Capitol Alert

Senate Democrats send drought suggestions to Jerry Brown

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, talks about climate change at the 18th annual Milken Institute Global Conference on Wednesday in Beverly Hills.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, talks about climate change at the 18th annual Milken Institute Global Conference on Wednesday in Beverly Hills. AP

As California officials ramp up response to the historic drought, Senate Democrats are pitching in with their own suggestions for water conservation and emergency relief under these “new normal” conditions.

In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown released Thursday, the Senate Democratic Caucus offered a list of 12 steps the state could take to deal with the four-year dry spell, including appointing a “water czar” within the Governor’s Office to coordinate the state’s drought response.

Among the other suggestions are using money from the $7.5 billion water bond and the greenhouse gas reduction fund for drought relief programs; creating new incentives for farmers to use water more efficiently; replacing lawns at state buildings with drought-friendly landscaping; and investing in more residential recycled water systems.

Senate Democrats also said the state should adopt a new model tiered-rate system that could be used by local governments after one such method was ruled unconstitutional by a state appeals court.

“As the crisis grows, our two branches of government should work even more closely so that the state responds quickly and appropriately to the conditions on the ground,” the letter states. “Therefore, we want to offer our help and suggestions for additional actions that may be needed as we enter the driest months of the year.”

On Tuesday, Brown proposed granting local water agencies new enforcement powers, including fines of up to $10,000 for violations of conservation orders. At an appearance in Oakland Thursday to offer a revised plan for his twin Delta tunnels project, he was cool on the Senate Democrats’ ideas.

"We'll take a look at them,” Brown said. "This government ... I don't just snap my fingers and everything starts, engineers start making things happen. It's complicated."

He said state officials are "working pretty hard to get stuff done."

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 1:48 p.m. to add Brown’s comments.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff. David Siders of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

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