Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources
Proposition 218 Stormwater Funding Update, Plus Medical Marijuana Bills and Groundwater Legislation
Proposition 218/Stormwater Funding Update
Last year, a coalition of statewide organizations, including CSAC, came together to develop a Constitutional Amendment and ballot measure to fund stormwater services. Currently, the California Constitution (Proposition 218) requires stormwater agencies to receive voter approval to establish or increase “rates” to fund capital and operational needs. Water districts and wastewater districts are able to fund their services with a different public involvement process. The ballot measure would establish a process to raise revenue for stormwater services similar to the process used by water districts and wastewater districts. In the context of this legislative effort, “stormwater” includes four elements: groundwater recharge through infiltration of stormwater; stormwater quality required by state permits, local drainage improvements operated by cities and counties, and regional flood protection facilities often operated by flood control districts.
In February 2015, Assembly Member Richard Gordon introduced AB 1362 as a companion measure to the eventual introduction of a Constitutional Amendment. AB 1362 provided a definition of the term “Stormwater”. The definition covered all of the services contemplated in the four elements of stormwater outlined above.
In April 2015, the Appellate Court struck down a tiered rate structure in San Juan Capistrano that was aimed at water conservation. The court ruled that, while tiered water rates do not necessarily violate Proposition 218, they must correspond to the actual cost of providing water service at any given level of usage, due to the requirement in Proposition 218 that water charges allocate costs to parcels in proportion to the services they receive.
Given the impetus of the drought and the San Juan Capistrano case, the coalition has expanded its efforts to provide funding flexibility for stormwater services to include conservation rates and lifeline rates, the ability to charge a small amount to everyone in order to reduce the rates of a few low income customers. All three of which would require amending Proposition 218. This new legislative scope requires a different overarching approach which is being led by a subset of the larger coalition which includes the executive directors and legislative staff from CSAC, the League of California Cities (the League), the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and the California Water Foundation (CWF). This smaller coalition continues to discuss alternative approaches that will achieve our goal to provide funding flexibility for stormwater services and garner the necessary support to succeed on the 2016 ballot. Given this on-going dialogue AB 1362 was made a two-year bill.
AB 243 (Wood) – Support if Amended
AB 266 (Bonta) – Support if Amended
SB 643 (McGuire) – Request Amendments
AB 243, by Assembly Member Jim Wood, would establish a medical marijuana cultivation permit system. It would also require state agencies to address environmental impacts of medical marijuana cultivation; coordinate with cities and counties and their law enforcement agencies in enforcement efforts; and require each regional water quality control board to address discharges of waste resulting from medical marijuana cultivation. CSAC, the Urban County Caucus (UCC) and the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) are requesting amendments that would address concerns we have with the bill’s proposed licensing scheme; clarify that counties that wish to prohibit cultivation – with or without an ordinance stating so – can continue that practice; and assure county taxing authority. Given recent discussions with the author’s office it appears likely that these three concerns will be addressed. AB 243 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, August 17.
AB 266, by Assembly Member Rob Bonta, would create within the Governor’s Office, the Office of Medical Cannabis Regulation; the Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation within the State Board of Equalization; the Division of Medical Cannabis Manufacturing and Testing within the Department of Public Health; and, the Division of Medical Cannabis Cultivation within the Department of Food and Agriculture. This bill would also establish dual-licensing provisions with the state providing the conditional license and local governments issuing the permanent license if allowed under local government ordinances. CSAC, RCRC and UCC have been successful in obtaining numerous amendments to this bill, however a couple of remaining issues need to be addressed including the final development of language pertaining to explicit county taxing authority and further refining the perimeters of the cross-ownership of licenses. We have also voiced concerns with recent and proposed amendments to AB 266 that would erode various local land-use control provisions in the name of patient access. AB 266 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, August 17.
SB 643, by Senator Mike McGuire, would enact the Medical Marijuana Public Safety and Environmental Protection Act. This bill would also establish a licensing and regulatory framework for the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage, distribution and sale of medical marijuana to be administered by a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Consumer Affairs and enforced primarily at the local level. CSAC, RCRC and UCC have provided the author with proposed amendments to address a wide range of issues. These have yet to be included in the bill. SB 643 is awaiting a hearing before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
AB 1390 (Alejo) – Oppose Unless Amended
As Amended July 6, 2015
AB 1390, by Assembly Member Luis Alejo, and sponsored by the California Farm Bureau Federation, would make changes to the legal processes used during a legal action to assign rights in a groundwater basin. CSAC and RCRC have expressed concerns with procedural aspects of the bill that would negatively impact counties. We are currently working with the author and sponsor, to have these concerns addressed. AB 1390 is awaiting a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Increase to the State’s Solid Waste Disposal Fee
Over the summer, a number of stakeholders, including local government associations, solid waste industry and environmental groups have been meeting with the Governor’s office, Cal Recycle and Assembly Member William’s office to discuss an increase to the state’s solid waste disposal fee, otherwise known as the “tipping fee.” The need for a fee increase is based on a number of different factors.
First, the state’s primary funding source for the Department and solid waste activities is based on a fee assessed to a source that we are all trying to reduce – trash. As our waste stream continues to shrink, so does our funding source. In addition, the state has placed a strong emphasis on diverting organic materials out of our landfills as they generate methane emissions— a short-lived climate pollutant – and contribute to global warming. There is a great need for funding for additional infrastructure to help process this organic material, such as composting or anaerobic digestion facilities.
A proposal to increase the state’s tipping fee, which is currently $1.40/ ton is contained in AB 1063 (Williams). However, the bill continues to evolve as negotiations move forward. There are suggested amendments to the bill that would include increase of $2.60, for a total of $4/ ton, with the imposition of an additional generator fee to be implemented at a later date (2019, or a later date TBD). The breakdown of the tip fee increase includes:
- $1.40 – Current Tip Fee
- $0.60 – Cal Recycle Operations (would make the Department whole, no new programs)
- $0.50 – Water Board fee (this is currently paid outside of tip fee, proposal would fold this back in)
- $1.50 – Market Incentive Program for Organics (monies to be potentially matched by Cap/ Trade Dollars to help fund organics infrastructure)
- TOTAL $4.00
CSAC has been working in good faith with Cal Recycle and the Governor’s Office to provide input on a workable and reasonable fee increase, although we have not taken a formal position on the bill. We have asked for more detailed information on the $1.50 increase for market incentives for organics, asking for details on how this program would work, and who is eligible. In addition, we have expressed our concerns about the collection of the generator fee. The bill will be heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee next week. CSAC will continue to provide updated information as negotiations continue.