The California Legislature returns to Sacramento on Monday after its month-long summer recess. Upon their return, legislators face a very busy month ahead prior to the session’s adjournment on August 31. Fiscal committees have an August 17 deadline to meet and report fiscal bills to the floor, and the Legislature will enter into a floor-only session from August 20-August 31. Essentially, there are two weeks of committee hearings and two weeks of floor session remaining in this year’s legislative session.
Of significant interest in the remaining month of the legislative session is the ongoing debate over wildfire liability. Last month, the Legislature convened a Conference Committee on Wildfire Prevention and Response to consider who should be responsible for billions of dollars of damages caused by wildfires. Utility companies are pushing to limit their liability in such events; currently, utilities bear the entire liability burden whenever its equipment is involved in a fire’s cause. If a utility is found negligent, the utility company’s shareholders must assume the cost. If the company is not negligent, it can pass the costs on to ratepayers. In either instance, utility companies argue that shareholders and ratepayers are unfairly on the hook for wildfire damages.
On the other hand, counties, insurers, and ratepayer advocates, among others, argue that limiting utility company liability would transfer the cost burden onto property owners, local jurisdictions, and fire victims and subject these parties to lengthy and expensive legal battles to recover costs and damages. It is unclear what resolution might be reached within the month on this topic, but the robust debate is expected to persist.
As the Legislature gears up for a very busy four weeks ahead, a flurry of activities, including a number of amends, is expected. Our CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart, which details upcoming hearings, is available here.
AB 626 Set for Hearing in Senate Appropriations on August 13
AB 626 by Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia has been set for hearing on Monday, August 13 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Recall, the measure would create a new type of food facility defined as a “microenterprise home kitchen” in the California Retail Food Code and allow the sale of potentially hazardous foods directly to consumers in private homes. CHEAC, along with our county colleagues, continues to oppose the measure due to increased risk of foodborne illness and challenges in regulating and inspecting home kitchens.
CHEAC urges counties that have an oppose position on the measure to submit letters of opposition to the Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as begin preparing letters of opposition to Governor Brown should the measure move forward. We will continue to keep CHEAC Members apprised of any developments related to AB 626 during this last month of session.