On August 31, the State Legislature adjourned its 2022 legislative session. The final days of the legislative session were marked with frenzied activity related to legislative advancement of the Governor’s climate “pillars” to aggressively move the state forward with a clean energy and climate adaptation focus, legislators positioning themselves for upcoming elections, finalization of the state’s 2022-23 fiscal year budget package, and compliance with Constitutional rules requiring legislation to be in-print for 72 hours prior to final action.
Over the final weekend of the legislative session, a package of 13 budget bills was introduced and rapidly moved through the legislative process to ensure passage prior to midnight on August 31. The budget trailer bills and budget bill “juniors” included a wide variety of funding components, including:
- Substantial funding for water recycling infrastructure – Over the course of the two-year legislative session, the Legislature approved $315 million for water recycling projects, plus another $210 million in out-years (2023-24). Additionally, there were earmarked funds ($140 million) for specific recycled water projects, including for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s regional water recycling program.
- Nearly $150 million for drought response and relief, plus $75 million to execute a robust Save Our Water campaign.
- Notably, of the $75 million allocated to the Save Our Water campaign, the Southern California Water Coalition worked successfully with a larger coalition of interests to secure a 5% ($3.75 million) allocation to non-profit organizations formed to provide water education, communications, and outreach to advance drought and water resilience messaging at the local levels.
- Substantial ongoing funding for implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act ($56 million), for climate resilience projects ($67 million), for a variety of nature-based and environmental protection programs, and an out-year commitment of $100 million to address PFAS contamination.
In terms of key legislative issues addressed during the final days of the legislative session, the broader water community was actively engaged on the following measures:
- SB 222 (Dodd) – This measure would create the statutory structure for a (currently unfunded) statewide low-income water rate assistance program. The SCWC joined a larger coalition of interests to oppose the measure, unless amended to address a variety of programmatic issues. However, SB 222 passed the Legislature and is currently pending action on the Governor’s desk.
- SB 1157 (Hertzberg) – This measure would create statutory indoor residential water use standards, leading toward the implementation of a 42 gallons-per-capita-per-day standard by 2030. The measure passed the Legislature during the final days of the session and is currently pending action on the Governor’s desk.
With the Legislature now adjourned for the year, attention is turning to the November general election where many electoral battles throughout the state will determine the composition and potentially the leadership of each House when the Legislature returns on December 5 for an organizational session to begin the 2023-24 two-year legislative session. With many “open” seats in each House (22 in the Assembly and 7 in the Senate), substantial education and outreach work will need to be undertaken by the SCWC and its partners to educate the new Legislature leading into 2023.