Analysis of the Senate Appropriations Committee

Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary

Hearing Date: 8/4/04 Amended: 5/20/04

Consultant: Miriam Barcellona Ingenito Policy

Vote: NR&W 6-3

BILL SUMMARY: AB 2600 would establish the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) within the Resources Agency.

STAFF COMMENTS: This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense file. Based on the recent start up costs of other conservancies, and the relative size of the proposed SNC, staff estimates start-up costs to be around $1 million. In order to fully implement AB 2600, SNC would initially need approximately six positions, or about $480,000 in salaries and benefits. This would include an executive officer, an executive secretary, a land agent, program manager, grant administrator and general administrator. Given its size and authorized programs, SNC would likely ultimately be the approximate size of the State Coastal Conservancy, which has about 70 positions and an operating budget of about $7 million. In addition to staffing, other ongoing costs for basic operation would be in excess of $175,000 to cover rent, utilities, travel, mailings, and board member compensation. These costs would likely be higher given the likely need to create multiple offices within the jurisdiction.

Additional one-time costs could include a conservancy planning document or general data gathering and baseline information.

All state conservancies are assigned a Deputy Attorney General from the Land Law Section of the Attorney General's (AG's) office. These attorneys provide legal advice to the board and ensure that the meetings are run in compliance with the open meeting acts. The AG estimates it would require at least a half of a deputy attorney general position and a secretarial complement.

AB 2600 would authorize the SNC to provide grants and acquire and manage lands, among other things, creating a significant cost pressure to the General Fund, various special funds, and future bond issuance. Proposition 40 allocated at least $40 million to each of the seven existing conservancies.

Assuming future bonds would include a $40 million set-aside for the SNC, interest costs to the General Fund would be $26 million.

AB 2600 is a work in progress. While the bill is on suspense, Assemblymembers Laird and Leslie are working with the Resources Agency, local interests, and legislative staff to resolve three outstanding issues:

1. Boundaries of SNC;

2. Board make-up (AB 2600 currently has a seven-member voting board and ex officio members); and

3. What role, if any, local-governments would play in

SNC's ability to acquire real property in fee title.

Additionally, there are a number of technical clarifications and corrections that staff will work with the author's office on while the bill is on Suspense.

STAFF NOTES that AB 2600 references the role of local governments explicitly in the establishment of the SNC stating that the SNC is to work in collaboration and cooperation with local governments and interested parties. No other conservancy has this explicit direction.

Additionally, AB 2600 would authorize SNC to establish advisory boards or committees. If the conservancy chose, it could set up a local government advisory committee for each of the six regions of the Sierra Nevada region.

STAFF NOTES that other conservancies were recently created with only an executive officer and executive security, with operating budgets of $264,000. Those conservancies, however, rely heavily on other departments to implement their statutes.

Administrative functions have been transferred to other departments (primarily the Departments of Parks and Recreation [DPR] and Fish and Game [DFG]). It is not possible for a two-person office to acquire and manage land, and administer a grant program, among other things. Existing two-person conservancies use the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), or some other entity, to perform these functions. As more conservancies are created by the Legislature, the burden on DPR, DFG, WCB, and other entities under the RA increases and either these departments need additional staff and resources, or the new conservancy requires a staff of six; either way, the creation of an additional conservancy would result in significant costs to the state.