Our Top 10 List from the 2016 Legislative Year

Here’s SBC’s Harper’s Index version of a Legislative Top 10 List for 2016!

  • Number of bills identified as initially “of interest”: 90
  • Number of bills regularly tracked for potential action: 50
  • Number of bills chosen as priorities for concentrated activity: 15
  • Number of letters submitted on priority bills and other bills of interest: 65
  • Number of letters submitted regarding statewide programs/guidelines/efforts: 16
  • Number of letters submitted on the state budget: 3
  • Number of our priority bills signed by the Governor: 9
  • Number of our priority bills that died but are likely to resurface next session: 3
  • Number of full-page Sacramento Bee ads we appeared in: 1
  • Number of high-profile bill signing ceremonies we attended: 1

A quick recap of the 2016 legislative session

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: unfortunately the parks bond, which included substantial funding for the Sierra region and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, did not make it to the Governor’s desk, but we do anticipate its reintroduction next session. Also, while the Governor and Legislature finally agreed on how to spend Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) monies generated from the auction of cap-and-trade allowances, very little of that funding is likely to come to our region in the immediate future.GOV KT SB32signing 2016

That said, we accomplished quite a lot this year! For example, SBC was a strong and active supporter of SB 32 (Pavley), which extends the state’s climate program and sets additional GHG reduction targets out to 2030. This bill takes on even more significance as we anticipate decreased federal support for climate action based on the presidential election results. As a result of SBC’s backing of the bill, we were invited to attend the Governor’s signing ceremony in Los Angeles. A few of us were already there for a climate adaptation conference, so we accepted the honor and attended. In addition to thanking Senator Pavley in person, we talked briefly with other legislators and philanthropist Tom Steyer about Sierra priorities for 2017.

SBC also succeeded in amending a source watershed investment bill (AB 2480-Bloom) to better benefit the Sierra. The bill codifies the importance of source watersheds to the state’s overall water picture, first by recognizing that healthy natural systems (aka natural or “green” infrastructure) are critical to a reliable supply of water and then by making protection and restoration of those natural systems eligible for infrastructure financing – just like dams, levees and canals. However, the initial bill was limited to just the five watersheds supplying the State Water Project. We worked with the author and sponsor to amend the bill so it would apply to all source watersheds, which should help attract much-needed investment to the Sierra-Cascade region in the future.

As we turn our attention to 2017, it will be more important than ever to protect the progress we’ve made, especially on climate change. We intend to get more proactive on key issues including:

  • support of the biomass industry as a means of achieving forest health and community sustainability goals;
  • increased funding for watershed restoration in the Sierra, including green infrastructure financing resulting from AB 2480;
  • successful passage of a reintroduced parks bond;
  • increased use of alternative energy/energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gases and other emissions;
  • enhancement of triple-bottom-line business innovation programs in rural communities; and more.

California’s leadership – including the Governor and leaders of both the state Assembly and Senate – have clearly stated their intent to continue implementing statewide policies and priorities, including (in Governor Brown’s words), “confront[ing] the existential threat of our time — devastating climate change.” SBC looks forward to supporting that goal, through both our strong policy efforts and our growing portfolio of on-the-ground projects that help rural small businesses and local governments reduce costs, foster innovation, improve access to capital, restore healthy ecosystems, build affordable housing, and reduce the risks associated with a changing climate.

We and our partners have a lot to look forward to in the year ahead. More to come as we get further into the 2017 legislative session.