Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 – 9:21 pm
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 – 11:11 pm

As the 2012-14 biennial legislative session entered its final week Monday, it was evident – with very few exceptions – that big public policy issues have given way to conflicts among moneyed interests.

One of those exceptions is the regulation of groundwater, which ordinarily supplies about a third of California’s water supply, but in droughts such as the current one, that may rise to 50 percent.

Farmers have turned to their wells and underground aquifers to compensate for cutbacks of water from reservoirs and rivers and, many fear, so depleted them that the land is collapsing.

California is the only state without a formal groundwater regulation system. Environmental groups, among others, are pushing legislation, Senate Bill 1168, that would require regional “groundwater sustainability plans” to be written.

Farmers are not happy with the bill and are offering an alternative, Senate Bill 757, that was introduced just last Friday as a “gut-and-amend.”

The most prominent of the nearly 400 bills remaining on the Legislature’s agenda are of the other variety, pitting interest groups against one another.

California will not rise or fall on whether some milk prices are deregulated or Uber and other ride-sharing companies are regulated; whether plastic grocery bags are banned; whether employers must offer paid sick leave to workers; or whether the movie industry gets a $400 million tax subsidy to film in California.

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