Capitol Corner Update
2021 Legislative Wrap Up
On October 8, Governor Newsom reached the deadline to sign legislation passed during the first year of the 2021-2022 legislative session. As mentioned in previous updates, this is the first of two-years in the current legislative session where bills that were introduced this year can carry over to next year beginning in January 2022. In total Governor Newsom signed 770 bills, which was 92% of the legislation passed by the Democratic legislature, which holds a super-majority in both the Senate and the Assembly. Of the 836 proposals introduced, CALBO managed 40+ bills this year as they moved through the legislative process. Of these bills of CALBO interest, three were chaptered by the governor and will become law on January 1,, 2022. Below you will find a summary and explanation of the bills to be aware of for future laws impacting local building departments.
One of the major fights that CALBO was heavily involved in was AB 1124 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman. This bill changed the definition of solar energy systems to include solar carports, solar shade structures, and other structural systems into the same definition as residential solar energy systems. This bill will have serious implications for future legislation regarding these systems. CALBO supports California’s green energy goals, but they must be done in a feasible and safe manner and this bill does not do that. Unfortunately, this bill was signed by the governor and will become law in 2022. This bill further caps permit fees for solar energy systems and establishes a new “commercial permit fee” for systems that are installed on the property of multifamily housing with more than 2 family dwellings. This bill has a significant impact on public health and safety, which is why the CALBO legislative team reached out to our members to send letters to elected officials on the bill. Unfortunately, these efforts were not rewarded but I want to personally thank all of those who participated in these efforts and returned letters to me earlier this year. From a policy perspective, the new definition will have an impact on future legislation regarding these systems and as always, the legislative team will continue to be on top of new bills as California looks to achieve these green energy goals. Developing definitions via statute without debate among experts in the regulatory process has unintended consequences for public safety and CALBO would rather see this done through the rigorous process by those on-the-ground whose jobs are to analyze the complexity of these varying systems and establish safe, effective definitions in the building code.
The second bill that was signed by the governor was AB 970 by Assemblymember McCarty. This bill will require applications for electric vehicle charging stations to be deemed complete after 5 business days for projects that have less than 25 charging stations at a time and 10 business days for projects with more than 25 charging stations in a single project. Additionally, this bill will deem approve these applications after 20 business days for projects that have less than 25 charging stations in a project and 40 business days for projects of 25 stations or more. CALBO was encouraged by the language that allows the local building official to stop these timelines if the local building official finds with substantial evidence that the application would have an adverse impact on public health and safety, but CALBO is concerned that not considering the differences of varying electric vehicle charging infrastructure could put public safety at risk. Additionally, the new law will force building departments to prioritize these projects that could lead to delays in permitting for other kinds of permits such as building permits for residential or commercial buildings. The CALBO legislative team was successful in getting amendments into the bill to provide longer timelines for larger-scale designs but unfortunately our concerns about the differences in DC Fast Charging Stations and Level 2 charging stations were not considered with the bill. The bill will become law for local jurisdictions with less than 200,000 residents in 2023, while jurisdictions with more than 200,000 residents will have to enforce this law on January 1, 2022. CALBO urges our members to use the resources available on our website to assist in efforts to streamline permitting for electric vehicle charging stations as required by AB 1236 and the new law.
The final bill CALBO took a position on signed by Governor Newsom was AB 1010 by Assemblymember Berman. This bill will require architects beginning in 2023 to take five hours of coursework regarding zero net carbon design. This bill was sponsored by the American Institute of Architects of California and CALBO supported these efforts to further the conversation and promotion of California’s goals relative to climate change. This bill will assist in California’s green energy goals, while providing the opportunity to re-emphasize the safety standards needed in development while balancing the ecological solutions to addressing climate change in the state. CALBO was proud to support this piece of legislation and looks forward to seeing the results of the training soon.
Of further note, one other bill CALBO supported was a budget appropriation of $20 million to establish a grant program for local jurisdictions that wish to adopt an online permitting platform for solar energy systems in California. This appropriation is a voluntary grant program for jurisdictions who are looking for more efficient ways to streamline permits for solar energy systems. CALBO’s legislative team made it clear that we support these efforts if they are voluntary and not mandated. CALBO wanted to provide resources to local jurisdictions if they so choose to adopt advances in technology to make building departments’ jobs more efficient and easier in the permitting process for solar energy systems. Please keep an eye out for these opportunities if your jurisdiction is looking to streamline efforts for solar energy systems. Additionally, please provide the CALBO Legislative Team with feedback on how safe and effective these technologies are in your department’s experience with online permitting technologies as these conversations will continue to happen in Sacramento.
Looking through my crystal ball, some of the big issues CALBO will continue to see in 2022 includes the renewal of discussions on mandated online permitting for solar energy systems as debated over SB 617 and other green energy goals. Additionally, Assemblymember Nazarian will most likely look to revive conversations over a functional recovery standard for earthquakes, which CALBO supports but wants to make sure we develop feasible and productive legislation to promote the highest regard of public safety. Conversations may also arise for building safety after the Surfside Condominium Collapse seen outside of Miami earlier this year. Finally, it is an election year so CALBO will see continued conversations on climate change, wildfires, housing, and numerous other issues facing California. Our legislative team will continue tracking developments as legislation is introduced in January and February and will keep our members informed about proposals made in Sacramento.
If you are hearing of other issues at the local level that could move up the pipeline to Sacramento that will impact your department, please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will keep those in mind as we look towards the second half of the legislative session. As always, please reach out with any other questions or concerns. Thank you all for a successful first year of session and for your support in our team’s efforts in Sacramento. I look forward to continuing to advocate for you all in the California Legislature.
Public Affairs Manager, CALBO