Sacramento, CA (June 6, 2017) – Assembly Bill 313, a water reform bill introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) and backed by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, is one step closer to becoming law. At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed AB 313 by a 4-1 vote. The bill now moves on to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
AB 313 establishes a new water rights management structure, creating a new Water Rights Division in the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to handle all water rights matters. Currently, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) exercises near-comprehensive control over California’s water rights. The SWRCB writes regulations, initiates enforcement actions, and conducts hearings in its own courtroom in which Board staff act as the prosecution and Board members act as judge and jury.
Under AB 313, all quasi-adjudicative matters involving water rights would be decided upon by administrative law judges in the new Water Rights Division, which would conduct hearings neutrally. The bill ensures all hearings regarding the issuance of administrative civil liability (ACL) and cease-and- desist orders (CDO) involving water rights are to be held in the new Water Rights Division, rather than the SWRCB. This productive transfer of power eliminates any potential duplicative efforts for any similar hearings and responsibility to fall under the SWRCB.
In June, the bill cleared the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Water by a 5-0 vote.
AB 313 previously passed the Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support.