California budget negotiations have moved into high gear with the naming of Senate and Assembly members to the bicameral budget conference committee. Leaders of the two bodies named five members each—up from three in previous years—and the conference committee held its first hearing this morning. The committee’s job is to find agreement among the three competing state budget proposals before June 15, when it must submit a final version to both houses to be voted on. The final budget agreement must be signed by the governor by the end of the month.
More on the budget, and the transportation issues that remain to be worked out, after the jump.
ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION PROGRAM
Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) saw his bill A.B. 2796 pass unanimously yesterday on the Assembly floor, and now it goes to the Senate. The bill requires a minimum of five percent of funds in the Active Transportation Program (ATP) to be allocated for planning and community engagement in disadvantaged communities, and a minimum of ten percent of ATP funds to be programmed for noninfrastructure purposes, such as education and encouragement activities.
The California Transportation Commission (CTC), which is in charge of allocating funds to the ATP, has resisted awarding funds for plans and programs, setting aside only two percent for planning in the most recent round of funding. The commissioners have made it clear that they prefer to fund building things: paths and other infrastructure. While this is good, it has put communities without money for planning—including small, rural, and low-income communities—at a disadvantage in the complex, competitive application process for ATP funding. Bloom’s bill is an attempt to make the process a little more fair.
It also acknowledges something that the CTC seems reluctant to recognize: that education and encouragement programs are necessary to get people to change their behavior, and actually use the infrastructure that communities are building. Programs like Safe Routes to Schools have seen their funding threatened and reduced with the CTC’s focus on infrastructure.
The CTC’s opposition hasn’t stopped its progress through the Assembly, but it may mean amendments in the Senate.
The “Ride Side by Side” bill, A.B. 2509 from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), is running into trouble. The bill’s author tried to add the word “safe” to existing law that requires a bicycle rider to ride “as close to the right as is either safe or practicable to the curb or roadway edge” but the words in italics above were deleted from the bill’s language. Apparently “safe” is just too subjective (and the legalese “practicable” is not?) for some legislators and their staff.
The intent of the bill is to clarify, for law enforcement and everyone, that it is okay for bicycle riders to ride side by side under certain circumstances—for example, while in a bike lane. But even that has met with stiff resistance and perplexity in committee hearings, where legislators, while protesting that they support bicycling, have made it clear they think riding side by side is a dangerous activity that will cause chaos in the streets.
The bill passed the Assembly and has been referred to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.
The California Bicycle Coalition has issued an “action alert” on the budget, urging people to contact their legislators and encourage them to support increased funding for the ATP while they negotiate the details. The Assembly and Governor’s proposals includes this increase, but the Senate version does not. A call is especially urgent if you live in a district represented by one of the Budget Conference Committee members (see end of this post for a list of members).