Senate Committee Hearing Notes - January 18, 2012
January 18, 2012
The Senate Majority Caucus has compiled the following summaries of oversight hearings conducted in late December 2011 through January 16, 2012.
Senate Committee on Agriculture
Senate Committee on Education and Assembly Committee on Higher Education
Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee
Senate Select Committee on Procurement
Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations
The Senate Committee on Agriculture held a hearing to assess the costs - economic and otherwise - to California from the presence of select "exotic" pests, and ongoing efforts to eradicate them, as well as preventing those pests from establishing breeding space in select parts of the state. In the short-run, the economic costs following the entry of an invasive pest can be very large. For example, the short-run economic costs of new infestations of the ash whitefly, silverleaf whitefly and glassy-winged sharpshooter were estimated to be between $409 million to $497 million. In the long run, those testifying before the committee reported that the costs of eradicating the pests are lower when management of the species is improved. The long-run costs to public agencies, consumers and producers from the environmental establishment of seven species (including those listed above) were estimated to be between $542 million and $1.27 billion per year.
Members of the committee heard testimony regarding the current concerns regarding the light brown apple moth. It was brought to the committee's attention that should the light brown apple moth become established throughout California, the cost of production for affected growers are estimated to increase by $486 million to $689 million per year. Higher market prices can mitigate the cost to producers, but leads to an increase cost to consumers.
Senate Committee on Education and Assembly Committee on Higher Education
The Senate Committee on Education and the Assembly Committee on Higher Education held a Joint Informational Hearing on UC and CSU Policies, Procedures, and Responses of Campus Police to On-Campus Demonstrations. The hearing was prompted by separate incidents involving police actions at two University of California campuses and a meeting of the CSU Trustees in November.
During the hearing, committee members heard testimony by panelists representing the University of California, California State University, American Civil Liberties Union and various student associations. Committee members inquired into general "use of force" policies and "best practices," UC and CSU system wide policies, individual campus policies, and student procedures and responsibilities for addressing non-violent demonstrations. UC and CSU officials confirmed the need to facilitate a robust environment for peaceful demonstration. Additionally, former Senator Tom Hayden spoke on the health and safety concerns with the use of pepper spray as a non-lethal method of crowd control and urged legislation to study those health effects. Prior to the hearing, UC Davis provided documents on responses to prepared questions and the campus' public safety and security strategic vision.
To ensure balance between the preservation of First Amendment rights to free speech and safety of students, faculty and the campus community, Senator Alan Lowenthal indicated his intent to conduct a follow-up hearing early next year so that UC and CSU administrators can report the outcome of their various investigations. Both UC President Mark Yudof and UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi stated that investigations are scheduled to be finished by the end of January and a UC system-wide report is to be issued by March 1, 2012.
The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee held an oversight hearing on how the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) is implementing clean energy programs required by the state.
Through the passage of SBX2 (Simitian), the state has increased the requirement for utilities' use of renewable energy to 33 percent by 2020. Currently, many utilities are at or near procuring 20 percent of electric generation from renewable resources. While the national per capita energy use has nearly doubled over the last 30 years, California's use generally remained level during that time due to myriad energy efficiency programs.
The cooperation of publicly and privately owned electric utilities will be needed for the state to meet the 33 percent renewable energy goals. Although the state's investor-owned utilities (IOUs) account for approximately 25 percent of retail electric sales in the state, there are more than 40 separate energy-providing municipal or publicly owned utilities (POUs) throughout California which share 25 percent of the load. As a consequence the success of the POUs in implementing our clean energy goals will be integral to California's overall success in achieving those objectives.
DWP is the largest POU in the state with approximately 1.5 million customer connections and 10 percent of retail electric sales will play a critical role. Its success will have a significant impact on achieving our clean energy goals.
Small business owners from throughout the state weighed in on impediments to their successful and robust participation in the High-Speed Rail project before a meeting of the Select Committee on Procurement, chaired by Senator Curren Price.
Staff from the High-Speed Rail Authority testified that they are working towards a 30 percent goal for participation by small and disadvantaged business enterprises on the project and are currently in the process of accepting public comments on that proposal through mid-January. Public comments at the hearing indicated that many businesses have had negative experiences in obtaining contracts and may not have confidence or assurances that the Authority will be able to ensure participation by small business subcontractors once prime contracts are awarded.
Additionally, concern was raised that the Authority has not collected data from current contractors about participation of small and disadvantaged business enterprises to date, and it may not be offering equitable outreach and awareness efforts about participation opportunities in many regions throughout the state.
The Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations conducted an informational hearing on employment verification practices that have emerged, in large part, to the aftermath of the mortgage crisis and passage of the Dodd-Frank Act. Testimony was given by representatives from the California Bankers Association, Equifax, TransUnion, Employment Development Department (EDD), and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Equifax, TransUnion, and other similar companies have started to collect employment and salary information from many private businesses to supplement credit checks for approval of a loan or line of credit. Many of these companies are urging a partnership with EDD for access to employment data. Greg Riggs, Deputy Director of Policy, Accountability and Compliance for EDD, noted that the intended use of employment data by EDD is for determining benefit programs for unemployed workers. Citing cases from other state governments, Riggs expressed significant concerns of security and privacy over the use of data by allowing private third-party entities access to state databases. He also emphasized that there may be increased costs for auditing of private use of state employment data.