Legislature Wraps Up 2023 and Marks End of Era in Leadership

  • by Adam Quiñonez
  • Sep 15, 2023
  • Voices on Water

As the 2023 legislative year draws to a close, it marks the end of an era with a change in legislative leadership. Longtime Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) transitioned out of his leadership role in July and later came the announcement that Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) will step down in 2024. Their successors, Assembly Member Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Senator Mike McGuire (D-Geyserville), will be faced with significant remaining water issues to close out the second year of the two-year session.  

For ACWA’s legislative team, much of the 2023 legislative year was focused on stopping three proposals that would have recast California’s water rights system and supporting four water and climate bond proposals that would make significant investments in water infrastructure. 

On water rights, ACWA quickly adopted oppose positions on AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan), AB 1337 (Wicks), and SB 389 (Allen). ACWA formed a broad coalition of water agencies, business groups, labor groups, and others to narrowly stop AB 460 and AB 1337 in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. The third bill, SB 389, was amended to address ACWA’s concerns in large part due to the advocacy of the coalition and the leadership of Senator Ben Allen.

The willingness of our member agencies to engage local legislators on the water rights issue proved extremely effective, while the ACWA advocacy team in Sacramento demonstrated its ability to expand coalitions with stakeholders from outside the water community. This collaboration will again be essential next year, when we can expect water and natural resources policy to remain top of mind for legislators.

Concurrently, ACWA continued to advocate in strong support of investments in, and streamlining of, water resilience infrastructure. ACWA worked to amend SB 867 (Allen) to make investments in recycled water, groundwater recharge, dam safety, conveyance, storage, and more. The Assembly also introduced a bond bill, AB 1567 (Garcia), that would make similar investments in many of ACWA’s priorities. While neither bill passed out of the legislature this year, the intent is to finalize negotiations on a water and climate resilience bond early next year to be placed on the November 2024 ballot.

Also on infrastructure, ACWA strongly supported Gov. Gavin Newsom’s infrastructure streamlining package that was a top legislative priority for much of the summer. This package of bills continued conversations that started with ACWA’s sponsored bill, SB 23 (Caballero) that would have streamlined certain permitting processes for water infrastructure projects. On. Newsom’s proposals, ACWA led a coalition of 30 water agencies, business groups, labor groups, and others to help move the package of bills forward which were passed and signed into law in July. 

While this session was focused on several key issues, there were also many other proposals on groundwater, water-use efficiency, water rates, shut-offs and more on which ACWA was actively engaged. Looking forward to next year, we are likely to see the return of proposals on water rights, a continuation of water bond negotiations – and if this year was any indication, some surprises as well. While it’s always difficult to predict what the next legislative year may hold, it’s clear that this Legislature has a keen interest in water and natural resources policy.

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