CSAC Bulletin Article

Ag, Environment and Natural Resources Bills of Interest

March 7, 2019

CSAC has been tracking and analyzing hundreds of bills that have been introduced this session. This week, the CSAC AENR team provides you with bills of interest in the area of wildfire and disaster. We are actively soliciting feedback on the following measures.  

AB 1168 (Mullin): This bill would require each public safety answering point to deploy a text to 911 service, no later than January 1, 2021, that is capable of accepting either Short Message Service messages or Real-Time Text messages. This requirement to update 911 systems could potentially cost counties money to create broader access emergency notification procedures.

SB 45 (Allen): This bill would enact the Wildfire, Drought, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020, which, if approved by the voters, would authorize the issuance of bonds in a yet to be determined amount pursuant to restore fire damaged areas, reduce wildfire risk, create healthy forest and watersheds, reduce climate impacts on urban areas and vulnerable populations, protect water supply and water quality, protect rivers, lakes, and streams, reduce flood risk, protect fish and wildlife from climate impacts, improve climate resilience of agricultural lands, and protect coastal lands and resources. The funding levels and specific programs in this bill have yet to be determined, however some the funds could go to counties to help with disaster preparedness.

AB 38 (Wood): This bill would require, no later than July 1, 2020, the State Fire Marshall to develop, and the California Building Standards Commission to review, building standards for buildings in very high fire hazard severity zones. The bill would also require, beginning on July 1, 2020, all newly constructed buildings and all transferred buildings in very high fire hazard severity zones to comply with those building standards. The bill would create a state Fire Hardened Revolving Loan Fund and transfer $1,000,000,000 from the General Fund to an unspecified state agency to distribute to local agencies for the purpose of funding no- or low-interest loans to owners of eligible buildings to pay for eligible costs of fire hardening. This bill could require county constituents that construct new homes or transfer homes in very high fire severity zones to spend money to comply with these new building standards, however the bill also provides funds to help meet these requirements.

AB 235 (Mayes): This bill would create the California Wildfire Catastrophe Fund Authority and would authorize electrical corporations and local publicly owned electric utilities to participate. The Authority would require payments from participating corporations to allow it to provide funding for claims from participating entities related to wildfire. This bill could help reduce the impact of utility related disaster costs on constituent county ratepayers.

AB 266 (Choi): This bill would allow a credit for each taxable year beginning on or after January 1, 2020, and before January 1, 2025, to a qualified taxpayer that installs an attic vent closure in a residential property, as defined, in an amount equal to 40 percent of the qualified costs paid or incurred by the qualified taxpayer for that installation. This bill could provide an inventive for individual county property owners to invest in resiliency measures.

SB 160 (Jackson): This bill would require a county to integrate cultural competence into its emergency plan, upon the next update to its emergency plan. The bill defines term “cultural competence” to mean the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures in order to ensure that the needs of all community members are addressed. This bill could require an additional planning requirement.

AB 291 (Chu): This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would establish a Local Emergency Preparedness and Hazard Mitigation Fund to support staffing, planning, and other emergency mitigation priorities that helps local governments meet emergency preparedness goals and to boost emergency management programs throughout the state that remain underfunded or neglected. This bill could provide more resources to counties to do emergency preparedness and planning.

SB 182 (Jackson): This bill would require the safety element, upon the next revision of the housing element or the hazard mitigation plan, on or after January 1, 2020, whichever occurs first, to be reviewed and updated as necessary to include a comprehensive fire retrofit plan. The bill would also require the planning agency to review and, if necessary, revise the safety element upon each revision of the housing element or local hazard mitigation plan, but not less than once every 8 years to identify new information relating to retrofit updates applicable to the city or county that was not available during the previous revision of the safety element. By increasing the duties of local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

SB 209 (Dodd): This bill would establish in the state government the California Wildfire Warning Center (center). The center would be comprised of representatives from the Public Utilities Commission, the Office of Emergency Services, and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The center would have various responsibilities relating to fire-threat weather conditions, including overseeing the development and deployment of a statewide network of automated weather and environmental stations designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena that contribute to increased wildfire risk, including a statewide fire weather forecasting, monitoring, and threat assessment system. This statewide response center could help provide pre-disaster condition information to counties which could help improve county responses and reactions to disasters.

AB 740 (Burke): This bill provides that it is the intent of the legislature to enact future legislation to establish the Wildfire Victim Restitution Fund, the purpose of which will be to ensure that victims of wildfires are compensated in a timely manner, to provide reimbursements to insurers for a portion of their wildfire losses, and to avoid lengthy legal proceedings. This bill has the potential to help provide access to resources to county constituents impacted by wildfires.

SB 584 (Moorlach): This bill would require the public utilities commission to require electrical corporations to develop and administer programs to provide matching funds to local jurisdictions for conversion projects to replace overhead electrical infrastructure with underground electrical infrastructure in tier 3 fire-threat districts. The bill would require electrical corporations to replace overhead electrical infrastructure in a tier 3 fire-threat district that is destroyed as a result of fire with underground electrical infrastructure. This bill could help improve county safety in areas tier 3 fire-threat district by providing resources to help local governments reduce the risk of power line caused wildfires.

AB 1067 (Bigelow): This bill would require the Director of Parks and Recreation, no later than January 1, 2023, to develop and implement a wildfire management plan for all property under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks and Recreation that is in the wildland-urban interface. This bill could help improve public safety in counties that contain California State Park Units in the wildland-urban interface.

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