Looking Ahead: 2019 California Legislative Session
The Legislature officially convened the 2019 Legislative Session on Monday, January 7. The first day of session was mostly ceremonial and was led by Governor Newsom taking his oath of office to become California’s 40th Governor.
The legislature will get to work quickly in advance of its first major deadline to submit bill proposals to legislative counsel by the end of the month. All bills must be introduced by February 22 to be considered in the 2019 session.
Governor Newsom is also expected to release his 2019-20 budget proposal this week. His first budget will outline his plans for managing a nearly $15 billion budget surplus. The deadline for Governor Newsom to release his budget plan is January 10, just three days after assuming office.
Changes Ahead for Legislative Policy Committees
During the holiday break, the senate and assembly announced changes to their 2019 leadership and policy committees. Of significant interest to the clean water community, the two committees that hear the majority of CASA’s legislative issues both have new chairs.
Senate Environmental Quality Committee
Senator Ben Allen – Chair (replaces Senator Bob Wieckowski)
Senator Pat Bates – Vice Chair (replaces Senator Jeff Stone)
Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee
Senator Henry Stern – Chair (replaces Senator Bob Hertzberg)
Senator Brian Jones – Vice Chair (replaces Senator Jeff Stone)
The assembly committee leadership remains very similar to last year’s composition. Notable changes include Assemblymember Laura Friedman taking over as the Chair of Assembly Natural Resources Committee. She succeeds Assemblymember Cristina Garcia.
Policy committees will begin hearing and deliberating bills immediately after the bill introduction deadline has passed.
CASA State and Federal Legislative Committees Establish 2019 Priorities
In December, CASA conducted planning meetings with both the State and Federal legislative committees. During these meetings, each committee formalized the 2019 legislative priorities for Sacramento and Washington D.C.
On the state side, we are particularly interested in accessory dwelling unit bills, microplastics, water recycling, tax exemptions for certain water treatment chemicals and potential attempts to limit ocean discharges. Until all the bills are introduced, it is difficult to gauge which will be highest priority. Bills will be finalized and in print at the end of February.
CASA will move forward with pursuing sponsored legislation on non-flushable products during the 2019 session. This makes non-flushable products a top priority for the coming year. We look forward to sharing more information as we enter into the legislative process this spring.
The new Congressional landscape in D.C., controlled by Democrats, will drive our 2019 legislative strategy. With much unknown, we will continue advocating our core priorities of infrastructure policy and funding. It is likely infrastructure will be a priority issue in the next congress. Additionally, at the federal level, we will continue to pursue legislation to extend NPDES permit terms from five to ten years.
Finally, we have adopted a new initiative focused on advocating for a climate resiliency policy and applicable funding for the wastewater community. For more information.
New Federal Agency Nominees Headed For Consideration by Senate
On January 3, Congress convened for the new session. With the partial government shutdown, congress is negotiating a compromise to allow several federal agencies to reopen for the remainder of the fiscal year. One of the agencies in contention is the USEPA. The departure of multiple senior level administration officials will require the senate to conduct a number of confirmation hearings and floor votes for new department and agency leadership officials.
CASA is interested in the confirmation of acting USEPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. Upon confirmation, Mr. Wheeler would report to the Secretary of the Interior, currently a vacant position. Ryan Zinke, former Secretary of the Interior, resigned at the end of 2018.
The Acting Secretary of the Interior is Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. Mr. Bernhardt represented a number of agricultural and water project developers in California during his prior position as a water resources attorney. He is not expected to be the President’s nominee to become the next Secretary of the Interior. Currently, he is serving the dual roles of deputy and acting Secretary. For the foreseeable future, Mr. Bernhardt will manage the regulatory and legislative initiatives affecting California water resources including water recycling project financing.