CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation

Legislative Conference Preview

Transportation issues will take center stage at next week’s CSAC Legislative Conference in Sacramento. The Housing, Land Use and Transportation Policy Committee will discuss the state’s efforts to study a user fee to replace the gas tax, hear about exciting new technological innovations in transportation, and get an update on progress toward CSAC’s priorities for reauthorization of the federal highway bill. Conference attendees will also be able to hear from top California transportation leaders in a workshop dedicated to transportation funding.

Panelists at the workshop, entitled “Paving the way into the 21st Century – Addressing California’s Transportation Funding Crisis,” will discuss California’s transportation funding crisis, the condition of our infrastructure, and the potential solutions currently under consideration by the Legislature. The panelists will be:

  • Brian Annis, Undersecretary, California State Transportation Agency
  • Senator Jim Beall, Chairman, Senate Transportation & Housing Committee
  • Assembly Member Jim Frazier, Chairman, Assembly Transportation Committee
  • Will Kempton, Executive Director, California Transportation Commission
  • Jim Earp, Executive Director, California Alliance for Jobs

The Legislative Conference wouldn’t be complete without taking time to visit with you county’s legislative delegation. CSAC has prepared advocacy materials, which include a key priority on transportation infrastructure funding. We urge county representatives to take the short walk across the street to tell your legislators how important funding to maintain and rehabilitate our transportation infrastructure is to your county.

Finally, in addition to transportation issues, the Housing, Land Use and Transportation Committee agenda will include updates on proposals to create a permanent source of funding for affordable housing, updates on state and federal tribal relations issues, and much more. The full agenda is available online here. We hope you will join us for the policy committee meeting and workshop and look forward to seeing you in Sacramento.


Federal Transportation Reauthorization

On Tuesday the House of Representatives voted on a two-month extension to the federal transportation bill, which will extends authority for MAP-21 programs through July 31. The extension did not include revenue provisions, and the US Department of Transportation has forecasted that there is a sufficient balance in the Highway Trust Fund to cover transportation expenditures through July. As of the time of this writing, the Senate has yet to vote on the extension. With members set to adjourn for the Memorial Day recess within the next couple of days, and with MAP-21 slated to expire on May 31, lawmakers need pass the extension before leaving town.

Key Congressional committee leaders have acknowledged that another MAP-21 extension will be necessary, as Congress is highly unlikely to complete action on a long-term bill before the end of July. Transportation and tax committee members will need to find a revenue source for a follow-up extension, which many are predicting will last through the end of the calendar year. Revenue to bolster structural deficits in the Highway Trust Fund will be the key issue in a long-term extension, with Republicans potentially looking to pay for a multi-year package with savings from rewriting the tax code. Many Democrats, however, are predicting that achieving a tax overhaul by year’s end is a long shot.

In other transportation-related developments, Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA) introduced legislation on Thursday that would authorize the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish a program to eliminate duplicative environmental reviews for highway and rail projects. Under the bill (HR 2497) – titled the NEPA Reciprocity Act – States would have the ability to carry out federal environmental review responsibilities with respect to transportation projects through implementation of State law(s). The creation of such an environmental “reciprocity” program has been a long-standing priority for CSAC.

Pursuant to HR 2497, the Secretary of DOT would need to determine that a State’s laws provide environmental protection and opportunities for public involvement that are substantially equivalent to Federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Because the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provides equal or in some instances greater environmental protection than federal requirements, California would appear to be a prime candidate to be selected for participation in the proposed program.

Nine members of the House joined Congressman Denham as original co-sponsors of HR 249. CSAC will be working with Representative Denham and other supporters in an effort to include a federal-state reciprocity program as part of the House’s long-term MAP-21 reauthorization bill.

Finally, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced this past week legislation (S 1370) entitled the Support for Bridges Act. The bill would increase funding for the Surface Transportation Program (STP), which provides support for a wide variety of highway, transit and bridge projects. Among the projects that would be eligible to receive additional funding would be locally-owned bridges that are on the Federal-Aid Highway system.

Additionally, the legislation includes a section entitled “Bridges not on Federal-Aid Highways,” which would continue the off-system bridge set-aside that was created in MAP-21. Notably, S 1370 would ensure that the off-system bridge funding would come out of the State’s portion of STP, and not the portion of funding that is sub-allocated to local areas.

SB 16 (Beall) – Support 
As amended on April 15, 2015

Senate Bill 16, by Senator Jim Beall, would raise between $2.8 and $3.6 billion per year over a five-year period with the vast majority of the funding dedicated for maintenance and rehabilitation of state highways and local streets and roads. Specifically, SB 16 would:

  • Repay existing transportation loans in equal installments over three fiscal years beginning in 2016;
  • Return truck weight fees back to transportation in increasing amounts over five years, i.e. first year 20-percent returned, second year 40 percent returned, etc. (approximately $1 billion is currently funding transportation related bond debt service);
  • Increase the vehicle license fee by 0.07 percent each year for five years to backfill the general fund for transportation related bond debt service;
  • Increase the gasoline excise tax by 10 cents;
  • Increase the diesel excise tax by 12 cents (2 cents of which is dedicated to Trade Corridors Improvement Fund)
  • Levy an additional $35 fee on annual vehicle registrations; and
  • Levy an additional $100 fee on annual vehicle registrations for zero-emission vehicles.

The revenues from the gas tax increase, 10 cents of the diesel tax increase, and both registration fees would be deposited into a new maintenance and rehabilitation fund. From this account, Senator Beall’s plan would dedicate 5 percent of total revenues generated to a State-Local Partnership Program to incentivize additional local sales tax measures passed after July 1, 2015. The remaining 95 percent of revenues would be shared equally between the state and local governments, with a fifty-fifty split between cities and counties. CSAC estimates that counties would receive approximately $3.5 billion in additional revenue over the five year program. The bill has a phased-in approach that is expected to raise $665 million for counties in the first year and $855 million in the fifth year of the program

We urge counties to reach out to their legislative delegation and express support for this important proposal. SB 16 will be heard in Senate Appropriations Committee on May 26.

SB 321 (Beall) – Support
As amended on April 23, 2015

Senate Bill 321, by Senator Jim Beall, would make a technical adjustment to the gas tax swap to reduce revenue volatility. The Board of Equalization is charged with setting the rate of the gasoline excise tax to ensure that it generates the same amount of revenue of the former sales tax. The current process for setting the rate is susceptible to rapid changes due to fluctuations in the price of gasoline. CSAC supports SB 321 because it will incorporate historical prices during the rate-setting process, which will smooth out revenues while maintaining revenue neutrality with the former sales tax. The bill would also allow a mid-year adjustment if prices differ drastically from prior estimates. Finally, SB 321 would reduce the anticipated $885 million cut to transportation funding in 2015-16 by $270 million dollars.

SB 321 is on the Senate Third Reading file. We urge counties to reach out to their legislative delegations to impart the importance to your local transportation budgets of passing this revenue-neutral, technical fix to the gas tax swap.

Land Use

AB 57 (Quirk) – Oppose 
As amended on April 6, 2015

Assembly Bill 57, by Assembly Member Bill Quirk, would deem approved any application for colocation or siting of a new wireless telecommunications facility if a city or county fails to approve or disapprove the application within time periods that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established for colocation and siting applications. Under the FCC rule, local governments were given 90 days to respond to colocation applications and 150 days for siting applications. Unlike AB 57, the FCC’s 90/150-day rule only provided wireless telecommunications carriers with a rebuttable presumption to be used in court if a local agency failed to act in a timely manner. 

CSAC opposes AB 57 because it goes beyond the requirements of federal law and regulations, limits the ability of local agencies to review projects, and may perversely result in more permit denials if adequate review cannot be completed within the prescribed timeframes. Moreover, we are concerned about the ramifications of specifying in statute that a wireless telecommunication facility is not municipal affairs, but rather a matter of statewide concern. 

AB 57 was passed by the Assembly this morning.

AB 514 (Williams) – Support 
As amended on May 4, 2015

AB 514, by Assembly Member Das Williams, would provide that a city or county could impose fines for violators of land use codes that are proportional to the magnitude of the violation. Specifically, violations of a local building and safety ordinance, brush removal ordinance, grading ordinance, film permit ordinance, or zoning ordinance determined to be an infraction would be subject to graduated fines for each subsequent violation of the same ordinance within five years based on the severity of the threat to public safety. For violation of any ordinance for which permit fees were required, the fine would not exceed $5,000 or three times the permit fee for a first violation, $10,000 for a second violation, and $15,000 for a third violation within five years of the first violation. For violations where a permit fee would not have been required, the fines would be capped at $1,000, $2,500, and $5,000, respectively.

CSAC supports offering counties additional tools to ensure public safety, especially since the currently authorized maximum allowable fine amounts for these violations have proven insufficient to deter violators of land use enforcement codes in many counties.

AB 514 was passed by the Assembly this morning.

AB 1236 (Chiu) – Oppose 
As amended on April 20, 2015

AB 1236, by Assembly Member David Chiu, would mandate all 58 counties and 482 cities adopt an ordinance to create a new expedited permitting and inspection process for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Specifically, this bill would require every city and county to adopt an ordinance by September 30, 2016 that creates an expedited and streamlined permitting process for EV charging stations that also includes a checklist of all requirements with which EV charging stations shall comply to be eligible for expedited review. Further, AB 1236 would require every city and county to approve the installation of EV charging stations unless the city or county makes written findings, based on substantial evidence in the record, that the proposed installation would have an adverse impact upon the public health or safety and that those impacts cannot be mitigated.

CSAC opposes this overly-broad and prescriptive measure, which would require the costly and time-consuming adoption of a local ordinance. We are concerned that the approach will not allow for consideration of unique local circumstances, nor applications that may be more complicated than the installation of a single charging station, for instance a station with multiple charging outlets that qualifies as a public accommodation may have accessibility issues and implications related to parking standards or other local ordinances.

AB 1236 is on the Assembly floor.

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