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Anything but Business as Usual at the State Capitol

By Rich Gordon, President and CEO, Calforests – The California Legislature has returned to work in Sacramento. The State Assembly resumed work on May 4th and the State Senate is back in session today. While they are back it is under new and very unusual arrangements.

Policy legislation which was introduced by the end of February can be considered, but frankly much of it will be tossed aside for some future year. Policy committees which usually hold several hearings to consider all the bills are now restricted to one hearing. Committee Chairs in the Assembly have ultimate authority as to what will be considered and they are wielding an ax to the thicket of bills that were sent their way.

Several bills in the Assembly that were of interest to Calforests have been shelved. Among those is legislation that we sponsored to establish a revolving fund for proceeds from Good Neighbor Authority projects. The revolving fund would have protected forest management funds for future projects rather than have project proceeds revert to the state general fund. We may consider working with the legislative budget committees on this proposal, but more than likely will have to wait for next year to raise this issue.
Another bill we supported by Assemblymember Patterson that would have allowed multiple small landowners to join together for forest management projects will have to wait for another year for consideration as it will not be set for a hearing
There are several bills on the CFA priority list that are still going to be heard, but in very different circumstances. Testimony on legislation will be heard remotely as no more than 25 people are allowed in the Capitol for any public hearing. Those entering the building will have temperature screenings and will be escorted to a hearing room. Only one person at a time will be allowed in an elevator. Like others, we are providing most of our testimony through letters in support or opposition of pending legislation.
In addition to the bills that were in print in February, there is amended legislation to deal with the pandemic. One bill would extend unemployment insurance payments and another would codify parts of the Executive Order that made COVID-19 a presumptive health issue under workers compensation insurance. We are working with the California Chamber of Commerce and other business associations to express our concerns about the impact these measures could have on business moving forward.
Finally, the Legislature will have to adopt a state budget by June 15th. The Governor is set to release a revised budget on May 15th. The projections for a deficit are overwhelming and cuts are expected in many programs. The economic downturn brought about by the pandemic has wiped out the reserves that had been so carefully built up over the past several years. Look for further information on the state budget in the next edition of the Calforests Report.