By George Soares
Every year the California State Legislature has about nine months—roughly January to September—to conduct its business. Thousands of legislative proposals, usually shaped in the prior Fall months, began their tortured journey through policy and appropriations committees, and Senate and Assembly Floor votes, with some ending up on the Governor’s desk for final action.
The mixed results of this annual exercise are now in the books for all to see and to decide whether their lives have benefitted from the acts of 120 legislators and Governor Newsom. The following sample of legislation will either directly affect PCA’s or indirectly do so through their impact on the larger agricultural community.
SB 1 was specifically and opening designed to prevent implementation of Trump Administration environmental standards in California by requiring adoption of federal standards which existed prior to his election even if more recent scientific findings did not support such action. Of particular note was that the movement of water throughout the state would have been victimized as would voluntary water agreement being nurtured by Governor Newsom. In the face of a 48-22 Assembly vote and 26-14 vote in the Senate, the Governor protected the State from political extremism and vetoed the bill.
AB 916 would have prevented local and regional governments from using any pesticides containing the active ingredient glyphosate at an annual cost of millions of dollars. The bill passed the Assembly before being held in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Of note, Roundup is regularly used on the State Capitol grounds and this would have continued even if the bill had become law.
SB 86 would have banned the use of pesticides containing the active ingredient chlorpyrifos. Emotional rhetoric and little else moved by the bill through the Senate before being held in the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxics Committee. About the same time the Newsom Administration stepped in and did what the Legislature did not do. The effect is that there will be very little use of chlorpyrifos in California after the first quarter of 2020. Unfortunately, the Governor declared this result a “win” as if such matters should be seen as a contest rather than an evaluation of sound science which was how several administrations ago handled such matters.
SB 200 led to adoption of the Safe Drinking Water Act which passed the Assembly 68-0 and the Senate 38-1, and was signed by the Governor soon thereafter. The bottom line of the Act is to regulate drinking water to protect public health, and the State Budget provides $130 million to make it happen. Aquifers identified as high risk of containing contaminants that exceed safe drinking water standards will receive immediate attention. Beyond this, the bill demonstrates that the agricultural community and environmental groups are capable of effectively working toward a common goal.
AB 450 makes important adjustments to the Apiary Protection Act originally adopted in 2018 due to the leadership of CAPCA and CACASA (agricultural commissioners). The Act provides for regulating apiaries including their registration with the agricultural commissioner in the county in which they are located. The bill in part enhanced communications by requiring 72 hours’ notice of apiary relocation in a county, and was unanimously approved by the Legislature before being signed into law by the Governor.
This mixed report is reflective of the Legislature’s erratic mindset and should be a constant reminder that CAPCA has been drawn into an ideological conflict which could affect how PCA’s go about their business. For better or worse is the unknown to be answered in time by how effectively CAPCA, its members and the agricultural community engage in the process of shaping public policy.