SBC’s Legislative Session Wrap Up

Dear Friends,

As many of you know Sierra Business Council has been ramping up advocacy activities on behalf of our business and community network in the California legislature over the past several years. I wanted to take a moment to update you on the results of our efforts now that the California legislative session has ended.COMM Capitol 2016 07

Our advocacy at SBC is based on a strong set of values driven by our network members—strengthening small business as the backbone of our economy, stewarding natural resources wisely and preparing them for future conditions, prioritizing the health and livelihood of our residents and improving their opportunities—values our research has shown are widely shared by the SBC network.

To that end, every year we pick a set of issues to work on in Sacramento. The top priorities we focused on this year that were successful were:

  • Re-authorization of the California’s Cap and Trade program: AB 398 passed and was signed by the Governor re-authorizing the California Cap and Trade program, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate roughly $3 billion per year in revenue to be distributed through grant programs to achieve future reductions. This bill also included the elimination of the $70 million State Responsibility Area fee for fire management. Subsequently $200 million was added to the budget from Cap and Trade revenue to achieve the fire management objectives in lieu of the fire fee. AB 398 also included a strong workforce development component to link Cap and Trade revenue expenditures to job creation and training programs. Out of these successes, one of our major wins was in achieving more favorable conditions for Sierra investments and project work in the re-authorization.
  • Criteria air pollution reduction: AB 617 passed and was signed by the Governor, creating a process to develop community emission reduction programs to reduce exposure to toxic pollutants in the most effected communities in California.
  • Affordable, Workforce and Community Housing: Last week the Governor signed a package of roughly 15 affordable housing bills including a $4 billion bond measure to be placed on the June 2018 ballot to fund below market rate housing construction (SB 3), a $250 million per year permanent funding source for affordable housing (SB 2), and a variety of permit streamlining measures for certain affordable housing development in infill and in areas served by transit (SB 166, SB 167, AB 1505).
  • Parks and Water Bond: SB 5, the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act was placed on the June 2018 by the legislature. The $4 billion bond act includes $142 million in direct funding for Sierra Nevada based agencies, including the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the California Tahoe Conservancy, for forest restoration, watershed health and conservation. This is the largest expenditure ever included in a state resource bond measure for the Sierra Nevada. There is also a second citizen’s initiative to fund water supply, restoration and safety moving that is likely to be on the November ballot that contains significant funding for the Sierra Nevada. We will have more on that in subsequent posts, but it’s safe to say this is an exciting time for the region.

In addition to our four top priorities where we were successful, SBC worked on a number of other efforts that had mixed success:

  • We supported SB 100, which would have required California to get 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like biomass, solar and wind by 2030, up from the current legal mandate of 50 percent. It also would have tasked state regulators with charting a path to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. This bill will be taken up again next year.
  • SBC also supported AB 1665, the “Internet for All Act,” which extends the surcharge on phone service currently being collected of roughly $66 million per year until 2022, and dedicates the revenue to programs that expand broadband service in mostly rural regions of the state. Unfortunately we believe this program is going to need a little fine-tuning to be more effective in many rural areas.

At the federal level, SBC has been involved in advocating for the retention of the existing boundary for the Giant Sequoia National Monument, which has been under federal review. In general SBC’s position is that federal lands are the economic engines that drive business development and economic vitality in our region and their health is vital to our future. For that reason we oppose shrinking boundaries of the Giant Sequoia, because national monuments are good for business. At this time the Department of Interior is not recommending a change to Giant Sequoia boundaries but this may be an issue we need to track in the future. We are opposed to the current bill moving through Congress, H.R. 3990, which is fondly referred to in our partner coalitions as the “No New Parks Bill”.

Finally, SBC has been supporting the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA), which was re-introduced into this session of Congress and would be a comprehensive approach to funding both the USFS and the Department of Interior agencies for fire suppression costs. Fire suppression now eats up 50% of the USFS budget whereas it was 15% of the budget in 1995. The WDFA would create budget stability for these agencies to ensure that they can continue investing in maintenance and restoration work – plus it’s a bipartisan effort.

None of these efforts would be possible it were not for the team of remarkable people, including Government Affairs Director Diana Madson, Vice President for Climate and Energy Kerri Timmer, Communication Director Brittany Benesi, and Climate Technician Nikki Caravelli who develop and deploy our advocacy strategy. They have done stellar work this year increasing opportunity and financial resources coming to the Sierra Nevada.

To learn more about our ongoing advocacy efforts and legislation affecting the region, sign up for the monthly SBC eNewsletter and follow us on Facebook. We couldn’t continue to do the work without the support of the greatest advocates for the Sierra, you.