Governor Signs Lara Legislative Water Package Promoting Equity for Underrepresented Communities

October 09, 2015

Bills will ensure representational equity on LA River Board and aid non-profits serving disadvantaged communities with water-related grant funding


SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Jerry Brown announced today the signing of Senate Bill 355 and Senate Bill 208, two bills comprising Senator Ricardo Lara’s (D-Bell Gardens) legislative water package. Senate Bill 355 will make changes to the composition of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy Board to promote representational equity by including a resident from a city that borders the Lower Los Angeles River, and one from a city that borders the San Gabriel River, as additional voting members on the Conservancy Board. Also signed was Senate Bill 208 which will improve the opportunity for non-profits serving disadvantaged communities to secure 50% of integrated regional water management plan grants in advance to ensure effectiveness of the project.

 

“Opportunities for improvements to the Lower LA River, including parks and open space along the river, directly impact the communities that border the river,” said Senator Lara. “ It is vital that the conservancy board include representation from those cities, to provide a local perspective on plans and developments. SB355 will improve the diversity of perspective and give cities along the Lower LA River a needed voice in the decision-making process.”

 

The recently approved state water bond provides millions of dollars in funding opportunities for the revitalization of the Lower Los Angeles River watershed, including parks and open space along the river. Many of those funds, including a $30m direct allocation for watershed improvements, and a share of $100m for urban creek restoration, will be allocated through the RMC. Opportunities for improvements to the Lower LA River directly impact the communities that border the river. It is vital that the conservancy board include representation from the cities that border the river, to provide a local perspective on plans and developments. SB 355 increases the number of non-voting members on the RMC board to 9, adding a Senator appointed by the Senate Rules Committee and an Assembly Member appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly. The bill also increases the number of voting members to 15, adding a resident from a city that borders the Lower Los Angeles River, and one from a city that borders the San Gabriel River.

 

About the signing of Senate Bill 208, Senator Lara said: “SB 208 helps disadvantaged communities and non-profit organizations who apply for Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) grants secure funding for sustainable water projects. Currently the IRWM payment process is pay-as-you-go which creates an inequity for smaller non-profits serving disadvantaged communities who cannot pre-finance projects. This new law will allow these projects to receive an advance payment for up to 50% of the grant award.”

 

On November 4, 2014 voters approved Proposition 1 the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act. Enacted in response to water quality issues and California’s drought, Proposition 1 raises funds for sustainable water projects in the state. Specifically, the act authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds in the amount of $7,545,000,000 to finance water quality, supply, and infrastructure improvement programs. Furthermore, the act provides that $810,000,000 is to be available, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for expenditures on, and competitive grants and loans to, projects included in and implemented in an adopted integrated regional water management (IRWM) plan.

 

SB 208 would require a state entity, within 60 days of receiving an approved integrated regional water plan, to provide a 50% advanced payment of the grant award. Additionally, the main beneficiary of a project must be a nonprofit organization, as defined, or a disadvantaged community, as defined, or assist a disadvantaged community and will only apply to IRWM projects with costs up to $1 million. This law will sunset on January 1, 2025.

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Senator Ricardo Lara was elected in 2012 to represent the 33rd Senate District, which includes the cities and communities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, South Los Angeles, Vernon, and Walnut Park.