78-0: California State Assembly Votes to Prohibit Fines for Brown Lawns in Droughts

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SACRAMENTO – AB 1, by Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown (D-San Bernardino), passed out of the Assembly today with broad bipartisan support, 78 to 0. AB 1 prohibits municipalities from fining their residents for not watering their lawn when a drought emergency is declared by the Governor.

“California is facing extreme drought conditions and it is completely irresponsible for a municipality to penalize its residents for conserving water,” Assemblymember Brown said. “If California is going to manage its water resources efficiently, then we cannot fine individuals for doing their part.”

In 2013, the Governor convened an interagency Drought Task Force to analyze California’s current water system and sustainability. As a result of the Drought Task Force’s findings, the Governor declared a State of Emergency and requested that Californians reduce their water usage by 20 percent.

Despite the Governor’s drought declaration and request to curb water consumption, some local municipalities continued to enforce ordinances that require residents to maintain watering their green lawns and penalize those who choose to reduce or eliminate lawn watering or have brown lawns.

The Bill will now move onto the Senate.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

 

AB 1, as introduced, Brown. Drought: local governments: fines. 

The California Constitution requires that the water resources of the state be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable and that the waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of use of water be prevented. Existing law, the California Emergency Services Act, sets forth the emergency powers of the Governor under its provisions and empowers the Governor to proclaim a state of emergency for certain conditions, including drought.
This bill would prohibit a city, county, or city and county from imposing a fine under any local maintenance ordinance or other relevant ordinance for a failure to water a lawn or having a brown lawn during a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency based on drought conditions.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

Section 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares that this act is in furtherance of the policy contained in Section 2 of Article X of the California Constitution and is a matter of statewide concern.
Section 2.
Section 8627.7 is added to the Government Code, to read:
8627.7.  (a) During a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency under this chapter based on drought conditions, a city, county, or city and county shall not impose a fine under any local maintenance ordinance or other relevant ordinance for a failure to water a lawn or for having a brown lawn.
(b) A violation of this section is not subject to the criminal penalties set forth in Section 8665.