Legislative Advocacy

Legislative Advocacy

California ReLeaf, its Network Members, and its statewide coalition partners have significantly raised the visibility and awareness of urban forestry in Sacramento over the past several years. Together, we have augmented the Urban Forestry Act of 1978 with language and objectives that bring this landmark legislation into the 21st Century. We have helped create new programs that support active transportation, and protected old ones that provide funding for environmental mitigation. 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 $33 million in California Climate Investments funding for CalFIRE’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

Our commitment to be the voice of urban forestry in California’s capitol continues, and can only get stronger with the support of our local and statewide partners.

The following is a synopsis of our current advocacy efforts, and a review of past successes.

Current Advocacy Efforts and Success

Updating the Urban Forestry Act

California ReLeaf, TreePeople and the California Urban Forests Council sponsored Assembly Bill 1530 by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D – San Diego). The bill further amends the Urban Forestry Act of 1978 to reflect and further incorporate such priorities as tree care and maintenance, stormwater management, pest control, social equity, and climate adaptation. The measure will also make the program permanent, and provide CalFIRE with statutory authority to reinstate its advance payment policy on grants to NGOs working in or with disadvantaged and low-income communities. There were 114 public, private, and nonprofit organizations in support of the bill including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Click here and here to see the support letters.

2017-18 State Budget

Governor Brown and the State Legislature continued investments in myriad programs that support urban forestry in multiple ways. This includes $230 million for the Active Transportation Program, $7 million for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program, $26 million for the Urban Greening Program, and $20 million for CalFIRE’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. The latter now represents the largest single-state, one-year allocation for urban forestry in U.S. history. See the support letter for urban forestry funding here.

Park Bond

Senate Bill 5 (DeLeon and Garcia) is the Legislature’s resources bond, which appeared on the June 2018 ballot. It contained no less than $15 million for urban forestry, and millions more for river parkways, urban streams, and other conservation programs that have benefitted members of the California ReLeaf Network. See the position letters for the bill here.

Cap and Trade Extension

Governor Brown and the Legislature extended California’s Cap-and-Trade Program through 2030 by passing and signing Assembly Bill 398 (Garcia). The measure removes legal uncertainties surrounding the program and prioritizes investments in a finite list of priorities including “forest health and urban greening.”

Urban Forestry in Affordable Housing

California’s Strategic Growth Council (SGC) voted to amend guidelines for its Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC) to require green infrastructure as a threshold requirement for all projects funded by the program. In fact, each project has to have at least two urban greening components. This includes greenscaped trails, tree planting, green roofing, community gardens, bioswales and more. The AHSC program is supported by auction revenues generated from the State’s cap-and-trade program. Since its inception in 2014, the program has included urban forestry and green infrastructure as eligible components of the focal-point projects in affordable housing and transit-oriented development, but it has never been required. This is the first time in the history of California that a state-sponsored grant program focused on housing has a green infrastructure mandate. See the support letter for this revision here.

State Administrative Actions

The Brown Administration released two draft reports in 2017 that could help determine the viability of sustainable urban forestry support at the State level in the years to come. The 2030 Target Scoping Plan Update draft and California Forest Carbon Plan draft both offer goals and strategies to support urban forestry in the long-term by setting 33% canopy increase targets over the next 13 years, and reducing the UHI differential by 3°F between the urban core and surrounding rural areas. See California ReLeaf comment letters here and here.

Federal Funding for Urban Forestry

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget zeroes out the Federal Urban and Community Forestry Program – the first time this has been proposed by a sitting President. However, the House of Representatives’ Interior Appropriations Committee, led by California Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA42), has proposed $27.3 million for the Program in the next fiscal year. ReLeaf has joined with multiple organizations across the nation in supporting this proposal and urging the U.S. Senate to take comparable action. See the letter here.

Keeping California Great

In order to show solidarity on the big picture of protecting California’s environmental health, California ReLeaf joined dozens of non-profits from multiple sectors in support of several bills introduced to combat threats posed by the current Federal Administration, including Senate Bill 50 (Allen). This measure establishes a policy of the state to discourage conveyances of federal public lands in California to third parties and deem such conveyances void unless the State Lands Commission is provided with the right of first refusal or the right to arrange the transfer to a third party. SB 50 is awaiting the Governor’s signature. See the Fact Sheet and support list here.

Past Advocacy Highlights

California State Budget 2014-2017

Governor Brown and the State Legislature have invested record levels of funding in myriad programs over the last three years that support urban forestry in multiple ways. Cumulatively, this includes $850 million for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, $380 million for the Active Transportation Program, $140 million for the Transformative Climate Communities Program, $101 million for the Stormwater Management Program, $80 million for the Urban Greening Program, $39 million for the Urban and Community Forestry Program, $24.4 million for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program, and $26 million for river parkways, urban rivers, and urban streams.

Preserving the Right to Volunteer

Assembly Member Rich Gordon (D – Menlo Park) carried AB 327 in 2015 that creates a seven-year extension on the 2017 sunset provision from the previous Gordon measure passed in 2011 (AB 587). California ReLeaf and 40 Network Members joined with another 140 state, local and regional organizations to support this effort and get it signed into law. The new sunset date is 2024.

AB 32 Extension

Over 300 businesses, local governments and nonprofits banded together to help pass Senate Bill 32 (Pavley) in 2016 which extends California’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Though the bill does not extend the Cap-and-Trade Program, it does send a clear market signal that California is determined to continue the spirit and implementation of AB 32 into the next 14 years and beyond. See some of the support materials for SB 32 here and here.

Equity for Investments

Environmental justice advocates supported by nearly 90 nonprofits and other stakeholders spearheaded successful efforts to pass Assembly Bill 1550 (Gomez). AB 1550 revises the investment markers created by SB 535 in 2012 to ensure 25% of all Cap-and-Trade dollars are for projects located in and benefitting DACs, with another 10% for projects providing benefit to low income communities and households as defined. See support material for AB 1550 here.

Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program (EEMP) and Active Transportation Program (ATP)

California ReLeaf lead a coalition of conservation partners in 2013 that successfully preserved the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program while simultaneously working with a broader coalition of stakeholders to create a new Active Transportation Program (ATP).

The EEMP is now run through the Natural Resources Agency and focuses primarily on funding resource lands and urban forestry, receiving $6.7 million annually for local grants assistance. The “parks and trails” component of the EEMP was moved to the ATP, which is administered by the Department of Transportation and seeks to encourage active transportation through a variety of eligible projects that include safe routes to schools and bicycle trails. The ATP receives approximately $130 million each year, making it the largest program of its kind in the U.S.

Helpful links

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Search for legislation past and present that went before the California State Legislature.

Legislator Information

http://senate.ca.gov/senators and http://assembly.ca.gov/assemblymembers

Links to biographies, home pages, and committee assignments for all California State Senators and Assembly Members.

California Law By Code Section:

Direct access to the State of California’s Official Database of Current California Law.