Legislative session was both successful and historical

Friday, September 19, 2014

It was a busy August at the Capitol as the legislative session drew to a close. We had many long days and nights of thoughtful debates and discussions on legislation covering a variety of pressing issues, including health care, public safety, education, government accountability and, of course, water.

I am proud to have worked closely with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to make California stronger. In fact, this was one of the most productive and cooperative sessions I’ve ever experienced. The San Jose Mercury News noted, “Maybe Californians should start calling their Legislature the anti-Congress. The legislative session that ended in the wee hours of Saturday morning proved to be one of the most bipartisan and productive in years.”

The Legislature passed a balanced, responsible budget that focuses on paying back the debts our state has accumulated during the recession. I co-authored a measure to create a new rainy day fund that will help California prepare for another economic downturn, which we will surely face in the years ahead. That fund will ensure state revenue increases will not be used for special interest projects or for programs that require ongoing funding.

Many of the bills I wrote and introduced received bipartisan, unanimous support from both the Senate and Assembly, and I fully expect them to be signed in the following days by Gov. Jerry Brown. These bills include Senate Bill 898, which will increase financial transparency and accountability within state agencies; Senate Bill 1339, which will reduce fraud in the Medi-Cal drug treatment program; Senate Bill 1151, which will create safer routes for children to take to school; and Senate Bill 1255, which will strengthen our personal privacy protections on the Internet. For more information about these bills, please visit www. cannella.cssrc.us.

In a historic moment for California, lawmakers agreed to place a new water bond on the November ballot. The new bond received overwhelmingly positive support, passing the Senate unanimously and then receiving just two “no” votes in the Assembly. This water bond, which will now be called Proposition 1, reduces the $11.1 billion bond developed in 2009 to $7.5 billion while retaining essential funding for clean drinking water, Delta sustainability and water storage.

Proposition 1 will set aside $2.7 billion for new water storage, marking a great victory for our region, which desperately needs reliable water supplies, new infrastructure and the jobs these projects will create. Gov. Brown had proposed a $6 billion bond that contained just $2 billion for new storage, but a bipartisan group of legislators was determined to include new water storage funding in the bill, so we refused to support his new bond until funding for storage was increased.

California’s major water systems were built 50 years ago for a population half our current size. Funding for new water storage and conveyance is essential, not only for rebuilding our archaic water system, but to ensure that we continue to responsibly manage this precious resource for years to come.

The Legislature did pass several bills that I did not support, including the statewide regulation of groundwater basins. During this current drought, we have seen a greater reliance on groundwater in communities across the state. While it benefits us to have some controls, it is important that we are careful in how we regulate groundwater in the years ahead. Unlike the years it required to develop the right water bond, this groundwater legislation was developed in a matter of days, so it cannot fully account for the complex networks of rights and responsibilities that are currently in place.

Though I disagree with the plan, I will continue to work to ensure our communities have as much local control as possible when developing these state-mandated groundwater management plans. We must retain the power to decide what is best for our own communities.

Finally, I am incredibly proud that the Legislature and the governor continue to work together in a bipartisan manner, thinking not only about our immediate needs, but seeking also to ensure a better California for future generations.

It is always an honor and a privilege to represent you in the state Senate.

Click here to read the op-ed in the Los Banos Enterprise.