Budget Committees Hold Informational Hearings on Budget Overview, Emergency Preparedness and Response

The California Legislature continues to ramp up its activities for the 2019-20 Legislative Session with a steady stream of bill introductions and the continuation of issue-based overview hearings. This week, two budget committee hearings were convened to discuss topics that will be deliberated throughout the current session.

Assembly Budget Committee Hearing on FY 2019-20 Budget Overview

On Tuesday, the Assembly Budget Committee held its overview hearing on Governor Gavin Newsom’s FY 2019-20 budget proposal. In opening remarks, Committee Chair Phil Ting indicated that this hearing was the first of over 100 budget committee hearings that will occur over the coming months by the full Assembly Budget Committee and its subcommittees. At the beginning of the committee hearing, the committee heard and advanced two measures – AB 72 (Committee on Budget) and AB 73 (Committee on Budget) – that would provide property tax backfill for specified counties that have been devastated by recent wildfires, provide funding for 911 system and emergency communication infrastructure, and support emergency preparedness and planning activities.

The Assembly Budget Committee hearing featured presentations from Vivek Viswanathan from the Department of Finance (DOF) and Carolyn Chu from the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). Similar to the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee’s overview hearing two weeks ago, presentations from the DOF and LAO covered major components of the governor’s budget proposal and its policy priorities. Viswanathan discussed the Newsom Administration’s top interests, including building fiscal strength and budget resiliency, early childhood and education investments, health care access and affordability, housing and homelessness initiatives, and emergency preparedness and response. Chu provided the LAO’s analysis of the governor’s current economic assessment, budgetary forecasts, and key spending proposals detailed in the Administration’s budget.

Committee members had the opportunity to inquire about elements of the governor’s proposed investments into education, homelessness, health and human services, and disaster preparedness and response, among other areas. Notable health-related questions were raised by Assembly Members Joaquin Arambula and Jim Wood. Recall, both Assembly Members Arambula and Wood co-chaired the Assembly Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage that was created during last year’s legislative session to explore California’s options for expanding health care coverage and access.

In his comments during Tuesday’s hearing, Assembly Member Arambula applauded the Newsom Administration’s significant investments and health and human services initiatives and inquired about the continuation of the managed care organization (MCO) tax and the administration’s proposal related to prescription drug pricing. Assembly Member Wood inquired about the restoration of previously-eliminated Medi-Cal benefits, health care access, the consideration of services and benefits for older adults, and the nexus between mental health and housing.

Committee Chair Phil Ting at the conclusion of the hearing indicated the topics raised by committee members will continue to be discussed in detail over the coming months through budget subcommittee hearings which will feature ample opportunities for public input on the proposals. Tuesday’s hearing agenda is available here.

Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Hearing on Wildfire and Emergency Response and Preparedness

The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee on Thursday convened an informational hearing on wildfire and emergency response and preparedness in light of recent devastating wildfires that have occurred throughout the state. The hearing featured presentations and extensive dialogue on response and recovery efforts from recent natural disasters, wildfire prevention and natural resource management, and disaster readiness initiatives included in Governor Newsom’s FY 2019-20 Budget Proposal.

Representatives from the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the Department of Finance (DOF), Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) discussed emergency response processes and funding mechanisms, recovery and debris disposal activities, emergency notification systems, and first responder personnel, equipment, and resources.

Senators had the opportunity to ask questions of panelists, which largely focused on forestry and fire management, recovery activities, and preparedness initiatives. Several questions were raised related to California’s 911 system and proposed technology upgrades, mutual aid processes and resourcing, and proposed investments related to public education and awareness on disaster preparedness and safety. The full committee hearing agenda, including a wildfire and emergency response and preparedness background paper, is available here.