DEFROST: 'BUILD AMERICA' BOND SALE POISED TO END FUNDING FREEZE FOR CONSERVATION PROJECTS
This comes as unexpected but extremely good news for the thousands of organizations that have been crippled by the state bond freeze, watching their environmental projects deteriorate and their saving accounts dry up because the state was not paying for their contracts. PCL and a cadre of other organizations banded together in January to develop strategies to help cope with the freeze and find positive solutions. We're hopeful that work will now resume on the scores of important projects currently stalled throughout the state.
Initiated through the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the BABs are taxable bonds structured to finance traditionally tax-exempt voter-approved infrastructure projects such as roads and schools, as well as flood control, water, and environmental projects. The remaining $1.7 billion taxable bonds will finance stem-cell research, various housing programs, and high speed rail projects.
FROSTBITE VICTIM SUPPORT: PCL CO-SPONSORS LEGISLATION TO HELP ORGANIZATIONS IN THE WAKE OF THE BOND FREEZE
When the Department of Finance issued a Stop Work Order to all state agencies in December 2008, thousands of environmental and infrastructure projects supported by more than $18 million in bond funding were shut down. While this week's infusion of funds is part of the solution, there's more that needs to be done to deal with the effects of the freeze and to protect conservation organizations from future funding rollercoasters. That's why PCL is co-sponsoring two bills this year to help environmental and conservation groups affected by the bond freeze.
AB 1364 (Evans) provides much needed statutory clarity relating to contracts and grant agreements affected by the bond freeze. The bill gives agencies the authority to amend contracts and grant agreements affected by the bond freeze to protect the integrity of the projects and also ensures that those agreements remain valid contracts in the eyes of the state. These two provisions are incredibly important for conservation projects that are reliant on bond funding. The four-month long stop work period derailed many projects and forced significant delays in others. Without contract extensions many organizations could not fulfill the terms of their grant agreement and finish the critical work they are doing.
SB 553 (Wiggins) ensures equity in how and when businesses and nonprofits are paid under contracts and grant agreements. Currently, business and some organizations qualify to receive late payment penalties if the state does not pay them on time. This helps ensure agencies provide a quick turn around time when invoices are submitted. This is particularly important for nonprofit conservation organizations carrying out restoration and conservation work for the state. Over the past two decades, the state has outsourced more and more restoration and conservation projects - work the voters have prioritized by passing several bond measures. However, nonprofit organizations have been excluded from the Prompt Payment Act if their contracts are bigger than $500,000 or if the state budget is late. These outdated provisions have meant that many nonprofits did not receive payments on time and were not prioritized in times of limited funding. SB 553 fixes these problems.
These bills should help give peace of mind to those whose critical transportation, education, affordable housing, flood control and resource conservation projects hang in the balance. The California Council of Land Trusts and The California State Parks Foundations are our co-sponsors in this effort. To learn more about these bills and help support them, visit www.pcl.org. For more about our efforts to support conservation organizations affected by the freeze, subscribe to our bond freeze newsletter, or contact Paul Gilligan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SACRAMENTO WATER SUMMIT A SUCCESS; TEN GUIDING PRINCIPLES RELEASED
Nearly 50 environmental advocates gathered for an intensive all-day Water Summit this Tuesday in Sacramento. Initiated in the fall of 2008 by PCL and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, the Water Summit is a statewide effort that brings together water advocates from environmental, environmental justice, fishing, tribal, and faith-based communities to share perspectives and take coordinated action to reform California water policy.
At Tuesday's meeting, Water Summit participants endorsed ten principles to guide the group's efforts in water policy reform:
1. California must respect, and adjust to meet the natural limits of its waters and waterways, including the limits imposed by climate change. We must fund only those policies and self-management strategies that incorporate such limits and shift our relationship with water, aquatic ecosystems, and our economy toward sustainability and equity.
2. Every Californian has a right to safe, sufficient, affordable and accessible drinking water. Special effort must be made to provide ready access to this basic human right to disadvantaged communities, especially those currently without any safe drinking water.
3. California's ecosystems and the life they support have a right to clean water and to exist and thrive, for their own benefit and the benefit of future generations.
4. California must maximize environmentally sustainable local water self-sufficiency in all areas of the State, especially in the face of climate change.
5. The quality and health of California's water must be protected and enhanced through full implementation and enforcement of existing water quality, environmental, and land use regulations and other actions, and through new or more rigorous regulations and actions as needed. Public oversight and clean-up should be funded in full through fees on pollutant dischargers, water purveyors, and consumers.
6. All Californians must have immediate and ready access to information and the decision-making processes for water. Interested and involved parties should be accorded full respect and influence in decision-making, particularly with respect to decisions affecting their communities.
7. California must institute sustainable and equitable funding to ensure cost-effective water reliability and water quality solutions for the state where "cost-effective" includes environmental and social costs. Public funding should not subsidize pollution or the wasteful use of water. Those who use and pollute California's waters must pay the full costs associated with those uses and impacts.
8. Groundwater and surface water management must be integrated, and water health and protection must be addressed on a watershed basis. Local communities and watershed groups should be better fiscally and technically supported by state and federal agencies as local water stewards.
9. California's actions on water must respect the needs and interests of California Tribes, including those unrecognized Tribes in the State.
10. California must overhaul its existing, piecemeal water rights policies, which already over-allocate existing water and distribute rights without regard to equity. Water is a public resource and must be used to meet the public interest through policies that give the highest priority to basic human and ecosystem needs and promote its sustainable and equitable use to serve the public and tribal trust into the future.