(Sacramento) – Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) announced today that 43 other lawmakers joined him to defeat AB 2639, a bill that would have accelerated the adoption of the State Water Grab, officially known as the update to the Bay-Delta Plan. The bill, authored by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would also have prohibited the State Water Board from issuing any new water right permits, putting in jeopardy badly needed new water storage projects like Sites Reservoir.
“I appealed to my colleagues on a very personal level,” said Gray in describing his efforts to gather enough votes to defeat the bill. “There is no other region of the state that would be as heavily impacted by this bill as my district and the people I represent. I asked my colleagues to consider what they would ask of me if their districts were similarly targeted. I told the story of the decades-long fight my community has waged against the water grab, and how the State Water Board has decided that the impacts to our economy and our drinking water are ‘significant, but unavoidable.’ I asked them if the Assembly was prepared to make the same decision.”
In total, 44 members of the Assembly either abstained or voted no on the bill denying it the 41 votes it needed to pass. Opposition to the bill was strongest among inland California lawmakers from the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento, and the Inland Empire, but opposition also came from Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange County.
“It took a board coalition to defeat the bill. The San Joaquin Valley doesn’t always have enough friends in the State Legislature to stop bad bills, but we did today. I am grateful to my colleagues who took the time to understand a complicated issue. They made the difference today.”
Gray had taken the unusual step of submitting “hostile amendments” against the bill. Gray’s amendments would have prevented the bill from going into effect if it was found to negatively impact the quantity or quality of the drinking water of the Valley’s poorest zip codes.
“I submitted those amendments to highlight the incredible hypocrisy that was on display,” said Gray. “The supporters of that bill talk a lot about protecting poor and vulnerable communities, but when push comes to shove they were prepared to trade the running water of poor people for more water in the Delta. A lot of bills get framed as fish versus farmers. I want my colleagues to understand that when you attack farmers you are also attacking the thousands of families that live around those farms and depend on them for their livelihoods even when they don't work on those farms.”
The author of the bill refused to consider Gray’s amendments and took it up for a vote without any changes.
“Refusing to negotiate has recently become a badge of honor for some members in the State Legislature. I hope that this is a lesson and an example that good public policy happens when all points of view are considered. More than anything, I think their refusal to compromise is what killed this bill.”