BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                     SB 734


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          Date of Hearing:  July 13, 2015


                       ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES


                                 Das Williams, Chair


          SB  
          734 (De León) - As Amended June 2, 2015


          SENATE VOTE:  37-0


          SUBJECT:  State lands acquisitions:  public transparency


          SUMMARY:  Requires the Natural Resources Agency (NRA) to allow  
          at least 30 days for public comment regarding proposed state  
          land acquisitions, including easements.  


          EXISTING LAW:   


          1)Establishes NRA and various entities within NRA, including the  
            Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), the Department of Parks and  
            Recreation, the Department of Conservation, and the California  
            Coastal Conservancy, which, among others, can purchase land or  
            conservation easements on behalf of the state.

          2)Requires NRA to collect and disseminate information about  
            prospective land and easement acquisition activities by the  
            state, subject to funds being provided for these purposes by  
            the Legislature, and requires that: 










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             a)   NRA develop and maintain a database of lands and  
               easements that have been acquired by the departments and  
               boards within NRA; 

             b)   All departments, boards, commissions and conservancies  
               within NRA provide information annually to the agency's  
               secretary on land acquisitions and funding, and, as  
               specified, on prospective acquisitions; 



             c)   NRA review and evaluate, as specified, any information  
               available from federal agencies pertaining to federal land  
               acquisitions; 



             d)   A uniform, open process be established to ensure that  
               information is readily available to the general public,  
               local, state, and federal agencies, adjacent landowners and  
               other interested parties of record, regarding any state  
               hearings to approve proposed state land acquisitions; and, 



             e)   Specified reporting requirements are met.





          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown


          COMMENTS:  


          1)This bill.  According to the author, this bill would increase  








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            transparency on land and conservation easement acquisitions by  
            adding at least 30 days advance notice for public comment to  
            the uniform open process established to ensure that  
            information will be readily-available regarding hearings where  
            state land acquisitions will be approved. The bill also  
            deletes the provision that does not require implementation if  
            funds are not available and makes additional technical and  
            clarifying changes to existing law.



          2)Background.  Existing law requires NRA to maintain a uniform,  
            open process so that information related to prospective land  
            acquisitions is readily available to the general public,  
            local, state, and federal agencies, adjacent landowners and  
            other interested parties.  However, there does not appear to  
            be a single readily available source of information of all  
            prospective acquisitions by the agency and the state entities  
            under its jurisdiction.  Such information is only readily  
            available on completed land and conservation easement  
            acquisitions.  

          Currently, NRA maintains a bond accountability database with  
            information on how existing natural resources bond funding,  
            such as Proposition 84, has been allocated.  Information on  
            acquisitions through earlier bonds is also available from NRA,  
            as is a registry of conservation easements.  This registry  
            includes a public search function and, according to the  
            agency, is updated when funding is available to do so.  

          Advance public notice requirements for relevant acquisitions  
            vary among existing programs, which makes it difficult for the  
            public to monitor.  Generally, if a land or conservation  
            easement acquisition constitutes a project under the  
            California Environmental Quality Act, there are applicable  
            public notice and comment requirements.  Additionally,  
            depending upon the program and funding source, the acquirer  
            may have to meet public notice and meeting requirements.  For  
            example, WCB provides its preliminary agenda on its website  








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            and notifies certain stakeholders at least 30 days in advance  
            of a hearing where acquisitions may be considered.  The final  
            agenda is released at least 10 days ahead of the hearing to  
            satisfy the open meeting requirements of the Bagley-Keene Open  
            Meetings Act.  There are also extensive notice requirements  
            both before and after acquisition under the Williamson Act for  
            agricultural lands.  Moreover, when an acquisition requires  
            action by local government entity, additional notice  
            provisions would be applicable.  Depending upon the program,  
            land acquisitions may not result in 30 days' notice to the  
            public.  
          


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:


          Support


          None on file




          Opposition


          None on file




          Analysis Prepared by:Elizabeth MacMillan / NAT. RES. / (916)  
          319-2092












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