline and water-quality degradation in critically overdrafted basins accelerate by respective factors of 2-3 and 3-5 during drought, followed by brief reversals during wetter periods,” but “episodic water-quality degradation can occur during drought where increased pumpage draws shallow, contaminated groundwater down to depth zones tapped by long-screened production wells” and there is “a direct linkage between climate-mediated aquifer pumpage and groundwater quality on a regional scale.”
Public Policy Institute of California releases “Groundwater and Urban Growth in the San Joaquin Valley,” finds that “San Joaquin Valley is ground zero for the Sustainable Groundwater Act” and it has “the largest groundwater deficit in California,” recommendations include having urban and agricultural areas “collaborate not only on trading water but also in protecting areas for recharge, which will both bolster local groundwater levels and ensure supplies available for recharge make it into the ground.”
Lessons from California’s 2012–2016 Drought. By Jay Lund, et al. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. Oct. 2018. “That last drought also led to other fallouts: billions of dollars in economic losses as farmers were forced to let fields lie fallow and a 50 percent drop in electricity production from dams. It also contributed to the death of over 100 million trees, which fuels bigger wildfires, like the ones that ripped through the West last summer. If the current drought continues, similarly stark consequences lie ahead.” (Vox, Mar. 3, 2021). “Areas with the most severe impacts, in rough economic order, were agriculture (particularly San Joaquin Valley), forests, hydropower, rural groundwater supplies, recreation, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, aquatic ecosystems, protected fisheries management, and cities (particularly hydraulically isolated cities).”
Landfalling Droughts: Global Tracking of Moisture Deficits from the Oceans Onto Land. By Julio E. Herrera-Estrada et al. Water Resources Research. Sept. 2020. This 2020 study found that “of all the droughts that affected land areas globally from 1981 to 2018, about 1 in 6 started over water and moved onto land, with a particularly high frequency along the West Coast of North America…’Because they usually take several months to migrate onto land, there is a potential that tracking moisture deficits over the ocean could provide a warning to help protect against at least some of the most severe droughts’…the landfalling droughts, as those that move from the ocean to terra firma are known, grow three times as quickly as land-only droughts…The research zoomed in on West Coast landfalling droughts and linked them with Pacific Ocean weather patterns that are changing in a warming world.” (Inside Climate News, Mar. 19, 2021).
Drought Vulnerability in the United States: An Integrated Assessment. By Johanna Engström, et al. Water, vol. 12 no. 9 (Aug 31, 2020). “If asked where in the United States is most vulnerable to drought, you might point to those states in the West currently suffering under hot and dry conditions and raging wildfires. However, according to a new NOAA-funded assessment, what makes a state vulnerable is driven by more than just a lack of rain: it’s a combination of how susceptible a state is to drought and whether it’s prepared for impacts…. [T]he most vulnerable states are Oklahoma, Montana, and Iowa, while Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California are least vulnerable to drought…. Despite facing recurring multi-year droughts (relatively high exposure), California ranks very low in drought vulnerability. Moreover, thanks to a strong economy and well-developed adaptation measures, it’s better prepared for an extreme drought when it occurs than most other states.” (Climate.gov, Sep. 17, 2020).
U.S. Drought Monitor. National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
California Map; Western Region “The Drought Monitor summary map identifies general areas of drought and labels them by intensity. D1 is the least intense level, and D4 is the most intense. Drought is defined as a moisture deficit bad enough to have social, environmental, or economic effects. D0 areas are not in drought but are experiencing abnormally dry conditions that could turn into drought…” Tabular data is available, as well as data in GIS formats.
Assessing the Impact of Drought on Arsenic Exposure from Private Domestic Wells in the Conterminous United States. By Melissa Lombard, et al. Environmental Science & Technology. 2021. 10 p. “A new U.S. Geological Survey study highlights the importance of homeowners testing their well water to ensure it is safe for consumption, particularly in drought-prone areas. The first-of-its-kind national-scale study of private well water, conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that drought may lead to elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic and that the longer a drought lasts, the higher the probability of arsenic concentrations exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for drinking water. Researchers estimate that 4.1 million people in the lower 48 states who use private domestic wells are potentially exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic during drought conditions. This increases 54% from the estimated 2.7 million people exposed to unhealthy arsenic levels in private wells during normal, non-drought conditions. Arsenic is a metal that can occur naturally in bedrock and sediments worldwide and is commonly reported in drinking-water supply wells. However, chronic exposure to arsenic from drinking water is associated with an increased risk of several types of cancers, including bladder, lung, prostate, and skin cancers. Other adverse effects include developmental impairments, cardiovascular disease, adverse birth outcomes, and impacts on the immune and endocrine systems.” (U.S. Geological Survey, Mar. 18, 2021).
What Can We Learn from How the State Responded to the Last Major Drought? By Gabriel Petek, et al. Legislative Analyst’s Office. May 2021. 11 p. “Rural, low-income Latino communities across California were hardest hit by the last drought and could see drinking water shortages again this year as extreme drought spreads across the state, according to a report… by non-partisan advisors to California’s lawmakers. The report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office warns state officials to prepare by ramping up monitoring of wells in vulnerable communities and lining up emergency drinking water supplies to send there.” (CalMatters, May 13, 2021).
Appointments of Interest by the Governor
Christina W.H. Wong, 54, of Chico, has been appointed to the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists. Wong has been Senior Program Coordinator at the Glenn County Health and Human Services Agency since 2002. In addition, she was a Mental Health Therapist at the Butte County Probation Department from 2008 to 2020. Wong was a Master of Social Work Coordinator for the School of Social Work at the University of Alabama from 1993 to 1997. She was Dean of Student Affairs at Hong Kong Shue Yan University from 1993 to 1997. Wong earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Hull. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Wong is a Democrat.
As one of three ex-Officio members to Coastal Conservancy from State Senate: John Laird, 71, Santa Cruz, Democrat, has represented SD 17 since 2020.
As Director, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research: Samuel Assefa, 63, Seattle WA, Democrat, director of the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development since 2016. Salary: $200,004.