News from the Capitol: AB-1194 passes Assembly!
May 30, 2013 3 Comments
The last week saw some major progress toward protecting Safe Routes to School in the California Legislature.
Assembly Bill 1194 (Ammiano) passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee 13-0 on Friday and went straight to a vote on the Assembly floor today, passing again by an overwhelming 76-2 (with two no-votes coming from republicans Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks and Shannon Grove of Bakersfield). Also last week, the Governor’s proposal for an Active Transportation Program, which would consolidate Safe Routes to School funding into a larger competitive program without clarity on how SRTS projects would fare, was denied by the Assembly and Senate budget subcommittees. Members in both houses of the Legislature and on both sides of the aisle demonstrated broad support for ensuring California communities continue to receive Safe Routes to School funding.
AB-1194 maintains the Safe Routes to School program at the state level, requires at least 20% of funding be spent on non-infrastructure programs and 4% support a technical assistance resource center, and ensures that Caltrans continue to employ a full-time Safe Routes to School state coordinator. The bill passed the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 15 by unanimous vote and was put on “suspense” in the Assembly Appropriations Committee until last Friday.
In order for AB-1194 to come off suspense, the Appropriations Committee struck a line from the bill that would ensure $46 million (level funding from state and federal sources) be guaranteed for future years for Safe Routes to School. Instead, level funding for the program will have to be approved through the state budget process each year. Though the amendment removing the $46M guarantee makes more work for advocates in future years, the bill still effectively simplifies and continues the structure of the program.
AB-1194 now moves to the Senate for review in committee and vote and will eventually go to the Governor’s desk for passage in September.
Moving parallel to the bill, the Governor’s state budget was also up for vote in the Legislature last week, including the Active Transportation Program (ATP) proposal. A strong group of advocates spoke in the budget subcommittee hearings on both the Assembly and Senate side, and the members responded supportively. On the Assembly side, Assemblywoman Campos expressed particular concern for Safe Routes to School based on her experience with the program during her local government tenure. On the Senate side, Senator and Committee Chairman Beall expressed desperation that two children in his district had been killed in the last month on roads adjacent to schools, and spoke passionately on the importance of this issue. Senator Beall added that in his personal experience as a county supervisor in San Jose, the comprehensive 5 E’s approach to Safe Routes to School was critical to program success.
After public comments and discussion by the members, the subcommittees voted to reject the Governor’s ATP proposal as written in the budget bill, but to keep the concept of the Active Transportation Program alive through a placeholder in the budget bill to allow negotiations to continue between the Transportation Agency, the Legislature, and advocates. The goal of more negotiations is to craft a program that will be more effective in building bike/ped and Safe Routes to School projects without losing the best aspects of the existing programs. The budget subcommittees also voted to keep the current number of staff at Caltrans Local Assistance that currently manage bike/ped program grants (the Governor’s proposal would cut 5 positions), and to ensure that funding continues to flow to existing programs this fiscal year until the new program is created.
The Governor’s budget must be adopted by June 15, so a compromise on the Active Transportation Program should be reached by that deadline and details finalized in August. Advocates will continue to appeal that dedicated funding be preserved for Safe Routes to School projects and non-infrastructure programs within the ATP.
Stay tuned to saferoutescalifornia.org for the latest updates on the Active Transportation Program and AB-1194!