A summary of some subcommittee activity from the past week
Subcommittee #1 (Education)
Portantino (D-Los Angeles) Chair, Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)
College Choice, Middle Class Scholarships Threatened: The subcommittee discussed student financial aid, including a currently scheduled reduction of over $1,000 per year to the maximum Cal Grant for students who choose to attend private colleges (e.g. Pepperdine or Stanford) and the governor’s proposal to phase-out the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS). Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) spoke out against these cuts, noting that California’s private universities relieve pressure on crowded UC and CSU campuses and that the middle class works hard and deserves opportunities for exceptional education leading to exceptional careers. He encouraged the administration to take another look at these reductions with an eye to their reversal. The subcommittee did not vote on these items at the hearing.
Subcommittee #2 (Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation)
Wieckowski (D-Fremont) Chair, Nielsen (R-Tehama), McGuire (D-Santa Rosa), Mendoza (D-Cerritos)
New Fees and Requirements on Homes with Small Well Owners: The governor’s budget proposes $2.3 million in new fees for the State Water Board (SWB) to implement intervention and enforcement actions on local communities that do not develop sustainable groundwater plans. Although small well owners that use minimal water are largely exempt from the requirements, the SWB proposes to include these residents in groundwater basins that they manage. Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) expressed serious concern that the SWB was imposing a $100 dollar annual fee per well and requiring water use reporting from these owners, who are otherwise exempt. This action is another example of the state raising costs on Californians despite little to no benefit. This item was approved on a 3-1 vote with Senator Nielsen voting No.
New Dam Safety and Emergency Flood Proposal: The administration has proposed new requirements on dam owners to update inundation maps and create emergency response plans, along with adding new fees of $6.5 million annually to support additional inspections and reviews by the Department of Water Resources. This proposal will result in a fee increase of 84 percent on dam owners over the next three years for additional costs to comply with new planning and mapping requirements. Improvements to dam safety are critical, though the proposed fees could impose an excessive burden on some dam owners.
In addition, the administration is requesting $1.8 million for the Office of Emergency Services to review and approve emergency response plans and $387 million from water bond funds for enhanced flood protection and habitat projects in the Delta, Central Valley, and coastal areas. Senator Nielsen stated that the enhanced safety inspections were very important and requested the department involve local governments, dam owners and others in this process to improve the dam safety program and address all current shortcomings in the program. This issue was held open by the committee pending additional information.
Subcommittee #3 (Health and Human Services)
Pan (D-Sacramento) Chair, Stone (R-Riverside County), Monning (D-Santa Cruz)
Central Valley Independent Living Centers: The subcommittee heard testimony from Assemblymember Rudy Salas urging the restoration of $705,000 for three Central Valley Independent Living Centers in order to provide the same base state funding as 25 other such centers in the state. These centers provide employment training, advocacy, and personal assistance services to disabled individuals. Senators Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Hart), Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) and Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) recently signed a bipartisan letter supporting this restoration. The item was held open for action at a later date.
More Work Needed to Assist Disabled Californians: The subcommittee heard testimony regarding services for people with developmental disabilities, which include autism, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Despite a much needed funding increase in 2016, Senate Republicans remain concerned that community service programs for these individuals continue to face significant challenges, including the effects of years without rate increases, the costs imposed by excessive government mandates, and an outdated reimbursement system that has led to reduced services. In addition, Sacramento Democrats have not restored past cuts to disabled services that were made in 2009 during the budget crisis, even though state revenues have returned to record-high levels. Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County) has introduced Senate Bill 499, which would require the state to fully compensate providers for all the costs associated with state and local minimum wage mandates. This will be a critical step in continuing to fulfill the original promise California made to individuals with disabilities, enabling them to pursue their goals and dreams in neighborhoods of their choosing.
Subcommittee #4 (State Administration and General Government)
Roth (D-Riverside) Chair, Wilk (R-Antelope Valley), Glazer (D-Orinda)
The subcommittee did not meet this week.
Subcommittee #5 (Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary)
Skinner (D-Berkeley) Chair, Anderson (R-Alpine), Beall (D-San Jose)
“Lift and Shift” Could Hasten Conclusion of Decades-Long Lawsuit: The governor proposes to shift responsibility for roughly 1,100 mental health inmate-patients from the care of the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). These mental health patients are housed on CDCR campuses in Stockton, Vacaville and Soledad. Dubbed the “lift and shift,” the proposal would move $250 million and nearly 2,000 staff positions from DSH’s budget to CDCR’s, while leaving the actual patients and clinicians in place. The governor’s proposal would likely improve compliance with legal requirements and could hasten the winding down of a decades-long lawsuit. Senate Republicans support actions to improve prison mental health treatment and relieve the state of federal court mandates. The subcommittee did not vote on this issue, but will likely hold a vote at a future hearing.