BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER
                             Senator Fran Pavley, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:            AB 549          Hearing Date:    June 23,  
          2015
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          |Author:    |Levine                 |           |                 |
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          |Version:   |June 16, 2015    Amended                             |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant:|William Craven                                       |
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                            Subject:  State park system.


          BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW
          1) The California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is  
          vested with control of the state park system and responsibility  
          for administering, protecting, developing, and interpreting  
          state parks for the use and enjoyment of the public. DPR is also  
          responsible for protecting the state park system from damage and  
          preserving the peace.

          2) Recent statutory changes that reacted to fiscal improprieties  
          at DPR established several reforms by which the department was  
          empowered to improve its own fiscal health. To that end: 

               a) The department's authority to collect fees, rents, and  
          other returns for the use of state parks was expanded; 
               b) It was authorized to sell additional annual and regional  
          passes and to enter a wider array of concession contracts; and
               c) A revenue generation program was established. 

          Also, ex-officio legislative members to the California State  
          Parks and Recreation Commission were added, and state law also  
          directed the establishment of a citizen review panel, the Parks  
          Forward Commission, whose final report was released earlier this  
          year. 

          3) The key recommendations of the Parks Forward Commission were  
          to:







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               a) Create a "transformation team" within the department to  
          improve internal procedures including technologies to assist  
          with budgeting, planning, and project implementation;
               b) Improve relationships with nonprofits and other  
          partners;
               c)  Develop an outside support entity to help the  
          department with marketing, financial, and other aspects of the  
          department's work where an outside entity with greater business  
          experience would be useful
               d) Improve cultural and resource protection programs; 
               e) Expand access to parks including to those from park-poor  
          and other disadvantaged communities. 

          4) These recent changes were a part of what has developed into a  
          concerted, year-by-year approach to reforms at the department by  
          the Legislature. This bill, along with SB 204 (Pavley), are  
          examples of that approach in 2015. 

          5) The Director of Finance is required to approve all gifts,  
          bequests, etc., in any amount that are given to DPR, except for  
          a certain historic artifacts that are valued at less than  
          $15,000. 

          6) DPR is authorized pursuant to Public Resources Code section  
          5009.1 to enter into agreements to accept funds from any person,  
          corporation, or business entity for the maintenance or operation  
          on a nonprofit basis, of a state park unit.

          7) DPR may enter into concession contracts with private  
          businesses subject to the specified conditions.  

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill has several provisions. 

          1) It contains findings and declarations regarding the purpose  
          of, and recommendations from the Parks Forward Commission. 

          2) One of those recommendations focused on the need to expand  
          the availability of safe, clean, and affordable cabins and  
          similar overnight accommodations in state and local parks as an  
          important means of providing equitable park access and building  
          public support for parks statewide. In particular, coastal parks  
          have been identified as those where lower-cost overnight  








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          accommodations are in high demand and low supply. The bill  
          contains a statement of legislative intent that the California  
          Coastal Commission, the State Coastal Conservancy and DPR  
          develop a proposal using existing and possibly future revenues  
          that may identify and implement opportunities to expand the  
          availability of affordable cabins or other similar  
          accommodations in state, local, and regional parks. 

          3) Section 5003.4 of the Public Resources Code is proposed to be  
          amended to allow DPR to acquire and install camping cabins,  
          parking facilities for recreational vehicles, and any associated  
          access and public safety facilities with state parks provided  
          the operation is consistent with the classification of that park  
          unit and with a general plan of that unit if one is in effect.  
          Further, the department may enter into agreements with qualified  
          nonprofits to acquire, install, and operate these cabins,  
          parking facilities for recreational vehicles, and any associated  
          access and public safety features provided such agreements  
          comply with the terms of Section 5080.42. That section is the  
          main provision in the Public Resources Code authorizing DPR to  
          enter into operating agreements with nonprofits. 

          4) The bill expands the department's authority to accept various  
          gifts and interests in real property to include buildings,  
          facilities, and other improvements to be used in connection with  
          the park system. The bill establishes a $100,000 cap for  
          conditional gifts or bequests gifts that the department can  
          accept without approval from the Director of Finance.  
          Conditional gifts or bequests are those that require the gift to  
          be used at a certain park or for specified purposes. DPR must  
          annually report such gifts to the Director of Finance. 

          5) The bill expands the authority of DPR to accept funds for the  
          operations of state parks units. The new authority allows DPR to  
          enter into agreements for the restoration, repair, or  
          enhancement of state park units and deletes the requirement that  
          such funds be contributed on a nonprofit basis. It also deletes  
          the requirement that such funds must be prioritized to prevent  
          park closures or to reduce hours of service to the public. This  
          provision also allows DPR to provide free access to and use of  
          park facilities to entities that have entered into agreements  
          pursuant to this section. 

          6) The bill directs DPR to develop a statewide policy for  








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          assessment of fees that balances the state's goals of  
          sustainable revenue generation with the equally important goal  
          of preserving affordable public access to public lands,  
          including lands in the coastal zone. Factors DPR is directed to  
          include in developing a statewide fee policy are: 

               a) To the extent feasible, ensure that fees are not a  
          deterrent to equitable public access and are comparable to fees  
          charged for other similar services. 
               b) The appropriate role of user fees as part of an overall,  
          equitable, and sustainable revenue generation strategy that  
          includes a proper balance of public funding and earned revenue  
          to support state parks; 
               c) Base a fee policy on uniform principles that reflect  
          different levels of services provided at different parks, the  
          department's goals for service-based budgeting, and the best  
          practices for pricing that align policy goals with visitor  
          expectations. To the extent feasible, fees should be  
          commensurate with the benefits and services provided to  
          visitors. 
               d) Establish a process for setting and approving all fee  
          rate changes. 
               e) Provide for public accountability and transparency, and  
          advance public notice for proposed changes to fee schedules. 

          7) DPR is authorized to consult with the National Park Service  
          for guidance in developing a statewide fee policy. 

          8) DPR must conduct public workshops on developing a statewide  
          fee policy and may seek assistance with scheduling and  
          conducting of the workshops from the State Park and Recreation  
          Commission. 

          9) DPR must report to the Legislature on the statewide fee  
          policy on or before December 31, 2016. 

          10) The fee schedule must be publicly available on the  
          department's website which must be updated to reflect any  
          changes in the fee structure. 

          11) The bill contains a statement of intent that the department  
          also continue its efforts to accept modern fee collection and  
          payment options, including cash, credit card, and smart phone  
          technologies. 








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          12) DPR is authorized to include additional options in its fee  
          policy, including hourly fees, regional passes, and promotional  
          free-day events. It is also authorized to explore opportunities  
          for collaborative fee arrangements and passes with other  
          federal, state, and local park agencies. 

          13) The bill proposes a change to concession contracts that are  
          entered into between the department and private firms that  
          provide specified services at state parks. The change allows DPR  
          to request an annual financial statement prepared or audited by  
          a certified public accountant. Additionally, a technical change  
          regarding the public bid process for concession contracts is  
          proposed. 

          14) The bill raises the cap on concession contracts that are not  
          subject to various contract requirements from $500,000 to  
          $1,000,000 in total sales or investment value.  

          15) The bill contains other technical and clarifying changes  
          from Legislative Counsel. 


          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT
          According to the author, AB 549 will facilitate implementation  
          of the Parks Forward Commission recommendations to improve and  
          strengthen the management of California's state park system,  
          enhance the tools available to DPR to facilitate partnerships  
          agreements, generate increased revenue, and promote public  
          access to state parks.  Among other things, this bill enhances  
          opportunities for DPR to develop mutually beneficial  
          partnerships with nonprofit organizations, accept philanthropic  
          contributions to support parks, and increase affordable  
          overnight accommodation options in state parks.  It also updates  
          and makes more efficient the process for approval of concession  
          agreements.  Finally, it calls for a statewide fee policy that  
          balances the Legislature's goals of affordable public access to  
          state parks and mission-consistent revenue generation

          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION
          None received. 

          COMMENTS
          In discussions with the author, two amendments are proposed. The  








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          first adds a finding and declaration that the agreements with  
          nonprofits to provide tents or other lodging not compete with  
          existing concession contracts through which comparable services  
          are provided. 

          The second is a series of clarifying amendments to Section  
          5009.1 regarding funds provided by other entities to DPR. 

          SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS 
          
          AMENDMENT 1
          Page 4, line 36, add (b):  It is the intent of the Legislature  
          in enacting the changes to Section 5003.4 in this bill, that  
          such agreements not compete with existing concession contracts  
          through which comparable services are provided.


          AMENDMENT 2
          This amendment to Public Resources Code section 5009.1 adds  
          academic or educational institutions and tribal governments to  
          those entities authorized to enter into agreements to provide  
          funds to the department. It borrows existing language from a  
          related provision that authorized the department to erect  
          signage recognizing the sponsorship of the donor, consistent  
          with the rules and regulations of the department. It also  
          broadens the scope of such agreements to include research,  
          educational, interpretative, recreational or visitor services.  
          The provision allowing DPR to provide free access and use of  
          park facilities will be subject to a requirement that the  
          benefit provided by the agreement exceeds or is of comparable  
          value to any use of park facilities granted. 

          A mock up of the proposed section is below. 

          5009.1 (a) The department may enter into an agreement to accept  
          funds from any person, corporation, or other business entity,  
           academic or educational institution, tribal government  , or  
          organization for the maintenance  ,   or   operation,  restoration,  
          repair or enhancement   on a nonprofit basis  of a designated state  
          park system unit or facility  or for research, educational,  
          interpretive, recreational, or visitor services provided on or  
          for a state park system unit or facility  .  Any funds so received  
          shall be deposited in a separate account in the State Park  
          Contingent Fund.  The funds received shall supplement existing  








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          resources for the purpose of enhancing the maintenance or  
          operation of the unit or facility  or increasing, enhancing, or  
          establishing services delivered to park visitors  .,  with priority  
          given to preventing closure or reduced hours of service to the  
          public.   The department and the sponsoring person, entity,  
           government  , or organization shall specify in the agreement the  
          level of service which is to be performed.
           (1) The director may authorize the erection of appropriate  
          signage in recognition of the donation or sponsorship,  
          consistent with existing law and with the rules and regulations  
          of the department regarding signs in units of the state park  
          system. 
           (b) The department may enter into an agreement to accept  
          services from any person, corporation, or other business entity,  
           academic or educational institution, tribal government  , or  
          organization for the cleanup, repair,  restoration  or enhancement  
          of any designated state park system unit or facility  or for  
          research, educational, interpretive, recreational, or visitor  
          services provided on or for a state park system unit or  
          facility  .  Under the direction of the department, these services  
          shall supplement,  but not replace  existing staff resources for  
          the purpose of enhancing the maintenance and operation of the  
          unit or facility  or increasing, enhancing, or establishing  
          services delivered to park visitors  .
          (1) The director may authorize the erection of an appropriate  
          sign in recognition of the sponsorship, consistent with existing  
          law and with the rules and regulations of the department  
          regarding signs in units of the state park system.
           (c) The department, at its discretion, may provide access to and  
          use of park facilities to entities that have entered into  
          agreements as described in this section as long as the public  
          benefit provided by the agreement exceeds or is of comparable  
          value to any use of park facilities granted.

           In addition, the same provisions would apply to state beaches. 
               
          SUPPORT
          California State Parks Foundation

          OPPOSITION
          None Received

          
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