Capitol Corner Update
As 2021 continues to fly by, so too does the legislative session. As mentioned in my previous update, this is the first of two years of the 2021-2022 legislative session. This means that bills that have not met legislative deadlines can still be heard next year. Right now, the State Legislature is at about the halfway point for a bill to become a law. For the last couple of months, there have been policy committee hearings on the bills CALBO is tracking. During this time frame, CALBO has provided bill position letters, offered amendments, given public comment, and in many cases, committee testimony.
The highest priority of the CALBO legislative team continues to be SB 617 by Senator Wiener. This bill would mandate all local governments to develop an automated permitting process for residential solar energy systems. Just last week, CALBO President Shane Diller and CALBO Past President Ron Takiguchi sat down with the sponsors of the bill and again provided our concerns and recommendations to amend the bill and remove our opposition.
Unfortunately, CALBO has yet to see these changes in writing. Our concerns focused on the safety aspect of the technology used for automatic permitting of residential solar energy systems. CALBO has concerns that this technology has not been tested enough for safety, nor has it been used by the majority of our building departments, so we believe that a required mandate for this technology is not in order yet in California. CALBO believes without proper testing, there is no need for an inflexible, unfunded mandate for local government on this technology. The developers of SolarAPP, which is the technology recommended in the bill are working with CALBO on providing opportunities for local building departments to test this technology. CALBO will be in touch with our members once we get more information on these opportunities for you all.
Additionally, Past President and Building Official for the City of Burbank Ron Takiguchi provided expert witness testimony in opposition to this bill to the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee on April 26. Despite his best efforts and extensive knowledge on this bill, the members of the committee still voted to pass it 12-2. The bill moves to Senate Appropriations next, and a hearing date has yet to be set as of May 7th. CALBO will continue to provide prudent and feasible amendments to the author’s office and sponsors, but if not accepted CALBO will keep up the fight to stop this bill from moving through the process alongside our local government partners.
The CALBO Legislative Team wanted to share a few other priority bills with you:
- AB 970: This bill would allow automatic approval of electric vehicle charging stations after 20 business days if a building official has not made a finding that the proposed installation could harm public health or safety. CALBO is opposed to this bill and has been working closely with the League of California Cities, Rural County Representatives of California, California State Association of Counties, and numerous others in a joint coalition opposed to this bill. Unfortunately, our efforts have not been rewarded yet as the bill moved through Assembly Local Government on May 5th.
- AB 1124: This bill changes the definition of “solar energy system” to include any structural design feature by eliminating the provision that it be a feature of a building. Additionally, the intent is to clarify what local building departments can charge for permitting fees for different types of solar energy systems. CALBO appreciates the clarifications to our building departments, but still has some concerns about the safety of these new definitions and is opposed to this bill. CALBO is working on amendments to this bill for the author’s office and the sponsors but is still opposed to the bill as written on April 27th. The bill passed the Assembly Local Government Committee on May 5th.
For a full listing of legislative items of interest to CALBO members, please check out our All Bills Report on the CALBO website. There are several other notable measures of high interest to CALBO and our stakeholders, which is why we have kept them on our radar and are actively monitoring their progress.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to continuing to advocate for our members in Sacramento and sincerely appreciate the support I have received from you all.