The 2015 legislative session was very busy for all segments of the retail water provider community, principally because of the drought. The California Water Association (CWA) worked with its counterparts in the industry on a variety of bills during the session to ensure the interests of CWA’s member utilities’ customers were protected. The bills included the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA) as well as new bills dealing with mandatory consolidation of troubled water systems, low-income rate assistance programs, compliance with the new hexavalent chromium standard, water loss control and reporting and modernized adjudication of groundwater basins.

The 2015 regular session ended Sunday, October 11 with the Governor taking final action on the measures sent to him from the Legislature. Below is the 2015 session scorecard:

  • The Legislature introduced more than 2,300 bills.
  • 941 of these bills (or 41 percent) were sent to the Governor’s desk for consideration.
  • Governor Brown signed 808 bills and vetoed 133 bills.
  • Governor Brown had a 14 percent veto rate for 2015.

During the 2015 legislative session, CWA tracked 123 bills. Of these bills, 34 have been chaptered, nine were vetoed by the Governor and 80 failed passage. The 80 that failed passage may be reconsidered in 2016. All bills signed by the Governor in 2015 will become law on January 1, 2016. Following is a capsule summary of the significant bills on which CWA worked in 2015:

SB 13 (Pavley) Groundwater Cleanup Legislative Proposal – Signed by the Governor on September 3, 2015; Chapter 255, Statutes of 2015. SB 13 was a technical cleanup bill, and it faced no opposition throughout the legislative process. SB 13 was amended to ensure that regulated water utilities can participate as members of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies.

SB 385 (Hueso) Chrome VI Compliance Period – Signed by the Governor on September 4, 2015; Chapter 272, Statutes of 2015. SB 385 will allow the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to grant affected water systems a five-year compliance period while they construct the facilities necessary to meet the new standard for hexavalent chromium. The statute requires a plan to bring the system into compliance by the earliest feasible date.

AB 401 (Dodd) Low-Income Rate Assistance Study – Signed by the Governor on October 9, 2015; Chapter 662, Statutes of 2015. AB 401 requires the SWRCB, in collaboration with the State Board of Equalization and stakeholders, to develop a plan for funding and implementing a statewide Low-Income Water Rate Assistance program.

AB 402 (Dodd) Local Agency Services: Contracts – Signed by the Governor on October 2, 2015; Chapter 431, Statutes of 2015. AB 402 allows Local Area Formation Commissions in Napa and San Bernardino counties to authorize extensions of governmental services (including water utility service) to areas outside of a local agency’s existing sphere of influence. The bill includes a reference to the Service Duplication Act (Sections 1501-1507 of the PU Code), which should prevent such extensions from affecting CPUC-regulated utility operations.

SB 226 (Pavley), AB 1390 (Alejo) Modernized Adjudication – Signed by the Governor on October 2, 2015; Chapter 676, Statutes of 2015. These two bills lay out a process for modernizing the legal process for groundwater basin adjudications. SB 226 integrates and streamlines the groundwater adjudication process for groundwater basins that are subject to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), primarily by adding a new chapter to SGMA. AB 1390 adds a new Chapter 7 to Title 10 of Part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which establishes methods and procedures for comprehensive groundwater adjudications.

SB 88 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review): Mandatory Consolidation of Water Systems –Signed by the Governor on June 24, 2015; Chapter 27, Statutes of 2015. This bill authorizes the SWRCB to require water systems that are serving disadvantaged communities with unreliable and unsafe drinking water to consolidate with or receive service from public water systems with safe, reliable and adequate drinking water. The bill includes language that spells out liability issues for acquiring water systems and provides appropriate reference to the California Public Utilities Commission when regulated water utilities are affected.

SB 555 (Wolk) Urban Retail Water Suppliers: Water Loss Management – Signed by the Governor on October 9, 2015; Chapter 679, Statutes of 2015. This bill requires each urban retail water supplier, on or before October 1, 2017, and annually thereafter, to submit annual water loss audit (WLA) reports to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and requires DWR to post such WLAs and provide technical assistance.

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