Weekly Legislative Review
Friday, January 20, 2012
Noting that California’s demise has been greatly exaggerated, Governor Brown’s State of the State speech optimistically announced that our state’s economy was on the “mend”. He touched on the topics of education and pension reform and argued forcefully for his tax initiative to avoid more Draconian cuts to social programs, public safety funding and K-14 and higher education. Surprisingly, while many Sacramento policymakers are quickly leaping from the High-Speed Rail bandwagon; the governor renewed his vows to push the project forward in 2012 along with new water conveyance. Subsequent to his address to a joint convention of the legislature, Governor Brown suggested that he would support delaying the vote on the $11 billion water bond that is currently scheduled to be on the November ballot.
AB 88 (Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael), which would require the labeling of genetically modified fish sold in California, was voted on again by the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week. This bill failed passage last year, but was given a second opportunity for passage. Despite a second chance, the bill still failed. Farm Bureau and a large coalition of agriculture and biotechnology interests opposed the bill and appreciates the members who voted against it or abstained. The roll call on AB 88 was as “Ayes:” Fuentes, Bradford, Chesbro, Gatto, Hill, Ammiano, and Mitchell; “Noes:” Harkey, Charles Calderon, Campos, Donnelly, Hall, Nielsen, Norby, Solorio, and Wagner; “Abstaining:” Blumenfield
The Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee will introduce legislation this session that will shift oversight of the Above Ground Petroleum Storage Act requirements from Cal EPA to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The measure does nothing to change the conditional exemption currently provided in state law for farms and ranches. Farm Bureau will monitor the bill’s progress when it is introduced and is heard in committee to make certain the exemption is not altered.
Assembly Member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) will introduce legislation to amend the definition of “pickup truck” to help reduce regulatory fee burden. This new legislation will include flatbed pickups with a gross weight rating of less than 11,500 pounds and an unladen weight of less than 8,001 equipped with a flatbed that does not exceed 9 feet in length. The pickup must be operated by a farmer or rancher or their employee for use in the conduct of agricultural operations. This change will effectively cut weight fees in half and eliminate enrollment in the Motor Carrier Permit Program. In 2004, then Assembly Member Doug La Malfa introduced AB 1809 to address this issue. That measure was unanimously approved by the Assembly Transportation Committee, but was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Farm Bureau will be the sponsor of Assembly Member Pan’s bill.
Assembly Member Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon) will author legislation that would designate the Department of Boating and Waterways as the lead agency to work in cooperation with other agencies in controlling the South American Sponge plant, an aggressive invasive plant that has been found in the delta. Current law only gives the department authority to treat water hyacinth and Egeria Densa that have impacted the health of the delta water system. Farm Bureau will support the bill as proposed.
The California Cattlemen’s Association is sponsoring AB 1516 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas) that would address certain commercial permitting requirements for farmers and ranchers operating light-duty truck and trailer combinations and revise the current Class A license exemption. Current law requires that any individual towing a trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 lbs. or greater to obtain a Class A license. AB 1516 proposes to increase the GVWR from 26,000 lbs. to 28,500 lbs. to bring the exemption in line with today’s production of heavier pickups and to allow vehicle combinations of more than 40 ft. A farmer or rancher would be exempt from the MCP, BIT, and Class A license requirements under AB 1516 if all of the following conditions are met:
the truck and trailer is used exclusively to support production agriculture;
the truck and trailer together do not exceed a GCWR of 28,500 lbs. and a total length of 75 ft.;
the vehicle is not used in a “for-hire” capacity.
Farm Bureau will be supporting AB 1516.