- Support for measured solutions to the region’s air quality issues and opportunities without compromising local control over land use decisions in the Inland Region and oppose AB 1000 (Reyes) unless amended. AB 1748 (Ramos) warrants consideration.
- Ensure hospital financial stability through a $1.5 billion Medi-Cal budget item and urge relief for hospitals from the 2030 operational seismic requirements.
- Support SB 75 (Roth) to create additional Superior Court judgeships throughout California and support appropriations for newly created judgeships.
- Support legislation to curb retail theft.
- Support SB 45 (Roth) California Acute Care Psychiatric Hospital Loan Fund.
- Support for increased funding for water supply, water storage, and water quality projects, particularly Sites Reservoir and the Delta Conveyance Projects.
- Support for measured solutions to the region’s air quality issues and opportunities without compromising local control over land use decisions in the Inland Region and oppose AB 1000 (Reyes) unless amended. AB 1748 (Ramos) warrants consideration.
- Oppose AB 627 (Jackson) which would ban the use of diesel-fueled, heavy-duty trucks within the city limits of any city that the State Air Resources Board has included on their published list of disadvantage communities with the worst air quality.
- Support legislation to curb retail theft crisis.
- Support legislation to update the Mental Health Services Act which would expand and incorporate funding to include recipients with substance disorders and the homeless, as well as continued increases in funding for supportive housing in the California Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.
- Support SB 703 (Niello), the California Workplace Flexibility Act of 2023, allowing employees to select a 4-10 work schedule.
- Oppose SB 809 (Smallwood-Cuevas and Wahab), California Fair Employment Housing Act: Fair Chance Act of 2023, which would create redundant and unnecessary requirements related to job applicant criminal history checks.
- Support full funding the Inland Empire’s only four-year public universities – UC Riverside and CSU San Bernardino – by supporting the UC Board of Regents and CSU Board of Trustees budget requests.
- Support of SB 28 (Glazer) which establishes the Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2024.
- Urge the Legislature and Governor Newsom to re-introduce and consider previous legislation that sought to reform the Cal Grant programs and provide more support for community college students.
- Support for measured solutions to air quality concerns and for programs that seek to achieve California clean air and emissions goals in an equitable manner and with respect for local control.
- Support for Funding for Continued Management of the Salton Sea.
- Support for increased funding for water supply, water storage, and water quality projects, particularly Sites.
- Support Efforts to Re-Evaluate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
- Oppose Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act.
- Ensure hospital financial stability through a $1.5 billion Medi-Cal budget item.
- Urge relief for hospitals from the 2030 operational seismic requirements.
- Support SB 45 (Roth) California Acute Care Psychiatric Hospital Loan Fund.
- Support SB 75 (Roth) to create additional Superior Court judgeships throughout California and support appropriations for newly created judgeships.
- Support SB 662 (Rubio), which would expand the permitted use of electronic recording of proceedings when certified court reporters are unavailable.
- Support transportation infrastructure capacity enhancement to meet environmental and supply chain goals.
Support for measured solutions to the region’s air quality issues and opportunities without compromising local control over land use decisions in the Inland Region and oppose AB 1000 (Reyes) unless amended. AB 1748 (Ramos) warrants consideration. As one of the fastest growing areas in the country, counties and municipalities in the Inland Empire region of Southern California continue to work to keep pace with demand for additional employment and development. Many communities have developed and adopted local policies to help balance commercial and industrial economic development opportunities with clean energy technologies and community needs.
The economy of the Inland Empire is healthy. The region is growing, and that growth is forecast to continue. Given where the Inland Empire sits in the transportation corridors that connect goods that flow through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a large part of that growth is in the logistics and goods movement sector. San Bernardino County estimated that in the five years between 2014 and 2019, the logistics sector saw the most job growth of any sector in the region, injecting billions of dollars in new salaries into the region over that time. As the region recovers from the downturn of the past several years, having recently returned to pre-pandemic job numbers, this sector will continue to be one of the drivers of growth in the region as it expands to meet consumer and market demands.
Public agencies within the region have responded to this growth and have begun to work to ensure that the economic growth is balanced with the need to protect the communities into which commercial and industrial infrastructure is built. Many of those public agencies have implemented sustainability development standards to ensure the growth is as healthy and safe as possible. However, as noted in the Transportation section below, the region is badly in need of capacity enhancement to our transportation infrastructure. Capacity enhancement creates opportunities and avenues to deliver cost effective infrastructure investment programs that also support our climate goals and energy solutions. Inland Action encourages the State to continue to focus on these long-term solutions to the region’s air quality and connect with our region’s champions on these efforts, not lurch to draconian short-term measures.
California has a long history of local zoning and land use, including the planning and permitting of commercial and industrial facilities. In accordance with the State constitution and a long history of legal precedent, this reflects the understanding that cities face unique challenges and, therefore, need the ability to find unique solutions that fit their communities. The diversity of the Inland Empire, geographically, politically, and economically, means that each of the cities and counties in the region may decide to create very different policies for how they choose to plan for population and economic growth based on the will of the people who live in those locations.
There have been times when the State legislature has stepped into local land use issues with guidance. These efforts, when done well, leave flexibility for municipalities. If they come in the form of moratoriums on specific types of development, it can threaten the economic growth of the region through unintended consequences which can create enormous harm. One codified plan for the entire State, with no opportunity for local flexibility, may hinder cities from following the local plans that local elected officials have put into place across the region.
Inland Action supports legislation that reflects thoughtful and balanced solutions that are supported by the local communities that will be most affected. In addition, Inland Action has taken positions on the following bills:
Inland Action opposes AB 1000 (Reyes) unless amended. This bill would prohibit a local agency from approving the development or expansion of any qualifying logistics use, as defined, within 1,000 feet of sensitive receptors, as defined, except as provided. The bill would authorize a local agency to approve the development or expansion of a qualifying logistics use greater than 750 feet from a sensitive receptor and within 1,000 feet of a sensitive receptor only if the local agency takes certain actions, including, among other things, conducting a cumulative analysis of the air quality impacts of the warehouse development project, as specified. The bill would require a local agency, upon receipt of an application for a warehouse development project, to take certain actions, including posting information on its internet website that is easily accessible and easily understandable by the public, as specified. The definition of sensitive receptors in this bill is too broad and lacking in nuance. In addition, this bill fails to properly consider local land use control, creating a one-size-fits-all solution which may have disastrous consequences for the region’s economy.
Inland Action is following AB 1748 (Ramos) carefully and believes the bill warrants consideration. This bill would prohibit the County of Riverside, the County of San Bernardino, and any of the cities within those counties from approving the development or expansion of any qualifying logistics use, as defined, that is adjacent to sensitive receptors, as defined, unless the local agency imposes a minimum setback on the qualifying logistics use of 300 feet or follows an industrial guideline framework, as specified. Inland Action is concerned with a bill that specifically targets our region only and would welcome the opportunity for greater engagement with Assembly Member Ramos on amendments that strike an appropriate balance between addressing the air quality concerns and preserving local decision making.
Oppose AB 627 (Jackson) which would ban the use of diesel-fueled, heavy-duty (Class 7 or higher) trucks within the city limits of any city that the State Air Resources Board has included on their published list of disadvantage communities with the worst air quality. Legislation in this area is moving faster than technology and industry. Requirements related to non-diesel trucking are in the future, but not necessarily the near future, as manufacturers are not able to produce vehicles in sufficient numbers to meet the needs. As costs and demands come down, the region may be more likely to be able to transition to electric, hydrogen, and other non-diesel fuel technologies. However, mandates that set deadlines in advance of availability will lead to negative consequences not just for the region, but for the national supply chain.
Heavy investment in grants for trucks and engines that occurs prior to adequate investment to fund infrastructure to support the charging capacity for new vehicles will exacerbate existing problems. Currently, the lack of charging stations available along major transportation corridors through the region presents a significant challenge to transitioning to electric vehicles. The introduction of charging locations must be matched with the investment in grid capacity to bring adequate power to those new locations before the region is prepared for an influx of new electric vehicles.
Existing law establishes the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s authority to regulate air emissions from stationary sources located in the South Coast Air Basin. Tasking that entity with implementation of a grant program outside of its stated geographic area of oversight and also outside of its primary area of responsibility, stationary sources, appears incongruous with previous such programs.
By placing stringent requirements that could limit the ability of members in the community to participate in commerce in specific, already economically disadvantaged communities, AB 627 fails to consider the logistical challenges, administrative costs, and environmental impacts that would result through unbalanced legislation. Inland Action urges opposition to AB 627.
Support legislation to curb retail theft crisis. Retailers across the Inland Empire and the State are facing substantial losses of revenue due to the prevalence of retail theft. Inland Action urges lawmakers to support legislation that creates increased consequences for those convicted of retail theft.
In 2014, California passed Proposition 47. The proposition did several things. Among them was an increase in the minimum dollar value for felony theft, classifying theft of goods at any value below $950 as a misdemeanor. There is concern that this signaled a lack of interest in controlling theft below that value. This problem was recently compounded as Covid-era policies intended to address overcrowding in local jail facilities further diminished the consequences for someone caught stealing goods at these lower amounts.
Complicating the problem is the fact that many retailers have stopped reporting thefts of lower dollar amounts. The risk to employees of confronting thieves, as well as the additional loss of time for staff to report the thefts, disincentivizes action. The gains for the State in funding through the enactment of Proposition 47 are now being carried by retailers who have little recourse but to let merchandise walk out the door. Retail losses are then passed
along to the community in increased prices at a time when inflation is already affecting the spending power of local consumers.
Local law enforcement is attempting to address the issue of growing retail theft with increased visibility and new interagency communication. They are also seeking help from the legislature to find ways to punish repeat offenders and individuals who are cynically taking advantage of the changes in law.
Several bills have been proposed which would lower the dollar threshold for petty theft to pre-Proposition 47 amounts. There has also been legislation put forward that would allow for easier conviction or tougher punishments for multiple offenders. It is unclear which of these bills will advance from various committees. However, Inland Action urges legislators to use this opportunity to send a message to retailers and would-be thieves that theft from retailers will not be tolerated.
Support legislation to update the Mental Health Services Act which would expand and incorporate funding to include recipients with substance disorders and the homeless, as well as continued increases in funding for supportive housing in the California Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. Inland Action urges that the Mental Health Services Act be updated to expand funding and also include individuals with substance abuse disorders and the homeless as eligible recipients. Inland Action also supports continued increases in funding for supportive housing through the continuation of expanded funding for the California Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. These actions are considered part of an overall strategy which also includes passage of SB 45 (Roth) which would create a loan fund for the development of acute behavior health care facilities, also supported by Inland Action.
The Inland Empire continues to struggle with how to best address the issue of homelessness in the region. Travel along any major roads inevitably takes residents of the region past encampments of unhoused individuals who have pieced together structures using vehicles, tarps, cardboard, and other cast off or stolen materials. Interactions with individuals living under overpasses, along the dry riverbeds, and in the groves around the Inland Empire can be frightening and dangerous for all involved. Additionally, areas with an increase in homelessness often also see increases in property crimes, from trespassing to thefts. Local law enforcement frequently needs to increase resources devoted to the issue.
We recognize that there is no one solution to the homelessness crisis facing the region. However, there are three actions that, when taken together, will provide additional tools to the region. Many individuals who are chronically homeless are in that situation due to either mental health or substance abuse disorder.
Mental Health Services Act (MHSA): An updated MHSA will allow the State to better address the needs of individuals experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues.
Originally passed as Proposition 63 in 2004, MHSA allowed the State and counties to invest in services for individuals with serious mental illnesses. The Governor has presented the next iteration of the act to be voted on this year. The new version would expand care to not just include those with mental health, but also those with substance abuse disorders and homelessness. MHSA, in its new form, will provide funding for thousands of behavioral health beds, increase housing for homeless veterans, and expand existing facilities to allow for inclusion of these other vulnerable populations.
State Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program: The Inland Empire needs to develop more housing to meet the housing needs of its growing population. The development of more supportive housing will allow for increased availability of housing options for many residents who are either already homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, by providing affordable housing with essential supportive services. California funds much of its supportive housing through this program. Since 2019-2020, in recognition of the need for increased housing development, the State budget has included $500 million in funding for this program. Even at these historic levels of funding, the program is oversubscribed and barely keeping up with the ever-growing housing need. Cuts to this program would keep thousands of units of low-income housing without a viable source of funding.
SB 45 (Roth): California has a shortage of facilities to care for the increasing number of individuals experiencing mental and behavioral health crises. The lack of beds drives those individuals to homelessness or inappropriate, and often more costly, settings; i.e., emergency rooms and jails. This issue is true across the State, but the Inland Empire lags behind State averages regarding the number of beds per 100k population. SB 45 would make zero-interest loans available to counties and cities for the purpose of constructing or expanding acute care psychiatric hospitals and other psychiatric health facilities.
Support SB 703 (Niello), the California Workplace Flexibility Act of 2023, allowing employees to select a 4-10 work schedule. Inland Action supports SB 703, which would allow employees to individually choose a 4-10 schedule while relieving the employer from having to pay overtime for time above eight hours in a day.
Employers need the flexibility to allow employees to work the schedules that best fit their jobs and their lives. This bill will allow employers flexibility by removing existing restrictions on minimum wage calculation that disallow employers from offering increased flexibility to individual employees.
Currently this work structure is only available to an employee if 2/3 of their coworkers agree to the schedule change. Passage of SB 703 would allow individuals greater flexibility over their own schedule, when mutually agreed upon between an employer and employee.
Oppose SB 809 (Smallwood-Cuevas and Wahab), California Fair Employment Housing Act: Fair Chance Act of 2023, which would create redundant and unnecessary requirements related to job applicant criminal history checks. Inland Action asks legislators to oppose SB 809 (Smallwood-Cuevas and Wahab). Conviction History changes the way the State prohibits investigation of conviction history related to employment and prohibits the use of criminal conviction or incarceration in any employment decisions.
This legislation seeks to replace existing legislation on the same issue that was passed five years ago. That bill, AB 1008, was created after intense conversation to balance the desire to give formerly incarcerated individuals rights in the workplace with the realities of the need to ensure public safety and honor the pre-existing complexities of California human resource law. This bill appears to seek none of that balance.
By narrowly defining exceptions around effected employers, the bill would put organizations, some of which are hiring people for work with vulnerable populations, in a position of being unable to ask about or check on criminal history. Conversely, by giving broad coverage to all individuals who have been incarcerated without exceptions for the nature of their crime, this bill puts employers in the position of being unable to make decisions intended to protect existing employees from working with people with whom they may not feel safe.
SB 809 also creates regulatory and compliance problems. Current background check wait times would put employers in the position of having to act to meet deadlines without the ability to wait for results, or face legal consequences. Additionally, the requirements and presumptions codified in SB 809 would create undue burdens on small and medium sized businesses which would now need costly legal and human resources support to be protected in every hiring situation. Lastly, the penalties for violations, even those due to misunderstanding or circumstances outside of the employers’ control, are overly punitive. Since most of the common-sense protections in SB 809 are already extended through existing legislation, passage of this bill would create problems while attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
The Inland Empire is comprised of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, a 4.6 million-resident region which is home to eleven universities including University of California Riverside, California State University of San Bernardino, and University of Redlands. Inland Empire leaders have a steadfast commitment to expanding access to full-time, sustainable jobs and careers that enable working families to thrive. A critical aspect of inclusive economic development includes expanding and improving educational outcomes.
Inland Action supports investments for our Inland Empire students and educational institutions to ensure the region has the skilled, educated workforce it needs for economic growth and prosperity. California and the Inland Empire need more college graduates to fill and attract knowledge-based, high-paying jobs.
State investments in K-12, community colleges, and four-year universities ensure many more Inland Empire students are prepared for college, have the means to afford college and receive the support services they need to be successful and graduate in a timely way. Inland Action supports expanding access to higher education and ensuring the success of all Inland Empire students by:
Support full funding the Inland Empire’s only four-year public universities – UC Riverside and CSU San Bernardino – by supporting the UC Board of Regents and CSU Board of Trustees budget requests. Inland Action appreciates the Governor’s 2023-24 Budget introduction that provides the University of California $256 million in ongoing funding and $100 million in one-time funds. This budget funds the second year of the Compact agreement and will allow the University to make progress toward the shared goals of access, equity, affordability, and intersegmental collaboration.
Inland Action also appreciates the Governor’s intention to fully fund the second year of the multi-year compact with California State University. The proposed $227.3 million in ongoing funding supports the shared priorities to expand student access, equity and affordability, and to create pathways to high-demand career opportunities.
Support of SB 28 (Glazer) which establishes the Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2024. SB 28 (Glazer) provides $15.5 billion to construct and modernize education facilities and requires University of California to comply with certain conditions before receiving funds from the 2024 University Capital Outlay Bond Fund established pursuant to the Act.
Urge the Legislature and Governor Newsom to re-introduce and consider previous legislation that sought to reform the Cal Grant programs and provide more support for community college students. State grant funding for students within the California Community College (CCC) system is not yet equitable to the funding students receive for enrollment in the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and private college counterparts. CCC students are the largest population of students receiving the lowest Cal Grant award amount.
To provide CCC students with the resources needed for success, the Cal Grant program must be consolidated. This will result in a more equitable system for California higher education students while reducing confusion and workload for students, institutions, and the California Student Aid Commission by developing one Cal Grant program to meet the needs of students across all segments. Inland Action endorses legislation that removes barriers to Cal Grant eligibility for nontraditional community college students and expands eligibility for supplemental Cal Grant programs to students attending independent colleges and universities.
Specifically, the Inland Action supports legislations with the following actions:
- Consolidate Cal Grant Awards A, B, & C into Cal Grant 2 and Cal Grant 4 Programs.
Cal Grant 2: Guarantee an access award for all California Community College (CCC) students with incomes or other circumstances that would qualify for a maximum Pell Grant award and who do not have any dependents under age 18.
- Cal Grant 4: Maintain a tuition award to students at eligible four-year institutions.
- Students with Dependent Children: Enhance basic needs awards for student-parents with dependent children and who are enrolled at a public college or university.
- Remove barriers for adult learners, such as grade point average (GPA), thereby eliminating the need for the competitive Cal Grant program.
- Open up eligibility to Cal Grant aid to 200,000 more California students, including adult learners, student-parents, and students of color.
- Align State and federal financial aid policies to create a more coordinated approach to investments in college affordability that leverages federal fund sources to most effectively serve students.
- Account for the cost of attendance, rather than the cost of tuition.
- Generally, remove barriers to student eligibility and reduce the gap between CCC and UC/CSU Cal Grant award amounts for students.
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the State invests an average of just $8,528 per Cal Grant student at private nonprofits. When the Cal Grant program was created in 1955, it was with the intent to address capacity issues that the State’s public education institutions were facing. Those capacity challenges remain today.
Inland Action urges support to restore the purchasing power of the Cal Grant award for students and to ensure the entitlement award can be used by all transfer students if they continue at an independent nonprofit institution. Specifically, we ask that you support two budget requests:
- $5.5 million to provide a modest but needed increase to the Cal Grant award amount for students – from $9,358 to $9,500
- $10.4 million to provide the funding necessary to ensure transfer students can use their remaining entitlement eligibility at an independent nonprofit college or university in California. The policy was successfully adopted last year.
Support for measured solutions to air quality concerns and for programs that seek to achieve California clean air and emissions goals in an equitable manner and with respect for local control. During Inland Action’s recent advocacy trip to Washington D.C., our delegation advocated for increased funding for the federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) program. Inland Action asks State leaders to consider similar approaches to addressing the Inland Empire region’s air quality issues. Inland Action supports forward-thinking measures to fund and build the green transportation and logistics infrastructure necessary for the next generation. Inland Action opposes any heavy-handed measures that fail to progress the necessary infrastructure yet have the potential to irreparably harm the region’s economy. In addition, Inland Action opposes any such measures which infringe on local control. As noted at length in the Economic Development section above, Inland Action opposes AB 1000 (Reyes) unless it is significantly amended and opposes AB 627 (Jackson). Further, Inland Action takes the following positions:
Oppose Any Efforts to Reduce Local Control of South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). In prior years, legislative efforts have been made to amend the composition of the SCAQMD Board. Inland Action opposes any efforts to diminish local control and supports efforts to empower locally elected officials who are accountable to their constituents. At present, board members are selected through a transparent city selection process involving a diverse pool of 20 county supervisors and 848 mayors and city council members. The SCAQMD was established with local control in mind, and the elected officials serving on the SCAQMD Board have a responsibility to their voters. This obligation would be weakened by adding more appointees who are not accountable to the public.
Support for Funding for Continued Management of the Salton Sea. Few projects in our region come anywhere near the Salton Sea in terms of the potential for calamity or, conversely, enormous gain. The Salton Sea is impacted by rising salinity of the Sea, as well as changes in runoff from irrigated agriculture (supplied by Colorado River water). Reduced water flows to the Sea could result in the exposure of nearly 100 square miles of dry lakebed, resulting in diminished habitat, significant air quality problems, and a damaged economy. A key issue at the Salton Sea is exposure of previously submerged lakebed, known as playa, as the lake surface shrinks. This playa exposure is subject to wind erosion and can be a source of fine airborne dust smaller than 10 micrometers, known as particulate matter 10, or PM10; as well as a source of PM 2.5. This dust is a significant health hazard and can contribute to respiratory illness in humans. It can also damage agricultural crops and wildlife and harm the region’s tourism industry. Areas downwind from the Sea are already suffering from severe non-attainment for PM 10 under the Clean Air Act. These areas suffer the highest rates of childhood asthma in California, with emergency room admissions for children under four years of age roughly twice the State average. In the near future, tens of millions of citizens downwind from the Sea could be impacted by dust blown from the playa into densely urbanized areas throughout Southern California.
In recent years, local, State, tribal, and federal governments have achieved significant progress in addressing the long-term management of the Salton Sea. These efforts have resulted in the development of the Salton Fee Funding and Feasibility Action Plan, a living document and framework for the future management of the Salton Sea, and Phase I of the Salton Sea Management Program 10-Year Plan, which guides investments at the Salton Sea in line with an MOU between the United States Department of the Interior and the California Natural Resources Agency. Current efforts are designed to address playa exposure by developing habitat or dust suppression projects on exposed playa.
With a plan in place, and funding generally available to the projects through the 2018 Farm Bill at the federal level, as well as through the passage of Proposition 68 at the State level, it is critical that funding be delivered to these projects in a timely and efficient manner. At the State level, the following steps are suggested:
- Salton Sea Management Program. Support efforts by the Salton Sea Management Program implemented by the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Department of Water Resources and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Their work includes a 10-year plan that aims to improve conditions by constructing 30,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects around the Sea, while also establishing a long-term pathway for the Salton Sea beyond the next decade, including work to evaluate the feasibility of water importation as a strategy for restoration of the Salton Sea.
- Species Conservation Habitat Project. Currently under construction, this $206.5 million plan will build ponds and wetlands along the small delta to provide wildlife habitat and suppress dust. The final design includes 340 additional acres of coverage as compared to older projections and is expected to be finished by 2024. The project is estimated to create as many as 3,000 jobs. We urge the State to continue support for this project.
- Budget Funding for Salton Sea Restoration. Inland Action supports continued funding for Salton Sea restoration and management efforts. Inland Action is encouraged by the State’s efforts to capitalize on the opportunities presented by large lithium deposits in the region. However, we urge the State to press forward with dust suppression, wildlife habitat, and natural restoration projects regardless of the success of lithium extraction projects.
Support for increased funding for water supply, water storage, and water quality projects. The recent winter storms throughout California have underscored the need for continued investment in water infrastructure. Improved water infrastructure, and particularly improved water storage, might have mitigated flooding impacts in Northern and Central California and would have provided additional, reliable water resources for anticipated drought periods in Southern California. Inland Action supports State efforts to fund water and wastewater infrastructure, water reliability and storage projects, and water conveyance projects. Diverse sources of water supplies, increased water storage capacity, and enhanced resilience to drought are high priorities to maintain and grow California’s economy. Inland Action supports actions to implement measures that improve California’s water reliability and drought preparedness, including support for budget proposals for water infrastructure and drought response investments. Inland Action recognizes the tremendous investment the State and local water purveyors have made in infrastructure to build capacity and resilience. Southern California is well positioned but still requires investment in its water infrastructure.
Support for Sites Reservoir Project. Inland Action supports continued State funding and support for the Sites Reservoir Project. The project will capture and store stormwater flows from the Sacramento River for release when needed, creating an additional 1.5-million-acre feet of storage. When constructed and operated in conjunction with the Northern California reservoirs, the project will increase the flexibility, reliability, and resiliency of the State’s water system.
Support for Delta Conveyance Project. Water reliability is a vital issue for inland Southern California, including for major local State water contractors such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and Mojave Water Agency. Inland Action supports upgrading the State’s infrastructure to improve conveyance in the Delta and ensure more reliable long-term water deliveries for the State Water Project, which provides 30 percent of Southern California’s water. Inland Action also supports continued federal funding for scientific research and habitation restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to advance ecosystem improvements in support of California’s coequal goals of water supply reliability and Delta ecosystem restoration.
In addition to our support for water infrastructure projects, Inland Action takes the following position on water issues:
PFAS – Secure Funding for Monitoring and Remediation. Ensuring safe drinking water is a fundamental requirement for healthy communities and economies. With growing concerns about the presence in some water supplies of a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS), water agencies are working to ensure inland Southern California has a safe and reliable drinking water supply. Inland Action supports administrative and legislative actions to secure funding to help public water agencies defray the cost of monitoring and/or remediation of constituents (including PFAS) in drinking water supplies, including full cost-recovery by drinking water and wastewater providers. Inland Action supports legislation that accomplishes the above goals while protecting public water and wastewater agencies (and, therefore, their ratepayers) from third-party liability associated with new standards. We urge caution with respect to any bills which impose additional burdens on water providers and wastewater systems without addressing the funding necessary to cover associated costs.
State Support for Water Purveyor Consolidation Efforts. In recent years, the State of California has looked for mechanisms to address significant infrastructure and water quality issues associated with small, typically private, water systems. This is a significant problem in rural areas, particularly the Central Valley, but it is also a problem in our region. Most stakeholders agree that consolidation of these water systems is one mechanism to address this. Unfortunately, efforts to address the issues have thus far focused on the prospect of a universal water tax, paid by all customers on a per unit or per person basis. This is not the way to go. Instead, Inland Action supports funding to incentivize consolidation of water systems, ideally into public bodies with local accountability and decision-making. Incentivizing consolidation requires significant funds to address infrastructure needs and address water quality problems as stated above.
Support Efforts to Re-Evaluate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) . Inland Action supports efforts by the independent Little Hoover Commission to review and evaluate the impact of CEQA. Inland Action recognizes that CEQA has played an important role in promoting environmental quality by enhancing understanding of the environmental impacts of decisions. However, Inland Action also recognizes that CEQA abuse is rife and that CEQA has too often been used as a tool to prevent or slow certain types of development, ultimately increasing housing and other living costs for Californians. Accordingly, Inland Action welcomes the Little Hoover Commission’s decision to study CEQA and strongly encourages State legislators to monitor the study and pay heed to its findings.
Oppose Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act. Inland Action opposes the unbacked bill known as the Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act, which has been proposed by Governor Newsom and appears designed to surface as a budget trailer bill. Inland Action opposes any legislative efforts to infringe upon the typical California Endangered Species Act (CESA) process, particularly here where agency scientists have clearly determined that listing is not warranted.
In October 2019, an environmental group known as the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Fish and Game Commission to list the Western Joshua Tree as threatened under CESA. In response the Department of Fish and Wildlife studied the species and concluded that listing was not warranted. This science-based conclusion echoes the conclusion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the listing of the species under the federal Endangered Species Act is not warranted. The federal finding had originally been made in August 2019 but was confirmed following further study in March 2023. Despite the consensus of agency scientists at both the State and federal level, the Fish and Game Commission deadlocked in vote. In February 2023, the Commission decided to further delay action as a result of the proposed Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act.
Neither the listing of the species nor the proposed Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act would do much to protect the species, as the primary threat is climate change and not the taking of the species. However, these measures would have significant negative effects on development in the region. Local governments in the region, both cities and counties, already have strict regulations to protect the Western Joshua Tree. These regulations generally require direct preservation and relocation along with stiff penalties for unpermitted removal and destruction. These are powerful, effective regulations that are in place and actively enforced.
Legislation in this area will do little to protect the species but will negatively impact the region’s economy. In addition, single-species legislation designed to usurp the role of Fish and Game Commission, even if the Commission is willing to abdicate its responsibility, will have significant consequences for the future of CESA – making clear that politics and powerful stakeholders, and not science, will guide future decisions on the listing of species. It would be unwise for the legislature to engage in a CEQA end-around.
Ensure hospital financial stability through a $1.5 billion Medi-Cal budget item. Labor, pharmaceutical, and medical supply costs have skyrocketed with inflation. Hospitals have continued to be significantly fiscally impacted by the pandemic, inflation, and the overall increased cost of care. The State has not increased certain Medi-Cal rates paid to hospitals for over a decade. With chronic underfunding, California’s health care system needs an emergency lifeline to stabilize a health care system shattered by $12 billion in losses (even after federal relief) during the pandemic, skyrocketing inflation, and a massive increase in health care wages. Without rapid support, many hospitals face difficult choices about shuttering services just to remain open or, in several cases, outright bankruptcy.
California’s health care system needs legislative support for a one-time investment of $1.5 billion in 2023 to absorb the impact of the inflationary crisis and protect access for Californians with the greatest health needs.
Urge relief for hospitals from the 2030 operational seismic requirements. After decades of work and billions spent by hospitals to meet the 2020 hospital seismic mandate to ensure their buildings are structurally sound, hospitals are well-prepared to respond to earthquakes or other disasters. By January 1, 2030, all hospital buildings must meet a second mandate to be fully operational in the event of an earthquake, or they will be forced to close. Today, with 51% of California hospitals operating with negative margins and even more barely above break-even, meeting these requirements is simply impossible when hospitals are already on the brink of financial collapse. It is important to recognize that 21st century health care is vastly different from when seismic regulations were passed. Hospital patients and workers are safe from earthquakes, yet outdated and onerous regulations threaten access to care for millions of Californians.
California’s health care system needs legislative support in revising the current 2030 requirements, and for flexibility in meeting seismic operational requirements.
Support SB 45 (Roth) California Acute Care Psychiatric Hospital Loan Fund. As hospitals continue to care for all, they understand firsthand that the demand for behavioral health care has grown exponentially and far outpaces available community options. A 2022 report from the Department of Health Care Services found that bed capacity and long waits in both emergency departments and inpatient psychiatric hospitals are the greatest challenges in California’s behavioral health care system. The same report identified these challenges as an urgent need for children and youth.
Providing zero-interest loans to construct, renovate, or expand access to inpatient psychiatric care in hospitals would provide the behavioral health care system an expanded opportunity to increase capacity and ensure Californians receive the care they deserve.
Inland Action urges your support of SB 45 to help address the urgency for critical services for those with serious behavioral health needs.
Support SB 75 (Roth) to create additional Superior Court judgeships throughout California and support appropriations for newly created judgeships. The Superior Courts of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties are the No. 1 and No. 2 most under-resourced trial courts in the State in terms of the gap between the number of needed judgeships and the number of judgeships actually authorized and funded, as determined by the California Judicial Council. The public’s right to timely access to justice is contingent upon having adequate judicial resources in every jurisdiction. The Legislature needs to authorize and fund additional judgeships for the Inland Empire.
Like the rest of the 58 counties in California, San Bernardino and Riverside County each have their own Superior Court. By statute, the Judicial Council conducts a Judicial Needs Assessment for each county every two years. The assessment is based on each court’s weighted caseload, the nationally accepted methodology for measuring judicial workload. The Judicial Council then compares the resulting number of judges needed in each county against the number of judgeships currently authorized and funded to determine for each county any need for additional judgeships.
The November 2022 Judicial Needs Assessment determined that San Bernardino County requires an additional 30 judgeships beyond the current 100 that are authorized and funded, for a total of 130. It also determined Riverside County needs an additional 22 judgeships beyond its current 89 authorized and funded positions, for a total of 111. The 52 needed positions in the Inland Empire represent more than half of the total assessed need of 98 new positions statewide.
San Bernardino and Riverside Superior Courts are extremely short on judges, based on their weighted caseloads determined by the Judicial Council. This severely affects the right of every person, business, and organization to timely access to justice, and must be addressed.
Inland Action urges passage of SB 75 (Roth), which would begin to address this need by creating 26 additional Superior Court judgeships statewide, subject to appropriation. The new positions would be allocated by the Judicial Council to the various county Superior Courts pursuant to the Judicial Council’s uniform criteria for such apportionment. Under those criteria, eleven of those 26 new judgeships would be allocated to the Inland Empire (six in San Bernardino and five in Riverside).
SB 75 only authorizes the new positions, however, “subject to appropriation.” Authorized-but-unfunded positions are of little help. Consequently, once the new positions are created, it is also necessary to fund them – promptly. The last large creation of new Superior Court judgeships was in 2007 when AB 159 authorized 50 new positions. Those positions languished for more than a decade, however, without funding. The first two positions (of the 50) were funded in 2018. Twenty-five more were funded in 2019, and the remaining 23 were not funded until last year. It is imperative that the legislature not only pass SB 75 to create these new judgeships, but also promptly appropriate the necessary funds to fill them.
Support SB 662 (Rubio), which would expand the permitted use of electronic recording of proceedings when certified court reporters are unavailable. There is presently a severe shortage of official court reporters across the State, such that trial courts are no longer able to provide a reporter in each courtroom. When an official reporter is unavailable, electronic recording can provide a reliable substitute so that there is an adequate record of proceedings. Such use is common in the federal courts.
State law, however, severely limits the types of proceedings in which electronic recording is authorized. Amending that law to expand the types of cases in which electronic recording is permitted would reduce the number of proceedings in which no record is made and preserve the limited supply of certified court reporters for the highest priority proceedings.
Traditionally, a record of court proceedings has been kept by a court reporter, specifically, a Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR). California has strict requirements for CSRs in the State’s trial courts. Over the past several years, however, the number of CSRs has declined precipitously – in California and nationwide. Older CSRs are retiring, and the rate of younger workers interested in entering the profession has fallen vastly short of the replacement need. Many of those who attempt to enter the profession do not complete the necessary schooling and certification requirements to become CSRs.
According to a January 2022 report prepared for the California Trial Court Consortium (whose membership includes all California courts with 38 judges or fewer), the court reporter crisis is worse in California than in any other state. Efforts to address the shortage by aggressive recruitment and pay increases, including a $30 million appropriation by the Legislature in 2021 and 2022 for that purpose, have not resolved the problem. There remains a substantial – and growing – mismatch between the dwindling supply of available CSRs and the demand Courts have for such professionals.
Electronic digital recording is now sufficiently advanced to permit confidence in its use as an accurate substitute when a CSR is not available. In fact, the federal courts routinely use such recordings in lieu of court reporters. Proceedings are recorded (with a trained monitor to ensure complete capture of the proceedings), and if necessary, a transcript can be prepared later from the recording. State law currently permits electronic recording in California courts, but only in very limited circumstances.
Government Code § 69957 states that even where no official reporter is available and the court is adequately equipped technologically, electronic recording may be used only in three types of cases: limited civil (i.e. cases involving less than $25,000 at issue), misdemeanors, and infractions. Thus, if there are no CSRs available, a litigant in an unlimited civil case will have no record of any hearing in their case, even where the court could, technologically, obtain an accurate record by electronic recording.
SB 662 (Rubio) seeks to address the court-reporter shortage in two ways. First, to increase the supply of new reporters entering the profession, it permits three-year, non-renewable, provisional licenses for new reporters who have passed the required examination administered by the National Court Reporters Association and are eligible to take the California CSR examination but have not yet done so. Second, to address the current shortfall of official court reporters and free up the existing official reporters for the most important matters, it amends Government Code § 69957 to expand the types of cases in which electronic recording is authorized to include ALL civil matters (including unlimited civil).
Such authorization remains limited to where the court is adequately equipped technologically and where there is no official reporter or pro tempore available. It also makes express the requirement that the court shall “make every effort to hire a court reporter for an action or proceeding before electing to have the action or proceeding be electronically recorded.”
Inland Action urges passage of SB 662 to address the pressing need for expanded capacity to provide accurate records of court proceedings.
Support transportation infrastructure capacity enhancement to meet environmental and supply chain goals. Inland Southern California’s transportation networks cannot survive in a one-size-fits all framework. As our region continues year-over-year to be one of the fastest-growing in the nation, our system of systems must grow and adapt with it. These systems require funding in order to continue to improve, upgrade, and keep our communities and the goods that serve them moving safely and efficiently.
Inland Southern California is once again one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States. It is now the 12th largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States, and with that growth, there is a continued need for enhanced capacity in our transportation infrastructure. With self-help transportation organizations providing billions of dollars in local funding amidst rising costs of construction, there is an eminent need to implement many shovel-ready projects today that are innovative and responsive to our region’s transportation needs.
For years, Inland Action has awaited a new multi-year transportation authorization bill and greatly appreciates the incredible work to achieve this level of support. However, we continue to push important Inland Empire projects that can be deployed quickly across many agencies. Electric vehicles and alternative energy charging stations need new corridors.
Capacity enhancement creates opportunities and avenues to deliver cost effective infrastructure investment programs that also support our climate goals and energy solutions. The following top Inland Empire infrastructure projects will have an immediate but also long-term impact on alleviating the on-going strain on our Southern California supply chain while enhancing the quality of life for our residents and businesses that continue to support that same system of systems.
- Highway 395 (3 miles, $7.5M)
- I-10 Express Lanes (23 miles, $1.2B)
- Ontario International Airport (ONT) Loop ($60M)
A short description of each priority project is provided below:
- U.S. Route 395 Widening – Phase 2
U.S. Route 395 is one of the main north/south highways in Southern California providing access to and linking economic centers, recreational areas, and urban and rural regions. The Phase I project was completed in 2021, which widened US-395 between S.R.18 (Palmdale Road) and Chamberlaine Way from two lanes to four lanes and installed turn lanes and signals at various intersections within the project limits. U.S. 395 was previously environmentally cleared from I 15 to just south of Desert Flower, a total distance of 15.3 miles. The southern project is 7.2 miles in length. SBCTA completed construction of the middle portion of the project (5.4 miles), and the northern 2.7 miles remains to be constructed. All right-of-way and design work has been completed for the Phase 2 segment. Project Completion Cost: $7.5 Million.
- I-10 Express Lanes
Phase 1 of I-10 Express Lanes is in the southwestern portion of San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles County. The project will widen the existing I-10 freeway between the Los Angeles/San Bernardino County line and I-15, approximately ten miles. The project includes two tolled express lanes in each direction. In addition, lanes to assist drivers getting on and off the freeway (auxiliary lanes) will be constructed in selected locations. West of Haven Avenue, a single new lane will be constructed and combined with the existing HOV lane to provide two express lanes in each direction. The HOV lane will still be available to motorists but will increase from 2+ to 3+. East of Haven Avenue, two express lanes will be constructed. The total project would improve a new 23-mile segment. Project cost: $1.2 Billion.
- Ontario International Airport (ONT) Loop
The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority has initiated a critical next step to advancing the innovative transit tunnel connection between the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink Station and Ontario International Airport as it prepares to review proposals to deliver the environmental phase of the project, which should be completed in the fall of 2023. Environmental clearance will pave the way for identifying a preferred construction alternative, final design, and construction for service in late 2026/early 2027, in time for the 2028 Olympic games. Project cost: $60 Million.