California ReLeaf takes an active role in shaping public policy that advances urban forestry throughout the state. Through our website, our newsletter, and action alerts, we ensure that California ReLeaf Network members are partnered with us in these efforts to influence legislation and public debate on behalf of urban and community trees.Together, we have augmented the Urban Forestry Act of 1978 with new language and objectives that bring this landmark legislation into the 21st Century. We have helped preserve the rights of all Californians to volunteer their time and spirit to each and every one of our tree care and tree planting projects. And we have led the charge in securing sufficient funding for these projects by protecting existing state funding programs, and strongly supporting multiple resource conservation bonds that have provided the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection with over $40 million for local projects.
We will continue our commitment to be the voice of urban forestry in California’s capitol, and continue to monitor state and federal legislation for opportunities to further green our golden state.
The following is a synopsis of our current advocacy efforts, and a review of past successes.
Current Advocacy Efforts
The revised 2013-14 State Budget proposed by Governor Brown still contains very little for urban forestry at this point. The usually reliable $10 million for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program is still in jeopardy; and cap and trade revenues may not be allocated until 2014. In addition, new state and federal legislation could further benefit urban forestry, while the proposed Federal Budget takes a step back.
Cap and Trade
California ReLeaf supported and contributed amendments to multiple legislative measures which were signed into law in 2012 that established a framework for how cap and trade revenues should be allocated in coming years to meet the goals and objectives of AB 32 while also providing benefit to California’s disadvantaged communities [see Past Advocacy Efforts].
Since then, California ReLeaf has strengthened its engagement with several coalitions that have advanced recommendations for investments in a variety of sectors that range from smart growth to natural resources to disadvantaged communities. We have also partnered with numerous statewide nonprofits in developing a comprehensive set of principles to guide investments, along with recommendations on how to achieve transparency, accountability, and consistency within the process that will govern expenditures from this new revenue source.
In 2013, many positive steps have been taken by the Administration, the Air Resources Board, and the Legislature to ensure cap and trade revenues would be expended on sound, strategic projects that reduced greenhouse gas emissions and provide myriad co-benefits as mandated by AB 32 (Nunez), AB 1532 (Perez), and SB 535 (DeLeon). This includes the crafting and distribution of a three-year investment plan in which urban forestry is prominently featured. This was to be followed by an expenditure plan that would guide allocation in the 2013-14 State Budget.
Unfortunately, Governor Brown proposes in his May Revise 2013-14 State Budget to instead sweep all of the existing and anticipated cap and trade revenue for the next fiscal year into the General Fund as a loan to be repaid at an unspecified date. California ReLeaf joined with nearly all other statewide environmental non-profits in urging the Legislature to consider alternatives to this proposal, citing the need to start combating our climate crisis now. Both the Senate and Assembly are contemplating alternatives which will continue to be a focal point of discussion through June.
Regardless of the outcome this year, urban forestry is well-positioned to receive funds through the three-year investment plan. Network members have joined California ReLeaf in making this case in testimony before the Air Resources Board, and in letters supporting policy bills related to cap and trade (see below).
To review the materials that California ReLeaf and the Network has contributed to supporting urban forestry investments from cap and trade revenues, follow the links provided below:
Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program (EEMP)
The Administration proposed in the draft 2013-14 State Budget to collapse five local assistance grants program administered by the Department of Transportation into one Active Transportation Program. Funds from all five programs would be conjoined here, with a programmatic objective of advancing active transportation projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance the goals and objectives of SB 375. The Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program is included in this proposal.
Though strongly supportive of active transportation and SB 375, California ReLeaf and other statewide resource conservation nonprofits expressed tremendous concern over the inclusion of the EEMP in this process, citing the proposed granting criteria and lack of involvement of the Natural Resources Agency in the grant review process as significant obstacles to making this program competitive for urban forests, local parks and resource lands.
California ReLeaf is leading the charge to remove the EEMP from this proposal. Both the Legislature and the Administration have signaled a willingness to remove the EEMP from this equation, but details continue to be worked out. We are proud to be joined by the Nature Conservancy, Pacific Forest Trust, Trust for Public Land, Planning and Conservation League, Sierra Club California, TransForm and the California Council of Land Trusts in this effort, and will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available. Click here to see the coalition letter.
California voters passed Proposition 39 in 2012 by a 60% margin in order to eliminate a corporate tax loophole and provide $550 million each year over the next five years for energy efficiency projects throughout the state. Proposition 39 implementation will be decided by the Governor and Legislature. Not surprisingly, there are three different points of view on how to best achieve the desired outcome, with each house introducing legislation, and the Governor proposing an implementation plan through the draft 2013-14 State Budget. All perspectives continue to move forward, though there has recently been some coalescing among the three efforts on key points.
What remains unclear is how “energy efficiency” projects will be defined within these measures. California ReLeaf believes there may be a place for urban forestry, citing the tremendous energy efficiency trees provide through reduced air conditioning and heating costs when properly planted and maintained. Recent amendments to SB 39 (DeLeon) may provide some insight soon, and a letter distributed to the legislature regarding Proposition 39 by a broad LA-based coalition does specify urban forestry as an energy efficiency mechanism.
California ReLeaf and members of the Network are supporting three measures moving through the Legislature relating to cap and trade expenditures and programs as follows:
- Assembly Bill 416 (Gordon) would have created the Local Emission Reduction Program and would utilize cap and trade funds for providing grants and other financial assistance to develop and implement greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects in the state. The bill would require the Air Resources Board, in coordination with the Strategic Growth Council, to administer the program. No specific projects are identified in the bill, but the platform of the Local Government Coalition sponsoring this effort includes urban forestry. Nonprofit organizations working in coordination with a local government are specifically called out in the bill as eligible recipients of the funds. AB 416 was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
- Assembly Bill 1051 (Bocanegra) would have created the Sustainable Communities for All program to fund transit-related projects through competitive grants and loans using cap and trade funds. The bill takes a comprehensive approach to identifying the suite of projects that could be funded within communities to address GHG emission reductions, including transit assistance, energy efficiency, active transportation, transit-oriented development, and resource conservation. California ReLeaf worked with Housing California, Transform, and the Nature Conservancy to craft language in the bill that speaks to needs for integrating parks, agriculture, and urban forestry into sustainable communities strategies. AB 1051 was held in teh Assembly Appropriations Committee.
- Senate Bill 511 (Lieu) would have required the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, in coordination with the State Air Resources Board, to develop guidelines for the awarding of grants from cap and trade revenues for projects that enhance greenhouse gas emissions avoidance and sequestration associated with natural resources. The bill specifically highlighted the Urban Forestry Act as an eligible expense. Senate Bill 511 was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Past Advocacy Efforts
AB 1532 (Perez) Assembly Speaker John Perez (D – Los Angeles) is taking up the torch lit by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez in 2006 when he engineered the successful passage of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The measure, more commonly referred to as AB 32, has been the impetus for the Air Resources Board to adopt and implement a variety of programs aimed at curbing California’s GHG emissions. This includes a cap-and-trade program that should generate revenues to support projects which advance AB 32 goals and objectives. AB 1532 is Assembly Speaker John Perez’ bill that sets up a broad framework for how cap and trade revenues should be allocated in coming years. The bill includes language specifying natural resources and forestry as eligible investments, and specifies roles for nonprofits within the larger program. AB 1532 was signed by Governor Brown in September. See the Network support letter here.
SB 535 (De Leon) ensures that at least 25% of the cap and trade dollars go to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities, which will be identified by Cal EPA using, among other things, broad environmental and economic criteria. SB 535 was signed by Governor Brown in September. See the Network support letter here.
SB 1572 (Pavley) evolved into a measure that directed 2013-14 potential cap and trade dollars towards a short list of specified items, with the lion’s share going to covered entities to assist with the adoption of innovative greenhouse gas emissions reduction technology. However, SB 1572 died on the Assembly Floor on the last day of session.
AB 296 (Skinner) requires the California Environmental Protection Agency to work with its partners on the Climate Action Team to develop strategies to combat urban heat island effect that includes urban forestry, cool roofs, and sustainable or cool pavements. AB 296 was signed by Governor Brown in September. See our support letter here.
AB 1492 (Budget Committee) creates a one percent sales tax on specific lumber and engineered wood products. The revenue from the tax will be used primarily to support State review of timber harvest plans, which has been severely underfunded for several years. However, surplus revenues from the tax can be used for a small set of specified purposes, including urban forestry. AB 1492 was signed by Governor Brown in September.
The 2012-13 State Budget included $2.6 million to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for urban forestry grants, $10 million for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program, and $20 million to the Strategic Growth Council for a final round of urban greening projects that include urban forestry.
The 2012 Farm Bill While there was some effort in the U.S. Senate to advance this issue — including committee recommendations and markup language to increase Urban & Community Forestry funding from $30 million to $50 million – the Farm Bill was not reauthorized, leaving its fate to the new 2013 Congress. Until then, the initiatives and funding which were part of the first Farm Bill (1940) will be supported with continued funding. Additionally, initiatives such as Urban and Community Forestry are likely to have funds to “carry-forward” into the new year, though the brief “lame duck” session following the elections will task Congress with consideration of passing a continuing resolution to keep these programs in place until the next Congress acts.
The Federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) Program - Congress recently passed a new 27-month federal transportation bill that dramatically changes the landscape and scope of this program. For a detailed analysis of the implications to local funding for resource-related projects, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
Assembly Bill 587 (Gordon and Furutani) was signed into law on September 6th, 2011. The bill extends the current prevailing wage exemption for volunteers through 2017. This was the priority legislation for the urban forestry community this year, and is essential to preserving the rights of all Californians to donate their time and spirit to a spectrum of resource conservation activities, including critical tree care and tree planting projects. California ReLeaf Network groups and their partners provided strong support for this bill throughout the legislative session, which helped make a difference. See the Network support letter here.
Assembly Concurrent Resolution 10 (Dickinson) cleared the Legislature in March 2011, and officially proclaims March 7 – 14th of each year as California Arbor Week. The resolution highlights the tremendous benefits of urban forestry and urges Californians to observe the week with tree planting activities and programs. California ReLeaf sponsored this measure on behalf of all our Network groups.
Search for Bills www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html
Search for any legislation currently before the California State Legislature.
Legislator Information www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html
Links to biographies and committee assignments for all California State Legislators.
California Law By Code Section www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html
Direct access to the State of California’s Official Database of Current California Law.
California Voter Foundation www.calvoter.org
A nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting and applying the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process.