California Budget and Wildfire Package

With a $76 billion surplus in the state budget and another $27 billion in federal aid, Governor Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers are negotiating an unexpectedly large budget.

The State Budget agreement passed on June 28th includes a Wildfire Package that provides approximately $1 billion over multiple years for various wildfire prevention and response efforts. Details of the package will continue to be worked out through negotiations between Governor Newson and legislative leadership.

The Legislature seeks to invest in four pillars of wildfire prevention and response including:

  • Expanding the fire resiliency workforce
  • Vegetation management, community hardening plans, technology research and development and prescribed burns
  • Expanding access to the homeowners’ insurance market by increasing availability and affordability
  • Finding a short and long-term funding source

Because of the record amount of money being allocated to address wildfires, Senate Democrats have proposed a group of eleven bills called the Blueprint for a Firesafe California Legislative Package 2021. These bills have been deemed as priority bills for the Legislature and it just so happens that PIFC has been tracking these wildfire related bills and support many of them. Read below to take a closer look at the bills included in the package.

TRAIN AND DEPLOY A FIRE RESILIENCY WORKFORCE

◊  SB 63 (Stern) Fire Prevention and Training Standards would expand 7A fire safety building standards, which currently apply to buildings within the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), to be used in moderate to high danger fire zones as well. 7A fire standards require that lumber products used as siding, decking or soffits in exteriors pass state-mandated fire tests.

This bill would also make community organizations that train volunteers for defensible space assessments and other resiliency work, eligible for fire prevention grants.

◊ SB 206 (McGuire). This bill expands the Firefighter Procedural Bill of Rights to include seasonal and part-time firefighters.

◊ SB 694 (Bradford) Workforce Retraining would require electric corporations to include plans for developing a workforce in their wildfire mitigation plans (with specific reference to recruiting formerly incarcerated firefighters and former conservation corps crew members).

◊ SB 804 (Glazer) Northern California Forestry Training Center requires the California Conservation Corps (CCC) director to create a forestry training center to provide enhanced training, education, work experience and job readiness for entry-level forestry and vegetation management jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals.

IMPLEMENT MODERN-DAY VEGETATION, FOREST MANAGEMENT, AND COMMUNITY HARDENING PLANS 

◊ SB 12 (McGuire) Building Standards in Very High Fire Severity Zones requires cities and counties to create fire safety standards prior to permitting development in very high fire risk areas.

◊ SB 109 (Dodd) Office of Wildfire Technology Research and Development. SB 109 establishes the California Office of Wildfire Technology Research and Development, within the California Office of Emergency Services.

◊ SB 332 (Dodd) Prescribed Burn Liability: SB 332 would establish a “gross negligence” liability standard for any fire suppression costs to individuals who are trained and certified as a qualified burn boss when conducting prescribed burn operations for vegetation management and wildfire prevention purposes.

◊ SB 456 (Laird) Wildfire Mitigation: SB 456 will require the state to develop a comprehensive implementation strategy to ensure that statewide investments to combat fires are comprehensive, science-based, and utilize complementary partnerships.

EXPAND CONSUMER ACCESS TO THE HOMEOWNERS’ INSURANCE MARKET

◊ SB 11 (Rubio) FAIR PLAN: Farmers: SB 11 would authorize the FAIR Plan to sell commercial property coverage to farms, ranches, and grape growers. Under current law, farms are specifically excluded from the FAIR Plan. The coverage authorized by SB 11 would not extend to crops.

◊ SB 72 (Rubio) Insurance Data: SB 72 will incorporate information from the insurance industry on community wildfire risk concerns into Cal Fire’s priority calculus for vegetation management projects.

SHORT AND LONG-TERM FUNDING

◊ SB 45 (Portantino-Allen-Stern) Wildfire Bond: Puts the Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2022, a $5.6 billion bond, before the voters in 2022. The measure would fund projects to reduce fire risk and restore already damaged areas.

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