Making Democracy Work

Recent Ventura County League Activities

Future of California Elections

Future of California Elections

ADVANCING MOMENTUM: MOVING OUR DEMOCRACY FORWARD

On March 9, 2017, the Future of California Elections (FOCE) held its 2017 Conference entitled, "Advancing Momentum: Moving Our Democracy Forward". Pat Essick and Sage Intner attended the event to learn what the six-year-old organization (made up of election administrators, election reform advocates, and civil rights organizations) could teach us about the future of California elections.

► The Honorable Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State (2015-to present) and former California State Senator (2006-2014) gave the opening presentation. He stressed that his priority for future elections here in the state is to support further modernization and to ensure the participation and engagement of all voters. He then went on to highlight some recent significant changes.

♦ We now have a statewide electronic voter registration database, VOTECAL, that enables immediate on-line access to voter registration information at polling places.

♦ In 2016, we had our highest number of registered voters ever, 19.4 million, higher than 46 other states. We also had one million more registered voters than in 2008. More than 14.6 million people voted in the 2016 election.

♦ In 2008, 41% of voters voted by mail, by 2016 that number had increased to 57%. Great strides have been made in reducing the number of rejected vote-by-mail ballots. In 2008, 2.1% were rejected (signature problems, received too late) whereas by 2016, only .7% were rejected.

♦ In 2015, AB1461, the Voter Motor Law, was passed which enabled people to automatically register to vote when applying for a driver's license or state ID card. The law resulted in an increase in registered voters.

♦ 16 and 17-year-olds can now preregister to vote on-line and 10,000 felons have been re-enfranchised.

Mr. Padilla closed his remarks by reflecting on how, since 2010, 20 states have made registering to vote more difficult whereas here in California we are doing just the opposite.

A Close Look at SB450 + The California Voter's Choice Act

Signed into law in 2016, the California Voter's Choice Act allows California counties that opt-in to move from offering traditional precinct site voting to an election system using a combination of vote-by-mail balloting and voting centers. So far only five counties are likely to come on-line in 2017, and it is possible that not all counties will be able to handle each aspect of the program.

► According to Neal Kelley, Registrar of Voters in Orange County, because of Orange County's relatively small geographic size and dense population, they will attempt to roll the program out sometime in 2018. Among other things the roll out involves encouraging voters to vote by mail, setting up a system for early voting at vote centers around the county, and setting up secure ballot drop-off boxes. In Orange County, this new system would reduce the number current precincts they would need to staff from 150 to just 7. Implementation would also greatly reduce the number of provisional ballots and help speed the count. Bilingual assistance could be provided at each precinct and voting officials could use VOTECAL to check voter information and register voters same-day.

County officials would need to work out placement of the voting centers and drop boxes so that no one needs to travel too far, access is easy, and the needs of disabled voters are met. For example, very large, geographically spread out counties with sparse population areas and geographic barriers may find placing and manning voting centers much more difficult. Consideration would also have to be given to unique issues affecting some voter populations (e.g. Hispanic voters often distrust the concept of vote-by-mail and prefer to hand deliver their ballots).

► We heard from Dana DeBeauvoir, County Clerk, Travis County Texas (home of the city of Austin) about how she was forced to turn to voting centers when redistricting efforts would have reassigned almost every citizen in her county to a new district and polling place, thereby causing a huge headache for voters and likely resulting in large numbers of provisional ballots. The voting centers turned out to be a perfect solution: voters were happy and there were few provisional ballots cast.

► Joseph Gloria, Registrar of Voters, Clark County Nevada (home of Las Vegas) noted that voting centers have been very popular in his jurisdiction and have resulted in increased voting in his county. Clark County partnered with grocery stores, malls, post offices, schools, and put up construction site trailers in less populated areas for voting centers. Their idea was to take voting to the people. Voters are happy with the flexibility it provides them and voter participation is up.

The California Voting Rights Act - Empowering Communities

The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) has given minority groups a powerful tool with which to compel jurisdictions to switch from at-large to single-member districts so that neighborhood representation results in the ethnic and racial diversification of local governing boards. At the FOCE conference, a panel of community advocates and their attorneys who have used the CVRA to ensure that minority voters have an equal opportunity to elect representatives in cities, school boards, and special districts throughout California, spoke of the value of CVRA and how it has resulted in increased voting, among other things.

We found the next sessions to be inspiring and eye-opening as they addressed what was for me, the missing piece. That is, although it is easy to register people to vote, getting them to actually do so is much tougher.

► Pablo Rodriguez, Executive Director, Communities for a New California Education Fund (CNC), described how the demographics of Merced and its 95,330 voters had changed. In 2013, all local government officials were white men from the affluent part of the community. In 2015, however, that began to change when the city was instructed to break itself in to 6 districts that represented the people who lived in them. CNC, which operates mostly in the central valley and rural parts of California, strives to make government and the economy work for all citizens. In the case of Merced, CNC representatives called all the constituents located in areas where voter participation was low and asked them, "Will you join? Will you vote?" They canvassed constantly to find out what people wanted (swimming pools and parks), and then created a series of advisory committees to work on those issues. They also spent time educating the community about state law, the election system, and mass communication. By the time of the 2016 election, 3 of the 7 local seats changed hands to better represent the community. To this day, CNC continues its canvassing efforts and works to help communities organize themselves. In addition, voter participation in the previously underrepresented parts of Merced is way up.

► Denise Hulett, National Senior Counsel for the Mexican American Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), pointed out that while you cannot stop prejudice in the voting booth you can make a difference by changing "open" or at-large districts in to single member districts. Most municipalities do not fight CVRA cases because they are so easy to prove. As of 2016, the number of district elections in cities of over 100,000 have doubled, and 80% of those have proportional representation.

► Jonathan Paik, a 2nd generation Korean from Anaheim, Orange County spoke of how he, at age 26 (he is now 29) filed a CVRA suit in Anaheim. He said this law is so very important in a conservative stronghold like Anaheim. He prevailed and it took eight community meetings to draw up districts - they are still working to loosen the log jam.

► The last speaker on the effectiveness of the CVRA was Mickie Solorio Luna, City Council Member, City of Hollister. She had a very interesting story to share about how Hollister was able to get Hispanics represented on the School Board after 33 years without one elected Hispanic even though 70% of the district population was Hispanic. Hollister has gone to district voting and a more representative government. Among other things they formed lots of partnerships, in particular with the League of United Latin American Citizens and the School District.

At the end of a long day the take away from the conference was, look for ways to partner, listen to constituents, encourage action, and explore ways to utilize the CVRA to encourage greater voter participation and a better more representative government that works for all constituents.

Source: April 2017 VOTER

Where Do Things Stand Regarding Cannabis Regulations?

WHERE DO THINGS STAND REGARDING CANNABIS REGULATIONS IN VENTURA COUNTY?

Curious or confused about what's happening locally with regard to medical and adult-use cannabis laws? This issue is definitely a hot topic at both the local and state levels.

In 2015, Governor Brown signed three bills into law (AB 266, AB 243, and SB 643) which together comprise the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act ("MCRSA"). MCRSA established a State licensing scheme for commercial medical cannabis uses while protecting local control by requiring that all such businesses have a local license or permit to operate in addition to a State license.

On November 8, 2016, California voters approved the "Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act" ("AUMA"). AUMA decriminalizes cannabis and cannabis-related products in California. AUMA also mandates that a statewide regulatory system for operating adult-use marijuana businesses be operational by January 2018, and allows local jurisdictions to either prohibit marijuana related businesses or adopt local regulations permitting such businesses.

The state legislature has now introduced dozens of bills to reconcile these two regulatory schemes into a more cohesive framework and clarify many details missing in the original legislation.

Here's a breakdown of those cities where there has been recent local action on this issue:

Fillmore: This is the only city in the county to vote against Prop 64 which legalized cannabis for adult use in November. The city also passed a tax on retail sales and cultivation just in case businesses were ever allowed to operate there, although all commercial marijuana operations are currently banned. Fillmore is the first city in Ventura County and one of the first in the state to implement a licensing scheme for small-scale, personal cultivation which is now legal for adults in California - up to 6 plants per household. Anyone wishing to grow for personal use must pay a $176 fee for the permit (to be renewed annually for $40) and comply with security and building requirements.

Ojai: Ojai has never officially banned medical cannabis businesses but there is no permitted use for them. It is the first city in the county to have taken steps to study and revisit the issue. The city passed an urgency ordinance on November 15, 2016, to allow permitting of up to 3 appointment-only dispensaries, and 3 delivery services. The City Council is meeting on April 11, to discuss the applications received and permitting process going forward.

Oxnard: City Council discussed forming a study group which would provide policy direction to staff on future marijuana regulations at their March 28 meeting (as this issue of VOTER was going to print). Under the city's existing regulations, medical dispensaries are banned and outdoor cultivation/deliveries of commercial and medical marijuana are also prohibited.

Port Hueneme: In January 2016, City Council voted to continue its prohibition on all medical marijuana although they have considered allowing medical dispensaries on several occasions in the past. A subcommittee has been formed to examine the matter and propose a revised ordinance March 22. Further revisions will also address manufacturing and cultivation. Staff is now conducting a CEQA review of the ordinance and will schedule a future agenda time to revisit the ordinance. The draft ordinance is available on the city of Port Hueneme's website.

Thousand Oaks: On March 28, the City Council held a marijuana policy workshop to gather public input about regulating cannabis businesses. The city is also conducting a 2017 Community Attitude Survey, which includes a new section for marijuana policy. The survey will be conducted in two phases with the first phase of 400 randomly selected residents currently underway, and the second phase using an online version open to all residents in May 2017. Results of the phase one survey will be presented to City Council at the Goal Setting on May 9, 2017. A dedicated webpage on the city's website, http://www.toaks.org/marijuana, provides information on state and local medical and non-medical marijuana policy as well as an option for residents to submit online. The city has contracted with HdL Companies as a taxation consultant on this issue.

Ventura County: County Supervisors discussed this issue during its March 21, meeting, ending in a 3-2 vote essentially rejecting proposals to amend land-use laws which would permit two dispensaries, and limited cultivation and processing permits. The businesses currently are prohibited in the unincorporated county. It is unclear whether staff will be directed to return with revised proposals or if the issue has stalled indefinitely. Supervisors indicated their interest in having more participation from the cities and not be the sole provider for the county's medical marijuana needs.

Source: April 2017 VOTER

Update on Human Trafficking in Ventura County

UNDER-REPORTING A BIG PROBLEM FOR COUNTY LAW-ENFORCEMENT

On Saturday April 18, LWVVC sponsored a public forum - "The Local Face of Human Trafficking" - addressing the problem of human trafficking here in Ventura County. The event took place in the Topping Room of the Foster Library in Ventura and was moderated by LWVVC member Judith Murphy. The speakers formed two complementary panels. Speaking first, from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, were Undersheriff Gary Pentis, Detective Guy Fadler, and Sergeant Bill Schierman; they were followed by Case Managers Jasmine Edwards and Faith Onwusa from the Los Angeles-based nonprofit "Saving Innocence."

Undersheriff Pentis introduced his panel's presentation by noting that the topic of human trafficking has become "almost a buzzword" that is nevertheless in need of definition. Found everywhere in the world, human trafficking is not limited to the sex trade. For example, many of its victims here in the County are forced to work growing marijuana. Nationally trafficking is also prevalent in sweatshops although Ventura County sees little of this due to an absence industry jobs. Many victims of traffickers are brought to the United States illegally by "coyotes" from such areas as Mexico, Central America, and China, to work in slave-like conditions. In California these workers are often rotated from place to place within the state to prevent them from establishing roots and so that they never know where they are or how to escape to safety.

Focusing his remarks on the sex trade Detective Fadler spoke of the training law enforcement personnel are required to take in order to identify trafficker advertising, recognize victims, and learn how to gain victim's confidence and encourage them to make themselves available in those instances when cases come before the court. Sergeant Schierman noted that professional codes of conduct limit police activity in undercover solicitation sting operations thereby making traffickers that much more difficult to apprehend e.g., not allowing inappropriate physical contact. Pimps and sex workers have learned how to "test" potential clients in an attempt to identify law enforcement officers. Massage parlors and others advertise their services through social media where clients can respond anonymously. Undersheriff Pentis commented that the amount of money involved in sex trafficking is enormous and therefore results in a significant element of violence.

As crisis case managers for Saving Innocence, a Los Angeles based non-profit organization founded in 2010 and dedicated to working with young victims of trafficking, Jasmine Edwards and Faith Onwusa work closely with law enforcement in assisting youthful victims and their families. They have dealt with over sixty cases in each of the past two years. They noted that it is often helpful to treat victims as the children they are (rather than "teen prostitutes"), bringing them a "humanitarian bag" with not only a change in clothes but plush animals as well. In some instances the children can be sent back to stable homes while others are sent to juvenile hall or foster homes. Not surprisingly, according to Edwards and Onwusa, many of the victims have under developed senses of suspicion and self-love thereby making them easy prey to traffickers. These are just two examples of the kinds of skills that the staff at Saving

Innocence work to instill. A more practical service offered by Saving Innocence is helping victims get rid of tattoos. Saving Innocence manages a 24/7 telephone hotline which plays an important role in the outreach work they do. They provide numerous kinds of support + education, jobs, shelter etc. - to their young charges and offer back-up to law enforcement when called on to do so.

LWVVC is grateful to the speakers for making such clear, interesting, and eloquent presentations. Special thanks to the two members of "Saving Innocence" who braved hideous traffic coming from Los Angeles in time to speak.

Source: May 2015 VOTER

Panel Discussion on Ventura County's Water Resources

POST WATER BOND, WHAT'S NEXT?

On December 13, 2014, the LWVVC and the Political Science Department of California Lutheran University cosponsored a public forum to address Ventura County's water problems: "Post Water Bond, What's Next?" LWVVC President Barbara Doyle began the discussion by noting that the California League has had a position on water since 1959 and works diligently to study and take positions on water issues. While the LWVC liked much about the water bond provisions, concerns about spending controls and storage projects led the Board to take a neutral position.

Assemblymember Das Williams (D-37th District), recently appointed the new Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, demonstrated his broad knowledge of the issues facing our county and provisions in the proposition. He began his presentation by noting that local agencies have learned from the past and adapted to changing conditions, making them often better at solutions than state-based ones. Many local agencies have been doing well at reducing water use + and the state gives more funding to such communities. Mr. Williams acknowledged that he has the same overall misgivings as the League about Proposition 1, although he endorsed it.

So far less than half the bond proceeds have been allocated. Among the best allocations is matching funds for recycling. He noted that the "second dumbest" practice is allowing water to be put back into the ocean instead of recycling it. "Dumbest" he reserved for the failure of many localities to "incentivize" replacing turf in residential and other areas. Reducing the use of water in landscaping through "Cash-for-Grass" is a valuable policy, but so far only a handful of agencies are taking advantage of the program. He also noted the importance of the new regulations on groundwater and the ongoing controversy over the best ways to store water + dams vs. ground water basins.

Regional management plans are important and can now be funded with bond money. It is raining and snowing in different locations than in the past so capturing it with existing systems is difficult. Assemblymember Williams sees surface storage as a problem, a "dinosaur of the past", when there are better storage methods such as adjudicated groundwater basins. These are increasing in number although some areas are over-drafted. He believes "some" regulation of wells is necessary. We must change patterns to adapt for drought; the current worst drought in our history will not be an anomaly.

Russ Baggerly, Director of the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency (GMA), addressed the history of laws governing water rights and the belated nature of groundwater regulation. California is one of only two states (Oklahoma being the other) that do not regulate groundwater. Water rights were established in California law in 1914. Because water was allowed to be transferred from its point of origin to someplace else for use, the belief became established among landowners that they had unlimited rights to groundwater. This belief must be countered culturally and legally. The new legislation will help and it could not have come too soon. Citing 75 ft of subsidence in the Central Valley (which has one of the state's largest aquifers), Mr. Baggerly noted that subsidence causes soils to compact in such a way that they will be unable to recover as well to hold water if conditions change.

Commenting that the groundwater right was always conditional, "you can't manage what you can't measure." Accordingly, the GMA has developed extensive information about its basin so that it can manage the resource constructively. They have established a `safe yield' level. The Ojai GMA plans to continue to work cooperatively with its pumpers.

Rick Viergutz, Groundwater Manager for the Ventura County Watershed Protection Agency and under contract with the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency (FCGMA), spoke about his agency. It was voluntarily established in 1982 out of concern over sea water intrusions in the Oxnard Plain, one of Fox Canyon's major "jurisdictional" areas. Their district includes several basins and contains 1,300 wells, 700 of them active. The current rate of pumping is considered too much to sustain and so it recently acted on an emergency basis to reduce pumping allocations among its members.

The recently enacted legislation, Sustainable Ground Water Management Act of 2014, gives GMAs more authority and requires the development of specific local groundwater sustainability plans. It also suspends conservation credits. The FCGMA requires registration of new wells including semi-annual reporting. Proposition 1 has many provisions which apply to FCGMA, they are waiting to learn more about the process for allocating funds.

The final speaker was Eric Bergh, Manager of Resources, Calleguas Municipal Water District who contrasted the issues facing their agency. This district, which measures about 365 square miles, provides water to over 630,000 residents in southern Ventura County from Oxnard to Simi Valley. Their concern regarding the inadequacy of local water supplies led them on a long quest for a reliable supply of water.

Currently, imported water is supplied from the Colorado River and the State Water Project which includes the Sacramento Delta (which Bergh noted is "broken"), the California Aqueduct, and various other surface water reservoirs. Because of the drought, water agencies in the West County and Oxnard Plain areas have been taking more water from Calleguas. In their district, many groundwater desalters are either operational or under development to increase local water supply reliability and increase underground storage capacity for storm water flows. Mr. Bergh was especially clear that Governor Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan is their highest priority in order to ensure future regional water reliability.

During the Q&A session following speaker presentations a number of additional points were made: it is not yet known what the bond funds will do to address groundwater recharge; fracking uses very little from water supplies; from now on, groundwater will be regulated as much as surface water; residential capture of rainwater as is done in Australia is expensive and not a top priority; the effect of the drought on agriculture under SOAR is primarily a political question; the cost of sea water desalination is prohibitive and only helps as a supplement; desalting brackish water is being done now to improve quality; salt water intrusion is about the same as in the 1980s- no progress has been made.

Source: January, 2015 VOTER

Director of VC Division of Public Works Gives Tutorial on County H2O

JEFF PRATT, VENTURA COUNTY DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS, GIVES TUTORIAL ON COUNTY WATER SITUATION

On September 13th, 2014, Jeff Pratt, Ventura County Director of Public Works provided League members and guests with a comprehensive tutorial on the county's water resources. Providing something like a survey course over an hour and a half, he reviewed the water resources of the county, using illustrated maps to help viewers connect the dots and understand the differences that exist within the county.

Each topic was worthy of more in depth study, but weaving the pieces together allowed us to see the big picture. Under the title "Overview of Water Resources," he reviewed the topics of Watersheds and the Hydrological Cycle, Supply, Distribution, Uses and Current Issues.

We gained a better appreciation of the different water issues in the county which depend on each watershed and groundwater basin as well as its supply options + whether the relevant agency can import water from the state system or MWD (the Metropolitan Water District), or pump groundwater and how much. Depending on the source, the cost of water varies dramatically and can be as much as $1,200 per acre foot. That is too expensive for agricultural use so farmers try to dig wells ever deeper when necessary. There are 178 water retailers in the county + cities, special districts, water companies, and private wells -- located in various parts of the county-- and all differ.

Most water is used in agriculture and for residences, the most of which is for landscaping. This so far is the driest year on record. Record keeping goes back to the 1800's. Hence all retailers are urging reduced usage.

Groundwater monitoring and the issues at Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency were explored, along with the potential of new legislation to address gaps in monitoring and reporting. The quality of groundwater has become a greater concern with sea water intrusion and brackish water in recharge areas. An additional issue of supply is the reuse of treated water. It has not become a large source of water due to the costs involved and the need for infrastructure to add separate pipes for it. Ultimately, Mr. Pratt predicts we will be forced to treat it to potable standards to use for drinking water and public reluctance will be overcome.

Mr. Pratt also reviewed the many regulatory agencies that oversee water resources, adding complexity to reaching agreement on issues requiring change as well as conflicts among those with competing objectives. The well- known environmental issue of taking measures to protect fish also affects our local water resources and reduces supply.

This was a most informative presentation and encouraged us to continue to learn more as we all attempt to reduce our water consumption and study options for the future, including becoming more informed about the water bond proposition on the November ballot.

Source: October, 2014 VOTER

Program on Fracking in Ventura County

PANEL ON FRACKING IN VENTURA COUNTY INFORMS AUDIENCE

On December 7, 2013, over 140 people braved the rain to learn more about hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, and its use in Ventura County. The LWVVC and California Lutheran University (CLU) cosponsored the program. Moderated by David Maron, the panel included five distinguished experts who presented a balanced picture of all aspects of fracking as currently practiced in Ventura County. Following is a summary of their presentations.

Dr. William Bilodeau, Professor and Chair of the CLU Geology Department, led off with a basic description of the science involved and the recent discoveries in California. Hydrocarbons, formed under pressure by sediments such as plankton, can sometimes become trapped in a source rock, where they can be tapped by a well. Vertical drilling is the conventional technique for extraction of oil and gas, but some conditions, including hydraulic fracturing, require horizontal drilling as well, thousands of feet below the surface. The vertical portion of the well is the conventional type. Water and sand are pumped into the well under high pressure, mixed with chemicals (about 5%). The recent discovery of the Monterey Shale formation in the San Joaquin basin is estimated to hold billions of barrels of oil, but this is an overestimate in his opinion; he recommended reading David Hughes, Drilling California: A Reality Check on the Monterey Shale.

Tony Morgan, California Professional Geologist and Certified Hydrologist and Groundwater Department Manager for the United Water Conservation District, spoke about the groundwater issues in this method of drilling. Protecting drinking water is a challenge to hydro-geologists. While we should avoid demonizing the energy industry, there is need for reasonable and enforceable regulation of fracking that is safe and uses the best management practices. While the drilling is done thousands of feet below the groundwater and aquifers, groundwater (and surface water) can be contaminated by chemical migration from well-casing leaks, so several layers of casing are present to prevent this occurrence. Water and sand pumped into zones of oil contains a 2% chemical solution (over 700 kinds are used). Comparable techniques are used for water wells, and in some regions fracking is used to obtain water. Waste water is pumped into tanks for recycling. In the best case scenario, the chemicals have no effect on potable water. The amount of water needed for the Monterey Shale (86,000 acre feet) is less than that used by the state's 1,100 golf courses. Compared to other processes, the ratio of water used to energy produced is more favorable in fracking than in coal, nuclear energy or biofuels.

Nick Ortiz, Manager, Production Regions and Property Tax Issues for the Western States Petroleum Association. His Association represents many producers and refineries. California is an "energy island" without major pipelines + we refine what we produce - and its oil consumption is behind only that of the USA overall, and China. The petroleum industry believes in all sources of energy but the largest portion now and for the foreseeable future will come from petroleum. Ventura County is the third-largest producer among California counties. The amount of water used in fracking in California is much less than that used by agriculture. Surface casing at the top of the well protects groundwater. "Produced water," a byproduct of oil and gas drilling, can be used for agriculture. 15.4 billion barrels of oil will satisfy California's energy needs for 40 years. He was critical of Hughes' numbers on Monterey Shale and detailed the economic benefits in the San Joaquin Valley of this drilling activity (jobs etc.). Industry is working with others to prepare the workforce in terms of needed skills. In 2012, 97% of the fracking activity was in Kern County. 568 wells were fracked and over 2,000 permits given. Senate Bill (SB) 4 will give California the strictest regulation in the country. The public supports fracking when it is regulated.

Brian Segee, Santa Barbara Attorney and Staff Attorney for the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) told us about the EDC and its history in the region. The EDC was founded after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and has been working on fracking since 2011. Over 400 fracking wells have been counted in Ventura County, centering along watersheds and coastal areas. The central issue now for the EDC is climate change. As for water contamination, fracking casings sometimes fail, but there is a dearth of comprehensive information due to private legal settlements (referring to the experience in the east). Segee agrees that fracking uses smaller amounts of water but argued that "produced water" goes out of the hydrological cycle (unlike water for golf courses). Regarding habitat destruction from fracking, if all the Monterey oil were extracted there would be considerable harm to the environment. Federal law provides inadequate safeguards for drinking water safety due to a myriad of exemptions and loopholes; he cited Halliburton Corporation's influence on laws and regulations under the Bush Administration. California regulates the petroleum industry but lacks specific rules for fracking (until SB 4 that is). Local organizations (e.g., Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties) sometimes step in where the state has abdicated. He urged the audience to continue the public pressure on the regulatory process.

State Senator Fran Pavley (D-227th District), Chair of the California Senate's Natural Resources and Water Committee and author of SB 4 on "Regulation of Fracking in California", concluded the panel. She encouraged the audience that SB 4's passage was a very hopeful sign that California will take the right steps to develop this resource while protecting other natural resources and the environment. She then summed up the history of the issue from a legislative point of view. SB 4 started with concern about the effect on water supply, prompting a letter to the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources with questions about where fracking occurred, what chemicals were used, and how waste was disposed of. California regulatory agencies had no answers. Initially the bill did not get enough votes, but public concern grew. By 2013 there was more support in the legislature. Assemblymember Das Williams and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson contributed ideas to SB 4 and hearings were held. Environmental groups are divided on SB 4 but it has bipartisan support in the legislature. Senator Pavley closed her presentation by reviewing the major components of the bill and alerting the audience to the key dates coming up in the regulatory process. She intends to continue meeting with relevant agencies on implementation of the bill. She also hopes these efforts will lead to better monitoring of groundwater which is badly needed, both in terms of its use and quality.

Source: January, 2014 VOTER