Capitol Corner Update
The first year of this legislative session concluded on Friday, September 13. This was the last day that either the State Senate or the Assembly could act on legislation. After returning from summer recess in August, the last month of session was a chaotic race to get any legislation through remaining policy and fiscal committees. This is always a busy time for last minute amendments and negotiations, not only to get current bills passed by both houses, but to also arrive on the governor’s desk before the deadline. This is Governor Newsom’s first legislative session since he was elected into office last November. He will now have a month to either sign or veto all bills that arrive at his desk. This period, in which he chooses which bills to sign into law or veto, will set a tone for the rest of his term. Since he is a new governor, his policies, priorities, and preferences will become apparent by which bills he chooses to sign into law.
This legislative session focused on many of CALBO’s legislative priorities such as: seismic resiliency, accessory dwelling units, and disaster recovery. CALBO closely monitored these issue areas, since many of the bills that were introduced would have directly affected building department’s administrative procedures and daily code implementation. In order to communicate our interests, CALBO took a strong position on several bills. CALBO leadership and staff actively engaged state legislators, partner local government organizations, and our own CALBO membership in order to communicate our positions on priority issues.
After opposing Assembly Nazarian’s seismic inventory bill last year, CALBO collaborated with his office to introduce a bill we could fully support. CALBO supported AB 429 (Nazarian), a measure that would have required the Alfred E. Alquist Seismic Safety Commission (SSC) to identify funding and develop a bidding process for hiring a third-party contractor to create an inventory of potentially vulnerable buildings in California. CALBO worked closely with the author’s office to develop a local government approach that would not identify local funds as a possible funding source for the program. Other important amendments were included such as; 1) applying the inventory only to the 29 most seismically vulnerable counties, and 2) applying it to buildings approved by the city or county prior to the adoption of the 1976 edition of the Uniform Building Code.
As of September 6, the bill was moved to the Inactive File. This was most likely due to the fact that the Department of Finance opposed the bill. They determined the cost of the program would be more than $50 million to implement. This of course was CALBO’s initial concern with last year’s bill, which planned on putting this cost on local governments. CALBO estimated this bill would cost millions of dollars to implement, and last year’s bill specifically identified local funds as a possible source of funding for the program. In order to avoid that, CALBO advocated to only identify state and federal funds as a source of funding for this program, That being said, the Department of Finance also seems concerned about this large price tag. This bill is now a 2-year bill and can be acted upon next year in January when the legislature is back in session. CALBO will continue to be involved in the development of this bill, as long as it focuses on a local government approach.
Affordable housing has also been a hot topic in the legislature this year. With rising homelessness rates, and rising rental and property costs – Legislators are determined to help ease the strain on California residents. With this trend, CALBO has been closely monitoring several bills that want to alter current Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) law. Many lawmakers believe that permitting currently unpermitted ADUs, as well as reducing fees and requirements will help add these units to the housing stock. With that in mind, CALBO has been closely tracking SB 13 (Wieckowski). This is similar to another bill that CALBO actively advocated against last year; it would have required Building Officials to delay the enforcement of an imminent risk in an ADU for no less than 10 years. After meeting with the author’s office, and discussing CALBO’s concerns, that language has been removed. The author’s office had also shortened the “delay of enforcement” from 10 years to 5 years. Because of these amendments, CALBO submitted a letter of “Support if Amended” when the bill was heard in its last policy hearing. CALBO is still concerned about a specific section of the bill that would mandate a delay of enforcement – but appreciates the author’s efforts to remove the sections of the bill regarding “delaying risks.” Although we appreciate the author’s efforts to address our concerns, CALBO hopes that we can move to a full support position once the mandate is removed altogether. At this time, the bill was passed out of both houses and has been presented to the governor to be signed.
Towards the end of session, CALBO joined a coalition to oppose SB 592 (Weiner). The coalition consisted of the American Planning Association, The League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, Rural Counties Representatives of California, and the Urban Counties of California.
Recent amendments to SB 592 would have forced all ministerial permits into the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), requiring extensive analysis on each permit for every project even though as ministerial permits they can only be evaluated through listed criteria without local agency discretion. This was not only a safety concern, but also a local government concern. Local jurisdictions are currently under tight budgetary constraints and do not have the staff to adhere to all of the standards of review, detailed analysis, and approved requirements in the HAA for these particular permits. CALBO argued that this authority and discretion should remain with Building Officials who have the expertise and appropriate training to evaluate such permits. Through the coalition’s efforts this language was removed, and CALBO removed its opposition.
In addition to all of the bills that have moved out of the Senate and Assembly, there are many bills in which CALBO tracked and monitored this year that have become 2-year bills. These bills will be able to move once session begins again in January 2020.
If you wish to read more about CALBO’s legislative efforts please visit the CALBO legislative webpage, which is updated in real time when the legislature is in session. If you would like a full overview of CALBO’s bills of interest, you also reference our online bill reports on the same webpage. Additionally, should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact CALBO’s Director of Public Affiars Katie Almand.