Friday, May 2, 2014   The CSAC Bulletin
Crunch Time for Legislation
Spring has sprung in Sacramento and that means the Legislature is hard at work getting bills through the first house. Today is the Legislature’s house of origin deadline for policy committees to hear and report fiscal bills to the respective Appropriations (fiscal) Committees. The vast majority of bills get referred to Appropriations Committee, and this year is no exception. The Legislature has another two weeks for policy committees to hear non-fiscal bills in their house of origin. CSAC is highlighting a number of bills heading to Appropriations Committee that are of interest to counties. We urge counties to get involved. Please contact CSAC staff for more information.


Collective Bargaining

AB 2126 (Bonta) - Oppose
As Amended on March 28, 2014


Assembly Bill 2126, by Assembly Member Rob Bonta, would eradicate local control of collective bargaining procedures by requiring the following:

MANDATORY MEDIATION. The bill would allow either the public agency or employee organization to request mediation if, after a reasonable period of time, the parties fail to reach agreement. The parties must agree upon the appointment of a mediator within five days of the request and if they are unable to agree, either party can request that PERB appoint a mediator (PERB must then appoint a mediator within five days of that request).

SCOPE OF FACTFINDING. AB 2126 would allow differences arising from ANY dispute over ANY matter within the scope of representation, when the obligation to meet and confer exists, to be submitted to a factfinding panel. Currently, the ability for either party to request factfinding only applies to those disputes arising during collective bargaining for a new or successor memorandum of understanding.

As written, AB 2126 poses an enormous cost and timeliness issue for local agencies. County engagement with the Legislature and Administration is greatly encouraged. 

Workers' Compensation

A package of bills that would enhance workers' compensation benefits for public safety employees and thereby significantly increase costs to local governments to provide them are moving through the legislative process. AB 1035, Speaker John A. Perez's bill that would extend the statute of limitations to claim death benefits for firefighters and peace officers is headed to the Governor, albeit as a narrowed version that CSAC continues to strongly oppose. AB 2052, by Assembly Member Gonzalez and SB 1234, by Senator Marty Block, both aim to expand certain workers' compensation presumptions to even more peace officers than in current statute. Lastly, AB 2378, by Assembly Member Henry Perea, would tack another year of temporary disability (TD) benefits to the existing one year of Labor Code 4850 benefits and one year of TD benefits already granted to injured peace officers.

As a package, these bills pose great concern for county budgets. CSAC is working closely with the Legislature and Administration to voice our opposition.

Conservatorship

AB 1725 (Maienschein) – Oppose
As Amended on April 30, 2014

AB 1725 is opposed by counties because it will increase costs and workload levels and hasten the erosion of county authority in conservatorship investigations.

Counties remain opposed to the remaining provisions in the amended bill that would allow a Probate Court to make a recommendation of conservatorship to the county Conservatorship Officer (CO) and require the CO to conduct the investigation and file a report within 30 days of the probate court recommendation.

While the proposed language does not require the CO to recommend conservatorship to the Superior Court, it does compel the CO to conduct a conservatorship investigation. This is contrary to current law, whereby a CO retains the authority to determine whether an investigation is warranted upon receiving a referral by a medical professional.

Should the mandate in AB 1725 become law, counties anticipate a significant increase in workload and county costs for conservatorship investigations. Further, the measure would also impose an arbitrary and frankly unrealistic 30-day mandated timeline for the investigation and submission of a report to the Superior Court.

CSAC urges counties to oppose AB 1725, which has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee but not yet set for hearing.

Veterans' Benefits Eligibility

AB 2311 (Bradford) – Oppose
As Introduced on February 21, 2014

AB 2311, by Assembly Member Steven Bradford, would alter locally-established General Assistance (GA) eligibility to allow honorably discharged veterans to receive GA benefits for a longer period of time.

Each county establishes GA benefit eligibility and award levels to best serve the needs of their communities. While counties strive to serve veteran populations, AB 2311 would increase county-funded benefits for a specific population and remove local authority to set GA eligibility levels.

CSAC urges counties to weigh in on this measure, as it will be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks.

CalWORKS/CalFresh

SB 1029 (Hancock) – Support
As Amended on April 10, 2014

SB 1029, by Senator Loni Hancock, is a bill that counties support as part of our ongoing efforts to reduce recidivism rates among the prison and jail populations. This measure would authorize CalWORKs and CalFresh benefits for individuals in the community who were convicted of a drug felony after December 31, 1997.

According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, SB 1029 could save county jails and state prisons up to $10 million in costs by reducing recidivism. That committee placed SB 1029 on their Suspense File this week, but counties and county partners continue to focus on this issue as both the policy and budget process moves forward.

Public Works


AB 2471 (Frazier)-Oppose
As Amended on April 24, 2014

AB 2471, by Assembly Member Jim Frazier, which would impose arbitrary and burdensome timelines on the negotiation of a change order for a public works project, was passed by the Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, which the author chairs, on Wednesday. CSAC opposes this bill because it would expose counties to liability and prejudgment interest if its timeframe for negotiating a change order and making payments due pursuant to the bill’s provisions are not met. CSAC hopes to work with the author to refocus the bill on the issue of prompt payment for undisputed portions of a project instead of constraining the change order process.

Gas Tax

SB 1077 (DeSaulnier) -  Request for Comments
As Amended on April 21, 2014

SB 1077, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, was approved by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday. The bill would require the California State Transportation Agency to create a pilot program by January 2016 to study replacement of the state’s gas excise tax with a mileage-based user fee. Interest in this area is picking up as other states make progress on studying and implementing user fees to maintain public roadways. While previous legislation on this topic was held in Appropriations, there appears to be momentum behind this new effort. CSAC has supported a broad array of measures to address California’s transportation funding shortfall, but the organization hasn’t supported mileage-based fees or taken a position on this legislation. SB 1077 and mileage-based user fees will be a topic of discussion at the Housing, Land Use and Transportation Policy Committee meeting at the upcoming CSAC legislative conference.

Solar Energy


AB 2188 (Muratsuchi) – Oppose
As Proposed to be Amended

AB 2188, by Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi, would require cities and counties to expedite permitting for rooftop solar of up to 10kW. Specifically, the bill would require cities and counties to adopt an ordinance to create an expedited permitting process for rooftop solar that would include a checklist of all requirements in which small rooftop solar energy systems must comply. Amendments were taken in the Assembly Local Government Committee that state if the checklist is complete, cities and counties must issue permits upon receipt. This would essentially take away all discretion from the permitting process. In addition, the proposal would limit jurisdictions to one inspection. The amendments do increase the inspection timeframe from two to five days, and give jurisdictions the ability to increase that timeframe if they hold a public hearing and adopt an ordinance.

CSAC, along with RCRC and UCC, is opposing this bill. AB 2188 would create an unfunded mandate and jeopardize city and county building department’s ability to thoroughly review plans to ensure that they do not pose a safety risk to permittees. In addition, this bill sets a dangerous precedent by legislating specific timeframes for specific permits, creating essentially a special class of permits at the service expense of all others. This bill passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee this week after a robust debate. We encourage all counties to submit letters of opposition to the Assembly Appropriations Committee where the bill will be heard next.

Cap and Trade

AB 1970 (Gordon) – Support
As Amended April 10, 2014

AB 1970, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, would create the Community Investment and Innovation Program which would provide cap and trade funding, upon appropriation of the Legislature, to local governments in the form of competitive grants and other financial assistance to develop and implement greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction projects. CSAC along with our local government partners are supporting Assembly Member Gordon in his efforts to develop a funding category for local GHG projects. This bill is substantially similar to last year’s AB 416. AB 1970 builds off the current, but expiring, local planning grants administered by the Strategic Growth Council (SGS). SGC used funds from Proposition 84 to award competitive grants to local governments for planning activities associated with reducing GHGs, such as climate action plans. AB 1970 would create the next, natural phase of these grants intended to fund GHG project implementation at the local level. This measure is scheduled to be heard before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, May 7. Counties are encouraged to submit letters of support.

Sustainable Farmland Strategy

AB 1961 (Eggman) – Oppose Unless Amended
As Amended April 22, 2014


AB 1961, by Assembly Member Susan Eggman, would require each county with significant agricultural land resources to develop on or before January 2, 2018 a sustainable farmland strategy. The bill would require the strategy to include among other things, a map and inventory of all agriculturally zoned land within the county, a description of the goals, strategies, and related policies and ordinances to retain agriculturally zoned land where practical, and mitigation for the loss of agriculturally zoned lands. It would also require counties to post this information on the county’s internet website. CSAC’s opposition to AB 1961 is based upon the costs associated with the development of these strategies and the fact that the bill has been tagged as “not reimbursable” because local agencies may levy fees to pay for the mandated program. We believe that it is unrealistic to expect counties to recover all of these costs through the imposition of charges, fees, or assessments. Consequently, CSAC is opposed to AB 1961 unless it is amended to provide for a more realistic funding source. This measure was moved to the Assembly Appropriation Committee’s Suspense File on Wednesday, April 30.

Senior Property Tax Postpponement

AB 2231 (Gordon) – Support
As Amended on April 21, 2014

AB 2231, by Assembly Members Rich Gordon, Marc Levine, and Jim Patterson, would restore the Senior Citizens’ Property Tax Postponement Program that was eliminated in the February 2009 budget agreement.

The Senior Citizen’s Property Tax Postponement Program offered income-eligible seniors and people with disabilities the opportunity to postpone their property tax payments in exchange for full repayment with interest when their home is sold. Unfortunately, in large part due to the recent recession and housing crisis, the program failed to pay for itself in 2007-08 and 2008-09, making it a target for elimination given the state’s budget crisis at the time.

The people who were enrolled in the program and who have not been able to pay their property tax bills since the program was cancelled are now facing the tax sale of their property, making this a critical year to reinstate the program statewide.

The bill is pending in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Special Election Costs

AB 2273 (Ridley-Thomas) – Support
As Introduced on February 21, 2014

SB 942 (Vidak) – Support
As Introduced on February 4, 2014

SB 963 (Torres) – Support
As Introduced on February 6, 2014

These three bills would all state that the Legislature is responsible for the costs of special elections held to fill legislative and congressional vacancies. Two of the bills, AB 2273 and SB 963, would cover elections held in 2013 and into the future; SB 942 would cover the years 2008 through 2014.

Statute long provided that the state would reimburse counties’ costs for these kinds of special elections. However, that requirement lapsed in 2008.

This loss in funding, combined with the state’s more recent suspension of several election-related mandates, amounts to a historic defunding of elections committed by the state. Already, the state and schools are the only California governments that don’t pay their share of elections. Instead, counties are required to cover those costs. These defunding actions have accumulated over the past several years and now amount to a loss of approximately $40 million per year.

In addition to supporting these bills, CSAC is advocating for the funding and reinstatement of all of the election mandates, which include maintaining a permanent vote-by-mail system and checking signatures on provisional ballot before counting those ballots.

County Best Practices: Meeting the Challenge in Riverside and Ventura Counties
This week we continue to highlight California County best practices with videos and blog entries about programs that received a CSAC Challenge Award. The two programs we focus on this week both highlight the innovative out-of-the-box thinking that helps counties stay on top of trends, and deliver the best service possible to their constituents—and in these two cases, they are saving money and enhancing public health and safety, too.

The Riverside County Medical Center had a problem—too many people who went in for surgery were developing post-surgical infections. They were seeing significant cost increases because people have to stay in the hospital longer and receive additional treatment and medication. More importantly, the situation was creating real health risks for the patients, too.

The hospital administration decided to deal with this issue head on. They created a multi-disciplinary team to assess the problem, and come up with new protocols and procedures. Wow—what a difference. The post-surgical infection rate dropped dramatically, and so have the costs associated with them. To find out more about how they did it, read the blog entry and watch the video about the program here.

The problem in Ventura County was much different—but the same type of innovative and creative thinking helped solve it. Sheriff’s Deputies in the field sometimes had to wait hours, or maybe even days to get information about a person, place or vehicle they encountered. By the time they got the information, it might be too late to respond. So the Department developed iCop, a mobile application that’s linked to all the law enforcement databases in the County.

Now, with a few taps on their smart phone, deputies and investigators can pull up arrest records, vehicle registration information and how many and what type of calls for service have occurred from a given address. The application was developed in-house, so the costs were minimal, and the time it saves has made a huge difference to the deputies that use it. It’s been so successful, they are looking at options to offer it to other police agencies. To learn more about the iCop app in Ventura county, read the blog or watch the video at this link.
Advance Registration for CSAC Legislative Conference Closes Today!


Advance registration for the 2014 CSAC Legislative Conference closes at 5 p.m. today!

While you will still be able to register on-site for the conference, don't miss out on this opportunity to save $50.00 off the on-site rate. The conference is set for May 14-15 in Sacramento at the Hyatt Regency.

Since the Governor's May Budget Revision is expected to be released on Wednesday, May 14, conference attendees will be able to receive the latest news on the proposed budget and its potential impact on California Counties.

The conference agenda will also include a look at other vital issues, including the drought and water, the intersection between public safety realignment and the Affordable Care Act, and economic development benefits of broadband.

The first day will kick off with a conversation among legislative leaders and budget committee chairs that begins at 8:30 am in the CSAC Conference Center. This will be a great opportunity for county supervisors to ask questions and hear from the leaders under the Dome.

To register for the conference, click here.
To review a copy of the agenda, click here.
CSAC Discusses Key Issues Through Regional Mini-Summits
CSAC kicked off its series of regional mini-summits Thursday, providing county supervisors, executive staff and corporate partners an opportunity to come together, hear the latest information on key issues and share ideas.

Thursday’s summit was held in Tehama County and was attended by county representatives from throughout the north state. Topics that were addressed included water, public safety, the hiring process, and new strategies for information technology in criminal justice.

“These summits provide an excellent opportunity for the our public and private sectors to come together and discuss issues that impact all Californians,” explained Jim Manker, CSAC Director of Corporate Relations. “The information presented has been invaluable and the subsequent dialogue has been insightful.”

The summits are a new addition to CSAC’s Corporate Partners program this year. Future regional mini-summits will be held for Central Valley counties in Fresno on June 19 and for Bay Area and coastal counties in San Francisco on Oct. 2.

For more information, contact Jim Manker, CSAC Director of Corporate Relations at (916) 327-7500 ext. 528; email: jmanker@counties.org.
CSAC Seeks Counties' Best Practices for Annual Challenge Awards
The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) invites you to enter our 2014 Challenge Awards competition.

These unique awards recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find innovative, effective and cost-saving ways to provide programs and services to their citizens. This is a wonderful opportunity to spotlight your county's best practices.

CSAC recognizes counties in four population categories. Challenge Award-winning programs receive state and national exposure, are highlighted in county best practices videos, and recognized at Boards of Supervisors meetings. This is a great way to let your colleagues across the state and nation know about the innovative work you are doing.

To learn more about how to enter in the Challenge Awards program, click here.

To review videos of programs honored in the past with Challenge Awards, click here.

Deadline: Friday, June 27, 2014

Questions or would like a printed copy of our Call for Entries? Contact David Liebler, CSAC Deputy Director of Public Affairs & Member Services, at dliebler@counties.org.
Call for Annual Meeting Workshop Proposals
CSAC has begun planning for our 120th Annual Meeting, scheduled for this November in Orange County. We are now seeking both workshop proposals and workshop requests to help round out the conference program.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal or idea, please fill out this form before Friday, May 16,
Current Job Openings
Job Seekers:
For a full list of job openings posted with CSAC, visit our Public Sector Jobs Page on our website.

Employers:
Find out how you can post recruitment notices with CSAC here.



Butte County
MANAGEMENT ANALYST

Butte County
MANAGEMENT ANALYST, ASSOCIATE

El Dorado County
COUNTY COUNSEL

Sacramento County
COUNTY CLERK/RECORDER

Sierra County
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

Solano County
PLANNER (ASSOCIATE)


Administration of Justice
For more information, contact Elizabeth Howard Espinosa, 916.650.8131,or London Biggs  916-650-8116.

Mandatory Supervision


AB 579 (Melendez) – Support
Chapter No. 12, Statutes of 2014

AB 579 by Assembly Member Melissa Melendez is an urgency measure that seeks to clarify in state law that the period of mandatory supervision period begins immediately upon release from custody for individuals who have been given a split sentence under Penal Code Section 1170 (h) as a result of 2011 Public Safety Realignment.

This is not a new policy, but rather clean-up language necessary to correct a chaptering out issue created by 2013 legislation that amended the same code section and inadvertently removed the mandatory supervision language.

Governor Brown signed the measure into law on April 28, with its provisions effective immediately, ensuring county probation departments are – once again – able to initiate their mandatory supervision duties as originally intended by statute.

Department of State Hospital Placement Evaluations

AB 2543 (Levine) – Oppose
As amended April 23, 2014

AB 2543, by Assembly Member Marc Levine, would change the process for undertaking evaluations for certain Department of State Hospital (DSH) placements.

DSH has responsibility for providing mental health services to patients in five state hospitals and three in-custody psychiatric programs within state prisons. AB 2543, as currently drafted, would substantially recast the process by which two forensic populations are evaluated for placement into a DSH facility. Under current law, the court selects and appoints experts – with specified experience and credentials – to evaluate defendants who plead not guilty by reason of insanity (under Penal Code section 1370) or those found to be incompetent to stand trial (section 1369). Instead, AB 2543 would replace this process with an evaluation panel drawn from a pool of DSH psychiatrists and psychologists.

CSAC is opposed to the bill for a number of reasons. It appears to create a rather significant conflict by giving DSH the ability to authorize – or, more importantly, deny – placements. We are further concerned that this change could extend already substantial delays in state hospital placements. Finally, there are a range of related policy reforms being considered and discussed through a broad stakeholder process. Given other potential changes specific to the management and movement of IST population that may take place, it seems far more appropriate to evaluate the need for and benefits of a change to the evaluation process through the stakeholder group.

AB 2543 was heard in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 28. Although the author seemed willing to consider other ways to construct the measure, the committee agreed that the proposed reforms were complex and should be considered in a broader context. The committee held the bill and recommended that additional attention be given to the placement evaluation issue over the summer, leaving open the possibility that the committee could revisit the bill by the end of the legislative session.

Probation

AB 2373 (Hernández) – Oppose
As amended April 24, 2014

AB 2373, by Assembly Member Roger Hernández’s, relates to county probation department funding. Despite recent amendments that improve the content of the bill, CSAC remains opposed.

Existing law requires the chief probation officer to identify in writing to the superior court presiding judge and the board of supervisors when, in his or her opinion, there are insufficient resources to carry out statutory or court-ordered responsibilities. AB 2373 would extend that provision to require a county board of supervisors either to (1) provide the needed level of funding identified by the probation chief or (2) respond in writing within 30 days that it does not have the resources to do so. The premise of the bill, in our opinion, remains objectionable. It would create an unnecessary overlay to the county board of supervisors’ core responsibility to weigh and prioritize budget requests across dozens of county departments and hundreds of vital programs and services delivered at the local level. Further, the bill would set a precedent for other constituencies to seek a similar process. As drafted, AB 2373 effectively elevates probation’s identified needs above all others in the county.

CSAC supports and values the work and significant contributions of probation departments. However, in both principle and practice, the approach proposed in AB 2373 is unacceptable. It sets up an adversarial and one-sided process that will not result in the desired outcomes that may be at the heart of the bill. Questions of funding and how to deploy vital public resources across the vast array of county responsibilities are best managed in the open, public budget process that already exists at the local level.

While we appreciate the fact that the proposed amendments to AB 2373 eliminate other problematic requirements – such as the duty to perform a full financial accounting, this bill still presents structural and operational problems. The bill passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 29 and has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. We encourage counties to review the measure and weigh in with opposition.


AB 2314 (Hall) – Oppose
As amended April 23, 2014

AB 2314, by Assembly Member Isadore Hall, would authorize any probation officer to carry a firearm in the line of duty as determined by the chief probation officer on a case-by-case basis under terms and conditions specified by the chief probation officer. CSAC – jointly with the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), the Urban Counties Caucus (UCC), and Los Angeles County — are opposed to the measure, despite recent amendments that eliminate a blanket requirement that all probation officer must be armed.

Under current law, probation officers may be authorized by their employing agency to carry a firearm. It is our understanding that in a vast majority of counties – more than 90 percent – the probation department arms at least some of their officers. Arming decisions are – appropriately, in our view – arrived at locally, based on the needs, preferences and requirements of that particular community as determined by the county. This model works well and allows county boards of supervisors and chief probation officers to evaluate and assess the circumstances, caseload, and risk exposure that might necessitate officer arming on a case-by-case basis. Questions of officer safety; designating the specific personnel or caseload types that may warrant arming; and consideration of the rather significant issues of — among others — liability, cost, and training are all decisions best left at the local level.

AB 2314 would provide that if a chief probation officer has not armed or has not adopted a policy regarding arming probation officers prior to January 1, 2015, the chief probation officer must develop a policy by June 30, 2015. In our view, your measure is unnecessary given that the number of departments (55 of the 59) arming their probation officers suggest that the local decision making process is working. The current process allows for counties to consider and make appropriate adjustments in light of the changed environment resulting from the implementation of 2011 public safety realignment. The requirement to put an arming policy in writing may create unnecessary liability for counties.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee passed AB 2314 on April 28. During the hearing, the committee chair acknowledged the merits of the opponents’ testimony and. The bill next will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Restitution: Collection of Fines and Fees

SB 419 (Block) – Support
As amended March 10, 2014

CSAC supports SB 419, by Senator Marty Block, which would clarify the authority of local agencies to collect restitution fines from specified criminal justice populations and make these fines enforceable by the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. The bill is sponsored by the Chief Probation Officers of California.

Specifically, SB 419 would amend Penal Code Sections 1214 and 2085.5 to make it clear that local collection programs and agencies designated by a county board of supervisors have the ability to collect restitution from inmates that have either: completed their sentence in county jail; have been sentenced to post-release community supervision; or have been sentenced to mandatory supervision. The bill also clarifies that restitution orders for these populations are fully enforceable by the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

SB 419 is needed to ensure that local entities tasked with the collection of restitution from county jail inmates who previously would have served a prison term prior to Realignment, as well as those in the community on mandatory or post-release community supervision have the clear authority to carry out the duties assigned to them.

In our view, SB 419 further clarifies authority necessary to improve restitution recovery at the local level. With the proper authority granted under SB 419, restitution recovery procedures will be more practical and workable for counties and our local law enforcement partners. The bill awaits a hearing in the Assembly Public Safety Committee

Court Records: Sealing and Destruction

AB 1756 (Skinner) – Oppose
As amended March 20, 2014

CSAC is opposed to Assembly Bill 1756, by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner, which would prohibit a court from charging a fee for the destruction and sealing of juvenile court records when the record in question belongs to a person who is 26 years old or younger.

Under current law, when a petition is ordered for the sealing of a record, an individual, if that person is an adult, or the person responsible for the individual, if that person is a minor, may be required to reimburse the county and court for the costs associated with sealing the record at a rate determined by the county board of supervisors and the court. The fee is not to exceed $150 and the court may order reimbursement in any case in which the petitioner appears to have the ability to pay, without undue hardship, all or a portion of the cost of the service.

While CSAC appreciates the author’s intent to make the record sealing process more affordable for California’s youth, we believe that current law is sufficient in that it already provides that local jurisdictions determine whether petitioners have the ability to pay for services rendered. Further, under existing law, counties may choose not to impose a fee for the destruction of records all together as a matter of policy.

This bill places yet another financial burden on counties by limiting local authority for reimbursement for services at a time when courts and county probation departments are struggling for resources. AB 1756 passed out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee and now awaits a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Housing, Land Use and Transportation
For more information, please contact Kiana Buss at 916.650.8185, or Chris Lee at 916.650.8180.
Transportation

SB 1183 (DeSaulnier) – Support if Amended
As amended on April 21, 2014.

SB 1183, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, would allow a city, county, or regional parks district to propose to the voters the imposition of a surcharge of up to five dollars on each vehicle registration to fund the construction or maintenance of paved or natural surface multi-use paths. The bill would provide a new tool to fund off-road bike paths, which currently lack a stable funding source. CSAC has recommended amendments that would allow agencies to use funding raised by an approved surcharge for a broader array of bicycle infrastructure and the sponsors have indicated that they are open to this approach.

SB 1183 was passed by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and is set for hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 12.

AB 2197 (Mullin) – Support
As amended on April 23, 2014

AB 2197, by Assembly Member Kevin Mullin, would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to contract with a private industry partner to develop a temporary license plate program in California. It would also require vehicles sold or leased without a permanent license plate to be affixed with a temporary license plate. CSAC supports AB 2197, as it would make toll evasion, which results in millions of dollars in foregone transportation revenues each year, more difficult. The bill would also promote public safety by helping law enforcement identify vehicles involved in hit-and-runs and other criminal activity.

AB 2197 was passed by the Assembly Transportation Committee and will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 7.

Housing

SB 1439 (Leno) – Support
As amended on April 1, 2014

SB 1439, by Senator Mark Leno, would allow the City and County of San Francisco to enact law or regulations to prohibit a rental housing owner from removing a building form the market under the Ellis Act, which prevents local governments from requiring that landlords continue to offer their property for rent if the landlord wants to “go out of business,” unless all owners of the property have held their ownership interest for at least five years. CSAC supports this measure as it would give the county an additional tool to ensure the continued availability of affordable rental housing at all income levels.

SB 1439 was passed by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and will be heard in Senate Judiciary Committee on May 6.

AB 1690 (Gordon) – Support
As introduced on February 13, 2014

AB 1690, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, would allow local governments that are subject to a rezoning program under housing element law to accommodate more than half of its low- and very low-income housing need on lands zoned for residential or mixed uses. CSAC supports the bill because it provides counties the opportunity to use the rezoning program process to complement other smart growth policies.

AB 1690 was passed by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee and is set for hearing in the Assembly Local Government Committee on May 7.

AB 2135 (Ting) – Request for Comments
As amended on April 21, 2014

AB 2135, by Assembly Member Phil Ting, would amend the procedure for the disposal of surplus land by local agencies and expands the provisions relating to the prioritization of low- and moderate-income housing development if the surplus land will be used for residential development. Among other provisions, the bill extends the time local agencies must engage in good faith negotiations with affordable housing developers desiring to purchase or lease land from 60 to 90 days, and gives priority to entities that agree to use the surplus land for development of housing with 100% affordable units. The bill also requires that if the surplus land will be used for residential development, then 25% of the total units must be affordable for low- or moderate-income households.

CSAC is interested in comments from counties as to the impacts of this bill. AB 2135 was passed by the Assembly Committees on Local Government and Housing and Community Development and referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

Land Use

SB 944 (Torres) – Request for Comments
As amended on March 12, 2014

SB 944, by Senator Norma Torres, would prohibit a local government from rezoning state real property within its jurisdiction that is declared surplus by the state, unless the Department of General Services either requests or approves the rezoning. The author contends that the state has encountered situations in which the local agencies deliberately attempted to, or succeeded in “down-zoning” a parcel of land during the local agency’s negotiations with DGS, which resulted in a reduction in fair market value of the state-owned parcel.

CSAC is concerned with the bill’s proposed interference with local land use decisions. We are interested in comments from counties as to the implications of this proposed legislation in your communities. SB 944 was passed by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee and has been referred to the Senate Floor.

SB 1155 (Lieu) – Request for Comments
As amended on April 30, 2014

SB 1155, by Senator Ted Lieu, would require counties and cities, prior to approving a project within a delineated earthquake fault zone, where mapping to identify seismic hazard zones has not been completed, to determine that either the project has a minimum setback of 75 feet from any mapped active trace fault or the project is not located on an active trace fault as determined by a geological site investigation. The bill assumes that cities and counties would pass the costs of compliance on to project applicants through fees. Stakeholders from local governments and the building industry have expressed concerns with the approach of the bill and the uncertainty it could create by broadening the types of maps local agencies must consult in approving a project.

CSAC is interested in comments from counties about the potential impacts of this legislation. SB 1155 was passed by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 12.
Government Finance and Operations
For more information, please contact Jean Kinney Hurst at 916.650.8133 or Geoffrey Neill at 916.650.8115.



Redevelopment

SB 1129 (Steinberg) – Oppose
As Amended on April 22, 2014

SB 1129, by Senator Darrell Steinberg, seeks to make changes to three components of the redevelopment dissolution process: enforceable obligations, long range property management plans and compensation agreements, and use of bond proceeds for debt issued in 2011. Because each of these directly affects the allocation of property tax revenues and we know that the allocation of property tax revenues is a zero-sum game, SB 1129 will have fiscal consequences for affected taxing entities, including counties.

By authorizing the use of bond proceeds issued in 2011 regardless of whether the agency receives a finding of completion, SB 1129 redirects property tax increment revenues to fund new projects instead of paying down debt. We understand that some redevelopment officials responded to the Governor’s 2011 proposal to eliminate RDAs by accelerating their tax allocation bond sales. In the first six months of 2011, RDAs collectively issued $1.5 billion in tax allocation bonds, exceeding the level of debt issued in the entire prior fiscal year. Further, many of these bonds were issued at significantly higher interest rates than in previous years. From a fiscal perspective, it does not make sense to allow a successor agency to utilize bond proceeds instead of defeasing the bonds, as these debt obligations would require property tax increment revenues well into the future at a high cost.

By eliminating the requirement that a city or county must negotiate compensation agreements with other taxing entities for former RDA properties that it retains pursuant to a long range property management plan, SB 1129 does away with an important tool for affected taxing entities to ensure that development can occur while protecting all local governments’ investments in such properties. Former RDA properties were purchased using property tax increment revenues from all local taxing entities; compensation agreements are a reasonable means to ensure that local agencies are working collaboratively to resolve issues regarding future use of these properties.

By authorizing a successor agency to enter into new and/or amended enforceable obligations without oversight board approval, SB 1129 places successor agencies back in the redevelopment business. Counties are concerned that there are insufficient safeguards in place to ensure that any changes are consistent with the wider community’s values and the Legislature’s intent to expeditiously wind down RDAs. Oversight Board and DOF review are important components to ensure that enforceable obligations are appropriate and lawful, particularly in light of recent audit findings on the practices of some redevelopment agencies.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider SB 1129 at its hearing next Monday, May 5.

Taxes

AB 2119 (Stone) – Support
As Introduced on February 20, 2014

CSAC supports AB 2119, by Assembly Member Mark Stone, which would allow counties to propose a transaction and use tax increases only in the unincorporated area of the county. The proceeds from the tax, if unincorporated voters approve it, could only be used in the unincorporated area.

A peculiar effect of the current construction of tax law is that residents of unincorporated areas are the only geographically distinct groups in the state without the choice to tax themselves for general government services. AB 2119 would fix that oversight.

Despite being the level of government directly responsible for the health and safety of the state's residents, counties have very little tax authority. The sales tax is one of those authorities, but under current law counties can only impose such a levy countywide, with permission from all the county's voters, including those who live in cities.

Many cities levy their own sales taxes, for the sole benefit of city residents. Those residents are often understandably reluctant to impose a further tax on themselves. AB 2119 would give residents who live outside of cities the same rights as those who live in them.

The Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee will consider AB 2119 on Monday, May 5.

AB 2231 (Gordon) – Support
As Amended on April 21, 2014

AB 2231, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, would restore the Senior Citizens’ Property Tax Postponement Program that was eliminated in the February 2009 budget agreement.

The Senior Citizen’s Property Tax Postponement Program offered income-eligible seniors and the disabled the opportunity to postpone their property tax payments in exchange for full repayment with interest when their home is sold. Unfortunately, in large part due to the recent recession and housing crisis, the program failed to pay for itself in 2007-08 and 2008-09, making it a target for elimination given the state’s budget crisis at the time.

Subsequent efforts to restore the program resulted in the passage of AB 1090 (Blumenfield) in 2011, a bill that authorized counties to opt to provide the program using local funds. Counties, however, were not authorized to place a priority lien on the property to ensure repayment of deferred property taxes. Without priority lien status, counties are limited in their ability to finance such a program, given their fiduciary responsibilities to taxpayers and other local agencies.

AB 2231 reestablishes the Senior Citizen’s Property Tax Postponement Program at the state level with important modifications to ensure that the state’s General Fund is protected during economic downturns, and keeping the program up and running when these residents need it most.

The Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee passed AB 2231 unanimously at its hearing on Monday, April 28. The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 2109 (Daly) – Concerns
As Amended on March 24, 2014

AB 2109, by Assembly Member Tom Daly, would require the Board of Equalization to annually report information related to locally-assessed parcel taxes, including the type and rate of tax, the number of parcels subject to and exempt from tax, the sunset date of the tax, and the revenue generated from the tax. This information would be provided to the Board of Equalization by the county auditor.

CSAC has communicated its fiscal concerns about AB 2109 to the author, who has committed to working with us to minimize costs.

The Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee passed AB 2109 unanimously at its hearing on Monday, April 28. The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Elections

AB 1873 (Gonzalez and Mullin) – Support
As Amended on April 22, 2014

AB 1873, by Assembly Members Lorena Gonzalez and Kevin Mullin, would authorize a county to conduct a special vacancy election entirely by mail. This common-sense approach provides an opportunity to improve voter participation and save money. The bill would also allow processing of envelopes and ballots earlier than under current law, and would define ballots received within three days after the election as having been timely received if they either are postmarked or signed and dated on or before Election Day.

Special elections are costly, especially when they cannot be consolidated with other elections. In Los Angeles County alone, special elections have cost more than $27 million since 2008. County election officials conduct these elections in the same way as other statewide elections, with the parallel process of polling places and poll workers run alongside the increasingly popular mail ballots. Costs associated with special elections are usually unanticipated and unbudgeted, creating a fiscal pressure on election departments and the county generally.

Special elections have embarrassingly low voter turnout. The 2013 special elections were particularly poor in turnout, with turnout rates in single digits in some of the later elections. There must be a better way to improve voter participation without imposing significant costs on counties.

CSAC is very interested in exploring new approaches to elections that will result in lower costs to counties and improved voter participation. AB 1873 promises progress on both.

The Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee will consider AB 1873 at its hearing next Tuesday, May 6.

AB 1861 (Harkey) – Support
As Introduced on February 19, 2014

AB 1861, by Assembly Member Diane Harkey, would fund the Voter Identification Procedures mandate in the current budget year.

The Voter Identification Procedures mandate requires county election officials to “compare the signature on each provisional ballot envelope with the signature on the voter's affidavit of registration.” The mandate is currently suspended, which means that county election officials may, under the law as it currently stands, count a provisional ballot without first checking the signature on the envelope.

Given that the purpose of provisional ballots is to give the opportunity to vote to people whose identity cannot be immediately determined, the fact that the law doesn’t require their identity to be determined before counting the ballot is absurd.

This suspension is part of a historic defunding of elections that the state of California has committed over the past few years. The defunding includes several mandate suspensions, including this one, that threaten not only the integrity of our elections, but also equal access to the ballot (the permanent absent voter mandates are also suspended). The state has also stopped reimbursing the costs of legislative vacancy elections over the past few years.

These actions taken together have resulted in the state defunding elections to the tune of about $40 million per year.

Also at stake for this bill in particular is the issue of fairness. Counties fulfilled this mandate for years on the explicit promise that once the costs were known and were determined through a quasi-judicial process to be a reimbursable mandate, a system that is tilted strongly against local agencies by design, the state would pay for those services. In the case of this mandate, as soon as the bill came due, the state reneged on that promise by suspending the mandate, and has therefore never paid a penny of its obligation.

The Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 6 put AB 1861 on its suspense file after it heard testimony on Monday, April 28.

SB 1062 (Block) – Support If Amended
As Amended on March 24, 2014

SB 1062, by Senator Marty Block, would require counties to prepay postage for all vote-by-mail ballots. As currently written, it would impose a mandate on counties on the order of $5 million to $7.5 million for a single general election.

CSAC supports efforts to increase voter participation, but we believe it is inappropriate for the state to decide how counties should spend their money. If the state wants every voter to be able to return the mail ballot without a stamp, they should require the Secretary of State’s office to use their Business Reply Mail account for this purpose, thus requiring no reimbursement.

The author’s office has been in touch with CSAC about making this change to the bill.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider SB 1062 at its hearing on Monday, May 5.

AB 2338 (Wagner) – Oppose
As Introduced on February 21, 2014

AB 2338, by Assembly Member Donald Wagner, would place limitations on pre-election challenges for local initiatives. CSAC asserts that it is wholly appropriate for local governments to file declaratory relief actions when initiatives clearly violate state or federal law.

Pre-election declaratory relief serves an important public purpose by allowing local agencies to seek judicial review of an initiative ordinance before incurring the expense of an election to consider a potentially invalid law. The courts have determined that a pre-election challenge is appropriate (under a more demanding standard of judicial review) when an initiative is facially illegal. The California Court of Appeals lays out a compelling argument for pre-election challenges:

“On the question of whether it is appropriate for a court to address a preelection challenge of a proposed initiative, we observed that ‘if an initiative ordinance is invalid, no purpose is served by submitting it to the voters. The costs of an election – and of preparing the ballot materials necessary for each measure – are far from insignificant.’

“Proponents and opponents of a measure may both expend large sums of money during the election campaign. Frequently, the heated rhetoric of an election campaign may open permanent rifts in a community. That the people’s right to directly legislate through the initiative process is to be respected and cherished does not require the useless expenditure of money and creation of emotional community divisions concerning a measure which is for any reason legally invalid.” (City of Riverside v. Stansbury (2007))

The initiative power is not absolute. The California Constitution and case law clearly place restrictions on the initiative power. A local initiative may not conflict with state legislation, may not impair contracts, may not impair essential governmental functions, may not violate individual rights protected by the state and federal Constitutions, and the list goes on. AB 2338 seeks to place any measure, regardless of its validity, before the electorate and incur the political, social, and financial expenses associated with a post-election challenge. We respectfully disagree with this approach.

The bill failed to pass out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee at its hearing on Tuesday, April 29. The bill is now dead.

Library Bond

SB 1455 (DeSaulnier) – Support
As Amended on April 9, 2014

SB 1455, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, would give voters the choice of enacting a new library construction and renovation bond.

As the internet age began, many predicted the slow death of libraries. Much to our delight, exactly the opposite has occurred and there is a greater demand for libraries per capita than there has been in decades. Through a combination of forward thinking and circumstance, libraries have become a hub of community activity.

Libraries today serve as some residents’ only access to the high-speed internet connections that have become so critical to today’s students, entrepreneurs, artists, researchers, and job seekers. They serve as a critical “third space” for groups of like-minded and open-minded residents to gather and learn. They also still let people read books for free, which is an important service that sometimes gets taken for granted.

Given the statewide benefits libraries serve, we believe it is appropriate for voters statewide to consider a general obligation bond.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee passed SB 1455 at its hearing on Wednesday, April 30. The vote was 4-2 with one member abstaining. The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Health and Human Services
For more information, please contact Kelly Brooks-Lindsey at 916.650. 8108 or Farrah McDaid Ting at 916.650.8110.
Public Guardian

AB 1725 (Maienschein) Oppose
As Amended on April 30, 2014

AB 1725, by Assembly Member Brian Maienschein, remains a concern for counties as it will increase costs and workload levels and hasten the erosion of county authority in conservatorship investigations should this measure move forward.

AB 1725 was amended April 30, and while the amendments reflect an improvement in the bill, counties remain opposed to the remaining provisions that would allow a Probate Court to make a recommendation of conservatorship to the county Conservatorship Officer (CO) and require the CO to conduct the investigation and file a report within 30 days of the probate court recommendation.
While the proposed language does not require the CO to recommend conservatorship to the Superior Court, it does compel the CO to conduct a conservatorship investigation. This is contrary to current law, whereby a CO retains the authority to determine whether an investigation is warranted upon receiving a referral by a medical professional.

Should the mandate in AB 1725 become law, counties anticipate a significant increase in workload and county costs for conservatorship investigations. Further, the measure would also impose an arbitrary and frankly unrealistic 30-day mandated timeline for the investigation and submission of a report to the Superior Court.

CSAC urges counties to oppose AB 1725, which has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee but not yet set for hearing.

General Assistance

AB 2311 (Bradford) – Oppose
As Introduced on February 21, 2014

AB 2311, by Assembly Member Steven Bradford, would alter locally-established General Assistance (GA) eligibility to allow honorably discharged veterans to receive GA benefits for a longer period of time.

Each county establishes GA benefit eligibility and award levels to best serve the needs of their communities. While counties strive to serve veteran populations, AB 2311 would increase county-funded benefits for a specific population and remove local authority to set GA levels that meets the needs of each community.
The Assembly Human Services Committee passed AB 2311 on April 29, and it goes next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. CSAC urges counties to weigh in on this issue.

Emergency Medical Services

AB 1621 (Lowenthal) – Oppose
As Amended on April 21, 2014

AB 1621, by Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal, would create a State Emergency Medical Services Data and Information Systems (SEMSDIS), mandate the use of electronic patient care record systems, and require local EMS agencies to submit patient and system data to the EMS Authority.

CSAC and CHEAC are generally supportive of the concept of expanding the use of electronic emergency medical services data. However, this bill creates a costly regulatory mandate on counties and EMS providers. The cost of implementing an electronic patient care record system can be measured in the tens of thousands of dollars, and funds for this purpose are virtually nonexistent for most counties, most acutely in our rural counties.

For these reasons, CSAC has joined with CHEAC to oppose AB 1621. The Assembly Health Committee discussed amendments and passed the measure on April 29. It goes next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 1975 (Hernández) – Oppose
As Amended on March 28, 2014

AB 1975, by Assembly Member Roger Hernández, would require Local Emergency Medical Services Agencies (LEMSA) implementing a trauma care system to commission the American College of Surgeons (ACS) to conduct a comprehensive assessment periodically of equitability and access to its trauma system, and would require the local EMS agency to submit the results of each assessment to the EMS Authority.

Counties oppose AB 1975. Local EMS agencies, with the oversight of the EMS Authority and the Commission on EMS, currently perform objective and independent trauma planning and system evaluation. While there may be value on a case-by-case basis for a local EMS agency voluntarily choosing to use the ACS, there exists no compelling argument to mandate the use of ACS statewide in each local EMS system.

It is anticipated that AB 1975’s mandate to require the use an American College of Surgeons’ trauma system survey will cost counties and local EMS agencies, at a minimum $65,000 every five years, not including the necessary EMS staff time to prepare and support of the ACS audit. The increase in EMS staff costs could surpass $100,000 a year in many counties. Local jurisdictions would have no choice but to pass along these costs to hospitals by increasing trauma center designation fees.

It is for these reasons that CSAC, along with Los Angeles County, the California Hospital Association (CHA), the Emergency Medical Administrators Association of California (EMSAAC), and the Emergency Medical Directors Association of California (EMDAC) oppose AB 1975. It will be heard on May 6 in the Assembly Health Committee.

Social Services

SB 1029 (Hancock) – Support
As Amended on April 10, 2014

SB 1029, by Senator Loni Hancock, would authorize CalWORKs and CalFresh benefits for individuals in the community who were convicted of a drug felony after December 31, 1997. CSAC supports the measure, which was passed by the Senate Human Services Committee on April 8.

It should also be noted that the Assembly Budget Subcommittee Number 1 on Health and Human Services heard this issue as part of their agenda on April 9. CSAC and several counties registered their support for the proposal, which the Committee left open for a future vote.

The Senate Appropriations Committee placed SB 1029 on their Suspense File on April 28.

AB 1623 (Atkins) – Support
As Amended April 21, 2014

AB 1623, by Assembly Speaker-Elect Atkins, would authorize any city, county, or community-based nonprofit organization to establish a multiagency, multidisciplinary family justice center to assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, and human trafficking, as specified beginning January 1st of 2015. The bill would also specify additional confidentiality provisions relating to information disclosed by a victim in a family justice center and would require each family justice center to provide mandatory training for all staff members, volunteers, and agency professionals.

CSAC is supportive of efforts that assist victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. The Assembly passed the bill on April 28, and it is now on the Senate side awaiting referral to committees.

AB 1654 (Bonilla) – Support
As Introduced on February 11, 2014

AB 1654, by Assembly Member Susan Bonilla, would increase the amount of the child support pass through for those on CalWORKs aid from $50 for one child and $100 for a family with two or more children to $100 and $200 respectively.
CSAC supports the measure, which was placed on the Suspense File by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on April 30.

AB 2547 (Gaines) – Support
As Introduced on February 21, 2014

AB 2547, by Assembly Member Beth Gaines, would allow Placer County to continue to operate their successful integrated, coordinated, and seamless approach to health and human services delivery in the County for another five years.

Sponsored by the Placer County Board of Supervisors, AB 2547 extends the sunset date to January 1, 2022 for the County’s innovative Health and Human Services blended pilot program. Operated in conjunction with the State, Placer County’s Integrated Health and Human Services Pilot Program serves as a model of family centered and needs-based delivery of services to children and families by providing blended education, mental health, probation, and child welfare services in a seamless team approach.
T
he Assembly Human Services Committee passed AB 2547 on April 29 on their consent calendar, with the recommendation to the Assembly Appropriations Committee to also place it on consent.

Medi-Cal

SB 1341 (Mitchell) – Support
As Amended on April 7, 2014

SB 1341, by Senator Holly Mitchell, would codify the existing agreement between the Administration, Covered California, and the counties regarding the respective roles of the State Automated Welfare System (SAWS) and the California Health Eligibility Enrollment and Retention System (CalHEERS).
Specifically, SB 1341:
  • Specifies SAWS as the system of record for Medi-Cal and that SAWS shall contain all Medi-Cal eligibility rules and case management functionality. The bill permits the MAGI rules for Medi-Cal to continue to be housed in CalHEERS as they currently are; and,
  • Requires that Notices of Action (NOAs) for Medi-Cal be programmed into the Medi-Cal system of record: the SAWS systems.
The Senate Health Committee passed SB 1341 on April 30. It goes next to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Federal Affairs
Lawmakers returned to Washington, D.C. this week following their two-week spring recess to face a crowded appropriations agenda. On May 1, the House passed its first two fiscal year 2015 spending bills - Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (HR 4486) and Legislative Branch (HR 4487). The measures, which were approved with broad bipartisan support, are generally considered the least controversial of the 12 annual appropriations bills.

In addition, the House Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee cleared its fiscal year 2015 spending legislation, which includes $51.2 billion ($398 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level) in total discretionary funding. The bill is likely to be considered by the full committee next week, with possible floor consideration later this spring.

In other developments this week, the House Ways and Means and Judiciary Committees approved four bills that would address the issue of sex trafficking in the U.S. While national data on sex trafficking remains relatively sparse, there is increasing concern in California and the rest of the nation regarding the number of youth who are being exploited and are also part of the child welfare system.

The legislation, among other things, would require further data to help understand the breadth of the nation's sex-trafficking problem. Additionally, the bills would seek to clarify that youth in the sex trade should be legally considered victims rather than criminals; promote collaboration among numerous governmental agencies and community organizations coming into contact with such youth; and, provide initial federal funding to serve domestic trafficking victims.

It should be noted that Los Angeles County Supervisor and CSAC Board Member Don Knabe participated in an event at the National Press Club this week where he discussed the County's initiatives to address child sex trafficking. He also announced the release of a National Association of Counties' (NACo) survey on the problem. Among the findings, the NACo report indicates that nearly nine out of 10 large counties identify child sex trafficking as either a major or minor problem in their jurisdiction.

Transportation Reauthorization

The Obama administration released April 29 an ambitious four-year, $302 billion transportation reauthorization proposal called the Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America Act, or simply the GROW AMERICA Act. The proposed funding level in the president's plan would fill the Highway Trust Fund's projected shortfall of $63 billion and support $87 billion in new transportation spending.

Additionally, the proposal would rename the Highway Trust Fund the Transportation Trust Fund. The new-look fund would include separate highway, transit, rail and multimodal accounts. Under the plan, existing gas tax revenues would continue to flow exclusively to the highway and transit accounts, supplemented by new revenue generated through corporate tax reform.
All told, the GROW AMERICA Act would provide $199 billion over four years for the Federal-aid highway program, or $9 billion more than is currently authorized under MAP-21. The measure also includes a significant increase for public transit programs, as well as $10 billion for a new multimodal freight grant program with rail, aviation, port and other multimodal projects eligible for funding. In addition, the blueprint would provide $5 billion in mandatory funding for the popular TIGER grant program and continue the TIFIA financing program at current levels ($4 billion).

With regard to project streamlining, the plan emphasizes concurrent (rather than sequential) agency reviews, avoiding duplicative processes, and improving transparency and accountability. In addition, it would create a new Interagency Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Center within the Department of Transportation (DOT), which would be responsible for working to improve project delivery and streamline the federal permitting and regulatory review process.

Finally, the administration's proposal includes a controversial provision that would relax the current ban on tolling. In general, states have been barred from tolling on interstates, unless the funds generated are used to add lanes or otherwise increase capacity. Pursuant to the proposal, the funds generated from new tolling would have to be used for repair and reconstruction of roadway systems.

While transportation advocates largely applauded the president's reauthorization measure, Congress is unlikely to approve the necessary tax reforms needed to fund it. However, with the current transportation law set to expire on September 30 and the Highway Trust Fund expected to run dry in August, the proposal will serve as an initial blueprint for the relevant authorizing committees. Incidentally, this is the first detailed, long-term transportation bill the Obama administration has sent to Congress.

State Criminal Alien Assistance Program

As indicated above, the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee cleared its fiscal year 2015 spending bill by voice vote. Although the measure would cut spending by nearly $400 million compared to current levels - including an overall reduction in investment for state and local justice assistance grant programs - the bill would provide a $30 million funding boost for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). The proposed funding increase represents a positive development for CSAC and California's counties, which have worked with the California congressional delegation and others in an effort to boost funding for SCAAP.

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee has yet to release its draft CJS spending legislation, though is expected to do so in the coming weeks.

Water Resources Development Act

This past week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee held a hearing to examine pending water resources projects that fall under the purview of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The projects are likely to be included as part of a final Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) reauthorization bill.

According to the Corps, an additional six water resources projects have been vetted by the Agency and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) since the House and Senate approved their respective versions of WRDA reauthorization legislation (HR 3080/S 601). Another eight projects have received sign-off from Corps officials but await final approval from the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works and OMB.

It should be noted that both the House and Senate WRDA bills include language championed by CSAC that would require the Corps to undertake a comprehensive review of its levee vegetation removal policy. Although the Corps in March announced that it was reversing its policy on an interim basis - thus permitting local flood control agencies to keep trees and other vegetation on levees - the statutory language will likely remain in the final water resources bill in order to ensure that the Corps' interim policy is made permanent.

According to key members of Congress, a long-awaited final WRDA package could be completed by next week.