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May 23, 2008

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 99 bills that would increase state costs by $26 million compared to the $117 million in spending originally proposed on the committee’s 157-bill Suspense File. Any bill that cost more that $50,000 to implement must go on the committee’s Suspense File. According to Chairman Tom Torlakson $23 million of the proposed $26 million was contained in only two bills that were required by court settlements. Thus, the committee pared back $117 million in requested spending to $3 million, virtually all of which was from Special Funds and not the General Fund. Nearly all of the 99 bills that were approved were amended to remove any General Fund cost because the state is currently struggling with a  $17.2 billion budget deficit.

Some of the Senate bills of interest that will now move to the Senate floor for consideration included:

SB 1108 (Mike Machado, D-Linden) that would create the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy Program in the California Coastal Conservancy was approved because its funding would be from a Special Fund and not the General Fund. CFBF and the five delta county Farm Bureaus have offered a series of amendments to address our concerns.

SB 1562 (Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta) that would provide disaster relief to approximately half of the state’s counties that suffered crop losses in the 2007 freeze, wildfire, and windstorm was also approved. The measure was amended, however, to delete the property tax deferral provision that would have been extremely beneficial to farmers and ranchers that lost more that 60 percent of their expected income.

SB 1617 (Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego) that would have required the Board of Forestry (BOF) to establish a benefit fee for structural fire protection and prevention and other related emergency services was amended significantly and sent to the floor. The amendments would impose a flat $50 fee for any structure that requires a certificate of occupancy. The new fee would be only be used for fire prevention activities related to structures in the State Responsibility Area (SRA) including local assistance grants, inspection services for defensible space, and public outreach. All related costs of implementing the new fee would have to be covered by the fee. [Note: Previously, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee #3 approved the Legislative Analyst’s Office proposed SRA fee in concept with the details to be worked out in the Budget Conference Committee.]

Other bills of interest that were held by the Senate Appropriations Committee included:

SB 1121 (Carol Migden, D-San Francisco) that would require labeling of all meat and milk from cloned livestock or their progeny was thankfully killed. This was Senator Migden’s second attempt to impose this labeling requirement. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed her SB 63 last year. CFBF opposed both bills.

SB 1176 (Don Perata, D-Oakland) that would have eliminated the current appointment categories, including the one for irrigated agriculture, on the nine regional water quality control boards was held

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