Assembly Member Garcia Forms Bipartisan Working Group on Water Conservation Legislation

Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Chair Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) has formed a bipartisan working group of legislators to address statewide water conservation policy and proposed legislation.

The working group includes the authors of competing legislative proposals, Assembly Member Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and Assembly Member Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park). Other members include Assembly Member James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), Assembly Member Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Assembly Member Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) and Assembly Member Brian Dahle (R-Bieber).

In a press release, Garcia said the working group represents “a balance of rural, urban, coastal, mountain, northern and southern voices committed to setting equitable priorities to protect our state’s most precious resource.”

The group is expected to meet several times to discuss policy direction on conservation and legislation to implement the Brown Administration’s final report, “Making Conservation a California Way of Life,”which was released April 7. Several bills have been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s suspense file and are expected to be taken up on May 25.

Bills Pending in the Assembly Appropriations Committee

ACWA is actively supporting AB 968 (Rubio) and AB 1654 (Rubio), which are policy bills based on water community proposals developed as alternatives to the Administration’s approach. The bills cleared the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on April 25 and are currently on the suspense file in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

ACWA opposes three bills – AB 1667 (Friedman), AB 1668 (Friedman) and AB 1669 (Friedman) – that include problematic language proposed by the Brown Administration. While there are some positive elements in the bills, ACWA believes some provisions are overly prescriptive and represent an overreach in granting permanent authority to the State Water Resources Control Board to develop water conservation standards. Those standards could limit water use throughout California today and into the future regardless of local water supply conditions, water rights and contracts, and ratepayer investments in water supply reliability and drought preparedness. The Friedman bills also cleared the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on April 25 and are awaiting action on the Appropriations Committee suspense file.

In addition to the policy bills, the Brown Administration has drafted a budget trailer bill – identified as 810 Water Conservation as a California Way of Lifeon the Department of Finance website – that would authorize the State Water Board to adopt interim standards (prior to 2021) for urban conservation via emergency regulation, and long-term standards (2021 and beyond) via regular rulemaking procedures. It also would add new requirements for water shortage contingency plans and agricultural water management planning.

ACWA opposes the use of budget trailer bills to advance substantive policy changes in state law. The trailer bill on conservation proposes significant public policy changes that should be heard through the deliberative and transparent policy and fiscal committee process and not rushed through the budget trailer bill process, which does not provide adequate time for stakeholder comment and public input.

Questions

Questions about conservation legislation should be directed to ACWA Senior Legislative Advocate Whitnie Wileyor 916-441-4545.