End of 2016-17 Legislative Session Update

The 2015-16 Legislative Session wrapped up on August 31, 2016, with Legislators sending nearly 800 bills to Governor Brown’s desk for final decision.

This concluded a legislative session that had an emphasis on climate change, minimum wage, medical marijuana, among other issues. While there was important legislation for state parks introduced in the 2015-16 session, it is clear that policymakers are cognizant of the current Transformation Team efforts underway at the Department of Parks and Recreation and are giving that process time to take place.

Below is a report of the state parks related legislation that CSPF tracked this year:

AB 1972 (Chau) Disabled Veterans Park Access
Status: Did not pass out of the Legislature
This bill intended to clarify that veterans who are disabled as a result of their military service – whether in wartime or not – should be eligible to receive the existing lifetime Distinguished Veteran Pass offered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). This bill did not pass out of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Eligible veterans can still obtain the Distinguished Veteran Pass from DPR. The Distinguished Veteran Pass is available to honorably discharged war-time veterans, as defined, who are residents of California and submit proof that they have a 50% or greater service-connected disability, were a prisoner of war, or received a Medal of Honor. The free park pass entitles the holder to use all the basic facilities, including day use, camping and boating, at no charge. More information and an application can be found on the DPR website.

AB 2249 (Cooley) California Heritage Protection Act CA Heritage Protection Act Photo at Mirror Lake
Current Status: Signed by Governor
Assembly Bill 2249 by Assemblymember Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) is the California Heritage Protection Act. This bill responds to the surprising development that created a legal tug-of-war with the identity of renowned facilities and spaces in Yosemite National Park.
This bill passed unanimously from both the Senate and Assembly and was signed by Governor Brown. AB 2249 prohibits a state park concession contract from providing, or serving as the basis for, any claim of a trademark right in the name or names associated with a state park. The contract currently used by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) for state park concessions already prohibit such copywriting or trademarking. AB 2249 codifies these practices to make certain they continue.

AB 2444 (E. Garcia) California Parks, Water, Climate, and Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act
Status: Did not pass out of the Legislature
This bill would have placed the California Parks, Water, Climate, and Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act (AKA, the Parks Bond) of over $3 billion on the ballot. Originally intended for the November 2016 ballot, over the summer the bond was amended to be placed on the June 2018 ballot. Ultimately, AB 2444 did not move forward. Assemblymember Garcia has indicated that he will bring back efforts in the 2017-18 legislative session, and we are looking forward to working with him.

AB 2549 (Committee WPW) State Park System
Status: Signed by the Governor
This bill, already signed by Governor Brown, requires DPR to provide state park donors with a written accounting of expenditures made from donated funds. This bill also requires DPR and the State Park and Recreation Commission to provide recommendations to the Legislature by January 1, 2018 on ways to improve the state park planning process.

SB 1111 (Pavley) State Park Operating Agreements
Current Status: Signed by Governor
SB 1111 was originally introduced to remove a cap in current law which limits DPR’s authority to enter in operating agreements with nonprofit organizations – that cap prohibits DPR from entering into more than operating agreements where those agreements involve the operation of the entirety of a park unit. It also was intended to be a vehicle for additional statutory changes that may be required or desired as part of ongoing efforts at DPR as part of its Transformation Team work.
During the course of the legislative process this summer, SB 1111 was amended significantly. The 20 park unit cap was reinstated, as was a sunset date of January 1, 2025. CSPF feels strongly that this cap and the sunset should be removed, and we have already begun working with colleagues in the parks community to address this in the 2017-18 legislative session.
Another area of note in SB 1111 is that it also authorizes DPR to enter into a statewide agreement with a nonprofit park support organization to facilitate implementation of reforms recommended by the Parks Forward Commission. The intent is that by partnering with a nonprofit entity progress will be made on efforts to develop and secure expertise, services, resources, and projects that are not currently readily available to the state park system.

SB 1333 (Block) Smoking Ban
Status: Vetoed by Governor with message “This bill bans smoking at state beaches and parks. The complete prohibition in all parks and beaches is too broad. A more measured – and less punitive – approach might be warranted.”  SB 1333 would have prohibited smoking, and disposing of a used cigar or cigarette waste on a state beach or a state park system. It would have established a maximum fine of $250 for a violation of this law. SB 1333 required DPR to post signs indicating that smoking is prohibited. Amendments added to the bill also allowed the director of DPR to designate areas within units of the state park system as exempt from this law.

SB 1386 (Wolk): Natural and working lands
Current Status: Signed by Governor
This bill declares it to be state policy that protecting and managing natural and working lands is an important strategy to meet California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals. By establishing as a state policy that investment in the protection and restoration of natural and working lands is a key strategy to meet the state’s climate change goals, SB 1386 will ensure that this important strategy remains a key part of California’s emission reduction efforts and will better enable investment in carbon sequestration projects on natural and working lands. This will also provide important additional public benefits such as the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat, parks and open space; recreational and economic opportunities; production of food and fiber; improvement of air and water quality; and flood protection.

For questions about legislation, please contact us at advocacy@calparks.org

Photo Credit: Della Huff