“Lipstick on a pig”

That was Senator Lois Wolk’s description of AB 2775, a bill that would amend the water bond to remove language that would allow nongovernmental partners to be part of joint powers authorities formed to own and manage dams.

Assemblymember Jared Huffman and Senator Dave Cogdill, who never agree about anything with respect to water, coauthored this bill focusing on a “narrow point of consensus,” a “surgical change” (to quote Huffman). Huffman presented it to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on June 22. It has an urgency clause.

Why the urgency? In a deeply flawed water bond, the joint powers provision is one of the deepest flaws. Organizations opposing the water bond have noted that this provision would open the gate for more entities like the Kern Water Bank, where private investors profit from public infrastructure investments. The legislature wants to get it out of the water bond before the Secretary of State prepares the measure for the November ballot.

So why did Wolk, alone among the senators on the committee, vote against the amendment? Because, as she noted, the amendment makes the bond more palatable, but “This won’t eliminate the possibility of gaming the system.”

The real problem is with Section 6252 of the Government Code, which allows mutual water companies to enter into joint powers agreements with public agencies. For example, Westside Mutual Water Company is the entity that allows Stewart Resnick to control the Kern Water Bank. Removing the reference to nongovernmental partners from the bond won’t eliminate mutual water companies or change the Government Code.

Huffman admitted that this is a problem, but he wants to fix it some other time. Cogdill said he was surprised at the attention the issue had received. A number of legislators who voted for the water bond reportedly didn’t even notice the provision.

We wonder what else in the water bond they didn’t notice.

AB 2775 will require a 2/3 vote of the legislature, and requires fiscal committee review. Did we mention that it is urgent?

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