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AB-1956 Fire prevention activities: local assistance grant program.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 09/21/2018 09:00 PM
AB1956:v90#DOCUMENT

Assembly Bill No. 1956
CHAPTER 632

An act to add Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 4124) to Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 4 of, and to repeal Section 4123 of, the Public Resources Code, relating to fire prevention.

[ Approved by Governor  September 21, 2018. Filed with Secretary of State  September 21, 2018. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1956, Limón. Fire prevention activities: local assistance grant program.
Existing law requires the Director of Forestry and Fire Protection to establish a working group, consisting of specified members, to identify potential incentives for landowners to implement prefire activities, as defined, in state responsibility areas and urban wildland communities and to identify all federal, state, or local programs, private programs, and any other programs requiring a cost share that involves prefire activities.
This bill would repeal this law.
Existing law requires the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to establish a local assistance grant program using funds collected from a specified fire prevention fee for purposes of fire prevention activities designed to benefit habitable structures within state responsibility areas, as provided.
This bill would require the department to establish a local assistance grant program, funded upon appropriation by the Legislature, for fire prevention activities, as defined. The bill would require the department to prioritize projects that are multiyear efforts. The bill would also require, contingent on the enactment of AB 3160 of the 2017–18 Regular Session, the department to prioritize local assistance grant funding applications from local agencies based on the “Fire Adapted Community” list, as provided. The bill would authorize the director, until January 1, 2024, to authorize advance payments from a grant, not to exceed 25% of the total grant award, as provided. The bill would require the director, on or before January 31, 2022, to hold a public workshop to, among other things, review activities funded by the local assistance grant program and program outcomes, and discuss and recommend possible improvements to the program. The bill would require the department to report a summary of the findings of the public workshop to the appropriate committees of the Legislature on or before July 1, 2022.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) The 2017 fire season was devastating. Over 1.3 million acres burned in high-severity wildfires and over 10,000 structures were destroyed by wildfires across the state.
(2) Forty-four people died in the 2017 fire season, more than in the last 10 years combined.
(3) During 2017 and 2018, California experienced the largest fires ever recorded in its history.
(4) CAL-FIRE and the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection have recognized that California now often experiences a year-round fire season, with an increase in both the number and the intensity of large, damaging wildfires.
(5) The increased frequency and intensity of large wildfires is due to a century of fire exclusion and the impacts of climate change.
(6) Governor Brown has declared these wildfire threats as the “new normal” in California.
(b) It is therefore the intent of the Legislature to increase the scale and pace of fire prevention activities and to ensure that fire prevention activities happen year round.

SEC. 2.

 Section 4123 of the Public Resources Code is repealed.

SEC. 3.

 Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 4124) is added to Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 4 of the Public Resources Code, to read:
Article  2.5. Fire Prevention Grants Program

4124.
 For the purposes of this article, “fire prevention activities” means those lawful activities that reduce the risk of wildfire in California, including, but not limited to, mechanical vegetation management, grazing, prescribed burns, creation of defensible space, and retrofitting of structures to increase fire resistance.

4124.5.
 (a) The department shall establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities in California. Groups eligible for grants shall include, but are not limited to, local agencies, resource conservation districts, fire safe councils, the California Conservation Corps, certified local conservation corps, University of California Cooperative Extension, Native American tribes, and qualified nonprofit organizations. The department may establish a cost-share requirement for one or more categories of projects.
(b) The local assistance grant program shall establish a robust year-round fire prevention effort in and near fire threatened communities. The department shall prioritize, to the extent feasible, projects that are multiyear efforts.
(c) Eligible activities shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) Development and implementation of public education and outreach programs. Programs may include technical assistance, workforce recruitment and training, and equipment purchases.
(2) Fire prevention activities as defined in Section 4124.
(3) Projects to improve compliance with defensible space requirements as required by Section 4291 through increased inspections and assistance for low-income residents.
(4) Technical assistance to local agencies to improve fire prevention and reduce fire hazards.
(5) Creation of additional “Firewise USA” communities in the state or other community planning or certification programs deemed as appropriate by the department.
(6) Projects to improve public safety, including, but not limited to, access to emergency equipment and improvements to public evacuation routes.
(d) The department may consider the fire risk of an area, the geographic balance of projects, and whether the project is complementary to other fire prevention or forest health activities when awarding local assistance grants.
(e) (1) Until January 1, 2024, the director may authorize advance payments from a grant awarded pursuant to this section. The advance shall not exceed 25 percent of the total grant award.
(2) The grantee shall expend the funds from the advance payment within six months of receipt, unless the department waives this requirement.
(3) The grantee shall file an accountability report with the department four months from the date of receiving the funds and every four months thereafter.
(f) The department may expand or amend an existing grant program to meet the requirements of this section.
(g) Funding for the local assistance grant program created pursuant to this section shall be made upon appropriation by the Legislature.

4124.6.
 (a) On or before January 31, 2022, the director shall hold a public workshop to do all of the following:
(1) Review activities funded by the local assistance grant program established in Section 4124.5 and program outcomes, and discuss and recommend possible improvements to the program.
(2) Identify new sources and methods of financing fire prevention activities.
(3) Review new activities or methods of fire prevention that could protect life and property including, but not limited to, the prevention of high wind grass fires.
(b) (1) The department shall report a summary of the findings of the public workshop to the appropriate policy committees of the Legislature on or before July 1, 2022. The department shall include in the report any recommendations it has developed for improving the local assistance grant program established in Section 4124.5, for consideration by the Legislature.
(2) The requirement for submitting a report imposed under paragraph (1) is inoperative on July 1, 2026, pursuant to Section 10231.5 of the Government Code.

4124.7.
 (a) The department shall, except for activities described in paragraph (5) of subdivision (c) of Section 4124.5, prioritize local assistance grant funding applications from local agencies based on the “Fire Adapted Community” list, upon development of the list, pursuant to Section 4290.1.
(b) The prioritization required in subdivision (a) shall not affect applications from entities that are not local agencies.
(c) This section shall become operative only if Assembly Bill 3160 of the 2017–18 Regular Session is chaptered and becomes effective on or before January 1, 2019.