2021 California Legislative Roundup

Posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 by Brian Shobe
CalCAN partners on the East Steps of the Capitol with Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin at a Legislator education day in 2018

California Bills Roundup

California’s 2021 legislative session ended on September 10th with an agreement on a record-setting state budget and a flurry of decisions on other bills. This year was an exceptional one for investments in food and farm systems, but industry interests killed or delayed most of the meaningful climate change bills. Some of these bills will come back next year and CalCAN, with our partners, will continue to bring forward the farmer perspective on the need for climate solutions now.

For a summary of budget outcomes, read our blog from last week: “State Legislature Passes Record Budget Bills with $1.3 Billion in Equitable, Resilient Food & Farming System Investments.” Below, we summarize the outcomes of the 14 bills CalCAN supported this session. 

We’ll start with the two bills CalCAN co-sponsored in 2021.

CalCAN Sponsored Bills

AB 125 (R. Rivas) — Budget Wins, Work on Bond Measure Continues — This 2022 bond measure proposal would give California voters a chance to approve $3.3 billion to fund food and farming infrastructure investments needed to recover from the pandemic and to build a more resilient, equitable, and healthy food system. All bond measures, including AB 125 and other climate bonds, were made into two-year bills, following the state’s record-setting budget surplus. Undeterred, CalCAN and our partners in the AB 125 coalition, along with Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas), worked to advance the set of funding proposals outlined in AB 125 through months-long budget negotiations, ultimately resulting in the $1.3 billion in investments we wrote about earlier this week. Work on AB 125 will continue this fall and into next year. 

AB 284 (R. Rivas) — Bill Dead, Effort to Establish Goals & Plans for Agricultural Climate Solutions Shifts Gears  — AB 284, co-sponsored by CalCAN and The Nature Conservancy, would have required the state to set a 2045 climate goal for the state’s natural and agricultural lands and make plans for achieving it. These targets and plans are needed to drive investments and programs to support the state’s goals of carbon neutrality – when emissions are equal to carbon sinks. Although the bill passed through all of its committees, late amendments made to respond to concerns from conventional agricultural trade groups were not accepted by the Senate, effectively killing the bill. We will continue to press for robust inclusion of  working lands climate solutions through the California Air Resources Board’s 2022 Climate Scoping Plan process.

We are deeply grateful to Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who authored both of these bills and has proven to be a true climate and agriculture champion as the Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair.

CalCAN Supported Bills

CalCAN supported twelve other bills during the 2021 legislative session. Of those bills, five were passed by the legislature and are awaiting the Governor’s signature, two were partially achieved through the budget, three are on hold until next year, and two failed.

WINS — Bills the Legislature Passed and Are Now Awaiting the Governor’s Signature

SB 332 (Dodd) — Protects prescribed fire practitioners from liability for fire suppression costs if a prescribed or cultural burn escapes its boundaries in spite of the use of best management practices. This bill addresses a significant barrier to scaling up the use of controlled burns on farmland, rangeland and elsewhere as a strategy to mitigate catastrophic wildfires.

AB 1103 (Dahle) — Authorizes counties to establish a Livestock Pass Program to facilitate access by producers to their animals during or following a flood, storm, fire, earthquake, or other disaster. Access would be limited to those needing to protect the wellbeing of their livestock. 

AB 642 (Friedman) — Addresses numerous institutional barriers (e.g. training, permits, employee retention, etc.) to scaling up cultural and prescribed burns as a wildfire mitigation strategy. This bill also requires CalFIRE to update and improve wildfire severity maps.

AB 941 (Bennett) — Establishes a grant program for counties to create farmworker resource centers that provide farmworkers and their families information and access to services related to education, housing, payroll and wage rights, and health and human services. 

AB 118 (Kamlager) — Establishes a pilot grant program to fund community-based alternatives to crisis response, including climate and public health crises, focusing on communities that have experienced a pattern of law enforcement violence and racial profiling, including farmworker communities.

PARTIAL WINS — Bills that Didn’t Pass but Were Partially Achieved Through the Budget

AB 252 (R. Rivas) — Establishes a new grant program to support land use transitions in regions impacted by Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation to uses that create or restore wildlife habitat, recharge groundwater, and use less water. While this bill stalled on the Senate floor, the program was successfully created and funded through a separate budget trailer bill (SB 170). Many of the program details and guidelines will need to be worked out in implementation.

SB 464 (Hurtado) —  Would expand eligibility in the California Food Assistance Program for low-income Californians, regardless of their citizenship status. While this bill stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the goal of the bill was achieved at least temporarily by a separate budget bill. Advocates will be working to ensure funding is appropriated on a permanent basis next year.

TWO-YEAR BILLS — Bills that Stalled and Can Be Reconsidered Next Year

AB 350 (Villapudua) — Establishes a grant program to fund technical assistance (TA) for farmers located in critically overdrafted basins in reaching water use reduction goals and developing on-farm conservation plans for agricultural lands that are at risk of fallowing due to water shortages. The bill earmarks at least 25% for TA for socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

AB 1395 (Muratsuchi) — Establishes the carbon neutrality goal for the state in statute and requires the goal be primarily reached through GHG emissions reductions. Also sets up guardrails on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and includes natural and working lands climate strategies.

SB 17 (Pan) — Establishes an Office of Racial Equity and the Racial Equity Advisory and Accountability Council to coordinate and lead the state’s strategies for advancing racial equity across state agencies and departments. 

FAILED — Bills that Will Not Continue Next Year

AB 897 (Mullin) — Would direct the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research to facilitate the creation of regional climate networks and create standards for regional climate adaptation action plans. 

AB 221 (Santiago) — Would provide one-time food assistance to low-income Californians struggling financially due to Covid-19, regardless of citizenship status.

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