Valley Strength in Numbers

By Senator Andy Vidak
Monday, March 2, 2015

Published in the Kern County Valley Ag Voice – March 2015 Issue

For far too long, the needs of the Central Valley have been ignored in the halls of California’s Capitol. That’s why a bipartisan delegation of state representatives from the Valley has formed a new bipartisan caucus.  The San Joaquin Valley Caucus members I am joining with are:

Senators:

  • Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres)
  • Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto)
  • Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield)

Assemblymembers:

  • Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto)
  • Frank Bigelow (R-O'Neals)
  • Adam Gray (D-Merced)
  • Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield)
  • Devon Mathis (R-Visalia)
  • Jim Patterson (R-Fresno)
  • Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield)
  • Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton)

Too often we see legislation and state regulations that have disproportionately negative impacts on the Valley.  As a unified, bipartisan group, we can be more effective in stopping bad policy and furthering issues that serve the needs of our constituents in the Valley, including the folks that feed the state and our nation – farmers and farmworkers.

For example last year, this bipartisan delegation of Valley legislators stuck together to ensure that the water bond contained enough funding for above ground water storage.  We also unanimously opposed the ground water regulation measure that was rammed through the Legislature at the 11th hour.

Both of these measures are now in the implementation stage, so it is more important than ever for the San Joaquin Valley delegation to remain united to help ensure that these pieces of legislation move forward in a way that serves, and not devastates, our region.

To help move the water bond quickly through the administrative process, I’ve introduced Senate Bill 127.  SB 127 is aimed at streamlining the environmental review process so that water projects, funded by the water bond, that are critical to the Valley are built sooner rather than later.

SB 127 does not provide an outright exemption to CEQA for projects funded by the 2014 water bond, nor does it undermine or change any of the factors that must be studied through the environmental review process.  This bill would simply require any challenges to be resolved or addressed within 270 days of the Environmental Impact Report’s (EIR) completion.

There are numerous documented cases where interest groups have used the CEQA process to intentionally derail proposed projects.  The misuse of CEQA is so prevalent, that bills have been signed into law to streamline the process or provide CEQA exemption to block CEQA challenges for several major sport complexes, including the Majestic Realty and Farmer’s Field NFL stadiums and the Kings NBA arena.

Working with this new caucus, I hope to garner support for this important piece of legislation.  After all, dozens of communities in the Valley lack access to clean drinking water.  If we can change the CEQA process to help billionaire developers build sports complexes for millionaire players, we should be able to do the same to accelerate the completion of desperately-needed water projects for our most disadvantaged communities.

Although the San Joaquin Valley Caucus will not unanimously agree on all issues, we can bring greater equity to California policies and programs that impact our shared region when we do agree and act as one, as we did on the water bond.  As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers.”