The County Voice

Virtual Format Allowed for Broad Participation in 2021 Legislative Conference

More than 250 officials from 53 Counties registered for the first-ever virtual CSAC Legislative Conference last week. While there are glimmers of light starting to indicate the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, the virtual meeting format was chosen for safety and maximum participation across the state.

The two-and-a-half-day meeting kicked off with a fantastic conversation with California’s newest U.S. Senator, Alex Padilla. CSAC President and Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore and CSAC Executive Director Graham Knaus engaged Senator Padilla in some lively dialog about his priorities in Washington, D.C., and opportunities for making real progress on Broadband and other County priorities this year.

Our members attended two workshops on diverse topics. The first focused on the complex funding formulas and regulations surrounding housing and development projects while exploring innovative solutions for local governments.

The second workshop focused on the work counties are doing to prepare to bring employees back into the workplace after a year or so working from home. The CSAC William ‘Bill’ Chiat Institute for Excellence in County Government will offer a full-day course on this same topic, Reimagining the World of Work, on May 7. Register here.

Some excellent speakers highlighted the policy committee meetings, including a federal panel during the Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources (AENR) meeting led by U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director Elizabeth Archuleta and other Senior Administrators and advisors. State Senator Ben Allen, SD 26 (Los Angeles County), joined the policy committee meeting as well, and State Senator Bill Dodd, SD 3 (Napa) participated in the CSAC Resiliency Advisory Board meeting.

Darwin Moosavi, the Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency, joined the Housing, Land Use and Transportation Policy Committee meeting to discuss the draft State Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI). Deputy Secretary Moosavi provided an update on the status of the draft CAPTI, discussed its key components, and encouraged counties to formally provide feedback to CalSTA on the draft plan by the May 19 deadline to submit comments.  

Inyo County Supervisor Jeff Griffiths presided over the CSAC Health and Human Services (HHS) policy committee that met via zoom on Wednesday, April 21st.  The HHS policy committee meeting focused on key areas that the HHS team has focused on during the 2021 Legislative session. The committee was also given the opportunity to hear directly from Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Health and Human Services consultants Scott Ogus and Renita Polk on the Senate’s HHS Budget priorities leading up to the May Revision, and California Department of Aging Director Kim McCoy Wade on the Master Plan for Aging and discuss the local county aging structure.

Thanks to the online format and lack of concurrent meetings, each policy committee meeting had strong turnouts with an average of 93 attendees. As we look ahead to future meetings, including the Annual Conference in November, we hope to come up with a hybrid in-person and virtual format that will allow enhanced participation in future meetings.

As the CSAC Legislative Conference is the forum not only to reflect on the success of the previous 12 months but to solidify positions and legislative priorities, President Gore reminded attendees of the challenge ahead this year.  

“We all got involved in (County Government) to make things better. Whether potholes and permits or confronting resilience and climate change to societal unrest, we all got involved in this to try and make things better in our communities. The past year has brought to light so many of these issues and the disparities in our communities. It’s also demonstrated how interconnected all levels of government are….

“Whether you’re in the Central Valley, the Bay Area, up in the northern wilderness, out in the eastern foothills, or down south near the border, we’ve got to make sure that we’re still bringing the ground truth. We’ve got to make sure that everybody over at the Capitol remembers what that ground truth is and we’ve got to hold it in our hands.

“By speaking our ground truths, by diligently advocating for the immediate needs of the pandemic, housing and homelessness, by continuing our work on In-Home Supportive Services, by continuing to invoke change and improvement in this association to support us on the ground, we’re going to do this. It’s our time, we are the ones we have been waiting for and it’s time to swing the bat. I hope you’re ready, it’s going to be a hell of a ride….” 

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