Legislature Adjourns with County Wins, More Work Ahead
September 2, 2016
The Legislature adjourned the 2015-16 Legislative Session in the early hours of Thursday morning with little of the fireworks of previous years, but there is still positive news to report relative to CSAC priorities. The Governor has until September 30 to take action on all bills on his desk. A list of CSAC signature and veto requests is available here. The following overview provides some end-of-session highlights and key outcomes for counties this year.
Cap and Trade Revenues: One of the last compromises reached between the Legislature and the Governor was a deal on the expenditure of the 40 percent of unallocated cap and trade revenues, totaling $900 million, which was dedicated to a variety of programs to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while placing $462 million in a reserve account for future years. The plan includes $140 million dedicated to a new local climate program aimed at reducing GHG emissions from variety of different sectors in disadvantaged and other communities.
In addition, the plan allocates $40 million to programs that increase waste diversion and help reduce methane emissions from our landfills. The deal also allocates $135 million to the Transit and Intercity Rail Program consistent with CSAC’s request that cap and trade dollars be invested towards transportation programs. However, counties did express disappointment that only $25 million was allocated to address forest health and tree mortality in the state’s most impacted areas.
CSAC believes this number is inadequate to deal with more than 66 million dead trees in forests while the risk of catastrophic wildfire increases. A budget trailer bill, Senate Bill 859, did accompany the allocation and does include relief for some biomass facilities, requiring retail sellers of electricity to purchase a total of 125 megawatts of power from biomass facilities that generate power from forest waste in areas impacted by tree mortality.
A complete analysis of cap and trade expenditures, including the continuously appropriated 60 percent of revenues, is available here, under the Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources section of the Bulletin.
Mandatory Union Orientation: CSAC led a large coalition of local government and education management stakeholders to defeat Assembly Bill 2835 (Cooper), which would have required public agency and school employers to allow union representatives to participate in new employee orientations for 30 minutes during the first half of that orientation.
Upon participating in several meetings with the proponents of the bill and failing to reach consensus, CSAC provided lead opposition testimony to legislators in policy committees and worked with the Governor’s office and legislative staff to ensure the major logistical, administrative and cost issues of the bill for public agencies was communicated. AB 2835 was moved to the Senate Inactive File on the last day of the 2015-2016 session and did not move to the Governor for action.
Achievements from Earlier in the Year
Managed Care Organization (MCO) Fix: In March, the Governor and Legislature reached agreement on an important MCO fix that remained elusive in 2015. The MCO tax is important as it provides implementation funding for the Coordinated Care Initiative (CCI) pilot program in seven counties. Counties support the CCI to ensure better care coordination for high-risk, high-cost residents who are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. The CCI is also tied in an important way to the counties’ role in the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, as the continuation of the CCI is required to preserve the county IHSS Maintenance of Effort (MOE) under 1991 Realignment.
The IHSS MOE sets county IHSS costs at 2012 levels with a 3.5 percent annual inflator. Further, if the CCI succeeds in the initial seven counties, the eventual plan is to transition collective bargaining for IHSS workers from each county to the state—however there are no set timelines for this phase to occur. This fix prevented the collapse of the CCI, maintains the county IHSS MOE and continues the support of transferring collective bargaining from counties to the state in the CCI counties and potentially the remaining 51 counties in the future.
$2 Billion Bond for Homelessness: CSAC was directly involved in negotiating an acceptable proposal to utilize Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) revenues to support the issuance of $2 billion in revenue bonds for homeless mentally ill. Senate pro Tem Kevin de León’s “No Place Like Home” proposal (AB 1618 and AB 1628) will result in a workable local grant program for permanent supportive housing for those who are chronically homeless and living with mental illness. CSAC was also successful in securing representatives on the advisory group that will assist the state in implementation.
Elections Funding and Reform: Positive movement was made on the elections front with great attention being given to the unpredictable changes brought by the presidential race and dozens of statewide ballot initiatives. This included securing over $16 million in funding this April for county elections administration to manage the unprecedented surge in voter registration and primary election anticipated turnout. Legislation seeking to help counties manage costly special elections through a vote-by-mail option (AB 2686; Mullin) is now awaiting signature on the Governor’s desk as well.
CSAC also supported a sweeping change to voting methods in SB 450 (Allen), which phases in elections conducted entirely by vote-by-mail ballots and provides multiple-day voting opportunities at regional vote centers. These changes could prove to provide major cost savings for counties while at the same time helping to improve voter turnout.
Traffic Amnesty: Senator Bob Hertzberg introduced SB 881 early in the Legislative session to extend the 2015-16 Traffic Amnesty Program and remove all ability for counties to suspend California Driver’s Licenses for individuals who fail to pay traffic fines. CSAC opposed this measure from the beginning, noting that amnesty has had an impact on county collections.
SB 881 has been significantly watered-down to only clarify existing timeframes within the current traffic amnesty program. The measure specifically requires the courts to process applications in a timely manner and requires all applications prior to March 2017 be processed for the traffic amnesty program. CSAC removed its opposition to SB 881 once the amendments were included.
More Work to Be Done
There were a number of significant issues of importance to counties that unfortunately failed to receive the high two-thirds vote threshold necessary for passage. Those include an elusive transportation funding package, compromise on a “use by right housing” proposal in order to access $400 million in state general fund revenue for affordable housing, and a Proposition 218 amendment to allow local governments to impose fees for storm water and flood control costs.
The special session called by the Governor to tackle transportation funding shortfalls for the state and local systems remains open until November 30. CSAC, joined by a broader coalition, will continue work through the interim recess to push for a compromise and solution to transportation funding.