March 26, 2015

Legislature Adopts Water Bills

The California Legislature, approved a $1 billion financing plan this week to speed up spending on water projects and allocated about $75 million in immediate aid for drought-stricken regions.

The legislation, which consists of two bills, reportedly accelerates water infrastructure spending, and establishes a grant system for funding water-recycling projects and provides funds for safe drinking water in small and poor cities.

AB 91 contains the financing plan, which passed with bi-partisan support in both houses. However, AB 92 contains long standing policy changes that created much concern from Republicans and some Democrats.  These two bills were fast-tracked through the legislative process this week just before legislators recessed for spring break.

Nearly two-thirds of the money, or $660 million, is slated for flood protection instead of the ongoing drought, now in its fourth year.  Gov. Brown and others claim that using money to prevent floods is related to the drought because climate change increases the likelihood of sudden storms overtaking communities, even in dry periods.  The Legislature faces a summer 2016 deadline to spend the flood-protection money that comes from a $4 billion bond measure approved by voters a decade ago.

The flood money allocated in this legislation did not specify where it would be spent but instead establishes a funding process that allows communities to apply for the funds.

The legislation is now headed to Governor Brown for his signature.