Water Conservation and Tax Legislation Poised to Return in New Year
AB 1668 (Friedman) and SB 606 (Skinner), both dealing with water management planning, were not taken up at the end of the first year of the legislative session in September 2017. As two-year bills, AB 1668 and SB 606 will remain active heading into 2018, with the potential to be acted on quickly once the Legislature reconvenes on January 3, 2018. Last year, Friedman and Skinner convened a series of “listening sessions” that provided an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss four technical issues that have been identified as areas where the authors are interested in potential refinements to the legislation: Variances, Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance “Principles”, Cost Effectiveness of Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Meter Performance Measures, and Reporting Requirements. Water suppliers around the state have identified a number of additional technical issues with the legislation (including the four issues discussed at the listening sessions) and provided amendments that would address the issues. Water suppliers have also articulated several key policy concerns related to the bills and provided detailed amendments to address these concerns, including how the bills handle enforcement, a higher cap for potable reuse credits, and the limitation of the Governor’s authority over drought emergencies.
SB 623 (Monning) also remains active as a two-year bill, and may be taken up at any time once the Legislature reconvenes. SB 623 establishes a statewide tax on water, to be collected as a surcharge on water bills by local agencies, including special districts. Those living under 200% of the federal poverty level would be exempted from the surcharge. The bill also raises fees on fertilizer mills and dairy producers. In exchange for increased fees, SB 623 will provide time limited protections from enforcement for these businesses under Porter-Cologne. To be eligible for these protections, the businesses must be regulated by the state and in compliance. This includes a requirement to implement nitrate management programs, best management practices, and other state requirements.
The water tax is expected to raise several hundreds of millions of dollars a year to be used to fund projects that improve access to safe drinking water. The aid will be funneled primarily to disadvantaged communities that lack access to safe drinking water. The funds may be spent on water purification and treatment systems or other critical facilities to improve drinking water quality and access. More than 300 schools and communities are estimated to lack safe drinking water in California.
For more information on innovation, infrastructure, and investment issues, please contact the CSDA Legislative Representative covering this issue area, Rylan Gervase, at email@example.com.