Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Article provided by the SCGA

Last Friday was the deadline for the filing of 2024 bills. Because 2024 is the second year of California’s two-year legislative session as well as a presidential election year, there were fewer bills filed this year than last. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t a lot of filings. California’s legislators like to file bills, many of them duplicative. It will take us a few more days to decipher the details of all of them and then determine which among those “details” are in bills that may have some measure of traction, but thus far, our sense is that unlike recent sessions in which the statewide golf community was confronted with impactful bills regarding subjects like independent contracting, non-organic inputs, subsidies to convert municipal golf courses to housing, weakening of Surplus Land Act protections, and prohibitions on the use of potable water for certain types of turf, this session looks benign in comparison, although there is one bill we’ve tagged – AB 3192 (Muratsuchi; D-Torrance) – that has our attention. It’s a version of a similar bill that in 2023 imploded at the Committee level. While there are other prohibitions in AB 3192, the proscription that affects golf, albeit ONLY those golf courses that are parts of resorts in California’s coastal zone, is a blanket prohibition on “the use of any nonorganic pesticide, as defined, or fertilizing material, as defined, at a major coastal resort.” While it would appear that only those golf courses that are tied by ownership to a resort are included in the prohibition, it’s not entirely clear.

There are additional bills dealing with some of the subjects above to be sure, albeit none that are in any way comparable to the two bills (AB 672 and AB 1910) that stimulated the game’s “Public Golf Endangerment Act” campaign or the game’s efforts to preserve a measure of independent contracting for those PGA golf professionals desirous of that status.

The California golf community should use the time-out to be proactive. The game’s issues with water, land use, and the public’s perceptions of both that spell the difference between good and bad outcomes in the public arena aren’t going to disappear during this brief respite.

If we do find disturbing nuggets in the 2024 pile of bills in addition to AB 3192, we’ll certainly let you know. We’re still culling through the deluge of late filings.

In the meantime, we would like to share a couple of bills that aim to begin the process of implementing the hundreds of millions of dollars of general fund allocations enunciated in Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-82-20 and spelled out in detail in the Governor’s November 2023 “Outdoors for All” initiative calling for the “equitable” provision of access to parks, programs, and nature – in plainer English known as directing investment in urban based needs and programs in addition to the more suburban and exurban needs that have tended to be the beneficiaries of these kinds of commitments cum allocations in California’s past.

Okay, that may not have been “plainer English” as many would describe it. So, let us be blunt. There are two (2) bills in the 2024 file that take aim at the state’s propensity to expend disproportionate resources on the green space, environmental, and recreational tastes and preferences of affluent Californians by focusing more of those resources on California’s tightly packed urban areas that have long been deemed “park poor.” If you understand those places as precisely the places where the game of golf focuses virtually all of its developmental and “grow the game” resources (Team USA notwithstanding) as well as the places that were most endangered by the “Public Golf Endangerment Act,” suffice it to say you are a regular reader of these “Updates” and a follower of SCGA’s campaigns to increase the game’s societal benefit quotient among the 90% of the population that doesn’t play the game.

Two (2) bills in the 2024 hopper, one much better in our opinion than the other. The much better one is AB 2285 (Rendon; D-Lakewood). Its title:“Environmental protection: 30×30 goal: urban nature-based investments: parity.” Two (2) of its “key” declarations:

  1. It is the intent of the Legislature to codify the priorities identified in the November 2023 report of the Outdoors for All initiative“Providing Equitable Access to Parks and Nature,” and to encourage the Governor’s administration and the Legislature, when distributing resources towards conservation and restoration goals during future budgetary deliberations, to ensure parity in allocations toward urban nature-based investments.
  2. It is the intent of the Legislature to require state funding entities, including, but not limited to, state conservancies and the Wildlife Conservation Board, when programming and awarding funds to revise, modify, or amend guidelines as necessary to meet the 30×30 goal, to allow for urban nature-based projects on degraded lands to be eligible and competitive for state funds.

AB 2285 specifically references the massive “Parks Needs Assessment” study the County of Los Angeles completed in 2022 as having “piggybacked off the Governor’s and First Partner’s work on the 30×30 goal and “Outdoors for All” and prepared the 2022 Parks Needs Assessment Plus (PNA+) that identifies areas for Los Angeles-based environmental conservation and restoration that form the basis of the 30×30 goal. The three (3) findings the bill makes about the relationship between the author’s intent and this LA County “Assessment” is telling:PNA+ goes beyond traditional conservation models that involve the acquisition and protection of natural lands and reimagines the 30×30 goal through a more equity- and access-facing lens to direct funding and resources into the healing and conversion of blighted, degraded, and otherwise underutilized urban-based lands into green spaces and microhabitats promoting nature-based opportunities, access, and enhanced community and neighborhood aesthetics.Through thorough analysis, PNA+ identifies possible green space acquisition and restoration opportunities within the county and reveals a sharp contrast among regions in the county.PNA+ discovered that most of the available land for acquisition pursuant to the 30×30 goal was in the north County of Los Angeles, an area already rich in park and open-space resources as compared to the south County of Los Angeles, an area richer in diversity and more challenged economically, wherein the opportunities for 30×30 projects are confined to degraded and underutilized lands.

While AB 2285 is very intentional in terms of that component of the Governor’s Executive Order highlighting the need to focus on underserved communities/constituencies, the way in which Los Angeles County’s 2022 “Parks Needs Assessment” study is perfectly suited to effectuate that component of the Governor’s EO, and the need to direct more of the resources called for by the “30 by 30” aspiration contained in that EO (30% more public lands by 2030) to urban California, the “other” bill in the 2024 file that aims to begin the legislative effectuation of the Governor’s November 2023 “Outdoors for All” initiative is more oriented toward the environmental, biodiversity, and coastal aspects of Governor Newsom’s Order, so much so that much of the funding and priorities oversight envisaged therein is reposed in a statewide council dominated by the environmental interests that have long skewed heavily in favor of those kinds of “environmental” concerns (e.g., natural habitat, rewilding, and coastal restoration) that as LA County’s “Needs Assessment” study points out tend to direct public resources in directions opposite of the “equitable outdoor access” that forms one of the pillars of that same Gubernatorial Order.

That “second bill” is AB 2440 (Reyes; D-San Bernardino). It does not reference the Los Angeles County Park Needs Assessment that AB 2285 author Anthony Rendon declared an effectuation of the “equity” principle that suffused so much of the Governor’s “Outdoors for All” Executive Order. Nor does it put the same focus on urban specific investments. As such, it is the much weaker of the two bills in terms of focus on the “park poor” communities where so many of golf’s growth programs are located and dollars invested.

To the degree to which the Southern California golf community has managed to reposition the game in the minds of so many urban park departments and elected leaders as being heavily invested in the golf facilities, programs, and residents who live in these “park poor” communities, there are park departments and elected leaders prepared to invest some portion of the funds envisaged by these bills in municipal golf courses and municipal golf programs.

That discussion is there for the taking, and it is there because of the solid work SCGA has been doing in support of those communities for years, not just in terms of the work the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation has been doing, but as much in terms of just how much emphasis the SCGA has placed on the role that golf can play in those communities for both those who play the game and those who don’t. There are no toolboxes for that, no elevator speeches, no bullet point lists, no best practices – no shortcuts to the long hard work of translating high minded words into the kinds of deeds that convince those who live in those communities and those who represent them that SCGA does these things not out of any sense of “noblesse oblige, but rather because it intends to live the words behind the tag line, “Golf for All.”

It’s why we say as often as we can that our central task is not the parsing of bills and regulations, but rather the narrative that drives the views held by those who don’t play the game. If their view defines the game as too much land that uses too much water to serve the interests of the too few who have had too much for too long, the bills and regulations are not likely to break our way. If their view defines golf as environmental, social, charitable, and recreational contributors to the quality of the lives lived in the communities where golf courses are sited, golf will get fair treatment. The game may even get a few of the dollars envisaged by AB 2285, AB 2440, and other bills calculated to mitigate the dearth of resources dedicated to urban park/green space needs.

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Those interested in AB 2285 and AB 2440 as they were filled by their authors (unamended) can click here for a PDF version of AB 2285 and here for a PDF of 2440. Those interested in tracking the bills as they are amended and move through the legislative process can click here for direction.

The many more of you likely interested in AB 3192 can click here for a PDF version or click here to track it as it is amended and moves through the legislative process.