As part of our ongoing efforts to protect, improve and advocate for all of California’s state parks, the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) closely monitors legislation and lobbies policymakers on state park issues, providing updates to SPAN members and providing members with ways to take action. As the first year of the 2015-16 Legislative Session has come to a close, we would like to share with you a summary of state parks-related legislation lobbied on by CSPF staff.
California’s state park system is in critical need of funding to address the ever-growing backlog of deferred maintenance projects and update aging park infrastructure. This year we lobbied in support of Governor Brown’s $20 million General Fund appropriation to address deferred maintenance backlog in state parks. We are pleased that the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) did receive authority for a modest, one-time infusion of State Park & Recreation Fund (SPRF) funding to maintain current operations. In addition to the $10 million toward outdoor environmental and recreation programs discussed earlier, the budget also included funding to open the new museum at Donner Memorial State Park and funding to re-open Los Angeles State Historic Park, which has been undergoing construction over the last year.
CSPF and members of SPAN sent letters of support for Senate Bill 317, a $2.45 billion bond proposal introduced by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, titled the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Rivers, and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2016. The bond includes include funding to California’s state park system, as well as regional and local parks, rivers, lakes streams, coast and ocean protection and climate resilience. SB 317 includes $200 million for restoration & preservation of existing state park facilities and units and $50 million for enterprise activities in state parks that increase revenue generation. This bill has an urgency clause which requires a 2/3 vote and therefore bipartisan support. As of the end of the session, there were not Senate Republicans that indicated their support for advancing a bond through the legislative process, so the bill did not get taken up for a vote on the Senate Floor. CSPF will be working with the author and supporters on the bill to advance it in 2016.
Knowing how critical the use of volunteers are to California’s state park system, we urged legislators to support Assembly Bill 327 by Assemblymember Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) to continue the prevailing wage exemption for volunteers through 2024. AB 327 passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support and was signed by the Governor on July 6.
CSPF is strongly committed to the goal of increasing youth access to outdoor education and recreation opportunities. We support Assembly Bill 988 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) which seeks increases opportunities for youth, especially at-risk youth, to participate in outdoor environmental educational and recreation programs. This bill advanced with bipartisan support from the Assembly and through its Senate policy committee but failed to pass off the Senate Appropriations Committee’s “suspense file” and is being held as a two-year bill. Although the FY 15-16 Budget signed by Governor Brown in June did allocate $10 million of unspent, reverted Prop 40 funds for outdoor environmental education and recreation programs, questions were raised about the challenges of using those funds for programmatic-related funding requests. We look forward to working with the Assemblymember Stone and park advocates to advance AB 988 in 2016.
AB 549 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and SB 204 by Senator Fran Pavley (D- Agoura Hills) were two bills that advanced ideas related to themes from the February 2015 Parks Forward Commission Report and the in-progress work of DPR’s Transformation Team. Among other things, AB 549 encourages DPR to develop more overnight accommodations in state parks and allows them to partner with nonprofits to operate such accommodations. The bill also clarifies that DPR may enter into partnership agreements with various kinds of partners, and may provide low cost or free access to parks in recognition of such partnerships. SB 204 acknowledges the important role of nonprofit organizations and removes the 2017 sunset on DPR’s authority to enter into operating agreements with nonprofits, which came from legislation originally written and sponsored by CSPF in 2011. SB 204 also gives DPR authority to enter into new agreements with youth-serving public agencies or nonprofit organizations to perform work in state parks, with the goal of providing youth with service and learning opportunities. Both bills successfully passed the Legislature and were signed by Governor Brown on October 7.
The Legislature will begin meeting again on January 4, 2016. In the meantime, we hope that you will consider joining us at our 14th Annual Park Advocacy Day taking place on Tuesday, May 3rd in Sacramento. Registration for this event will open in December at calparks.org.