Welcome to Capitol Corner, a series dedicated to providing updates on CalTrout’s legislative and policy work. CalTrout’s policy team includes Redgie Collins (Legal and Policy Director), Analise Rivero (Associate Director of Policy), and Kam Bezdek (Policy Intern). This dynamic trio manages the development and implementation of CalTrout’s natural resource and water policy agenda in the California state legislature. Their work includes, but is not limited to, supporting CalTrout’s organizational goals through regulatory and public funding advocacy, building relationships with state agencies, and working directly with key decision makers to support issues that advance the mission and programs of CalTrout.
Written by Redgie Collins, Legal and Policy Director
As I walk past the Capitol in Sacramento, I realize the redwoods, citrus trees, and other idyllic California trees are seemingly the only thing that remains consistent here. The iconic Sacramento Capitol building is draped in scaffolding, and I am hustling to make a hearing to provide CalTrout testimony for AB 2451, a bill aimed at building a permanent drought section within the State Water Resources Control Board.
AB 2451 is the first push to start the new advocacy legacy of California Trout. Once passed, our bill will add 15 to 20 full-time staff positions in a permanent Drought Section to address California’s new water reality. We are moving beyond the actuality that 9 out of the last 16 years have been drought emergencies for our state, and into planning for a future that prepares for the growing aridification of California. This bill is our first step towards affirmatively tackling the necessary changes to prepare California for a dryer, more variable climate.
We also are entering a critical election cycle. Due to many ending term limits and new district boundaries, 26 members of the California Assembly and Senate are departing the state’s capitol by year’s end. As such, the upcoming legislative “class” will be the largest incoming class since 2012. There are candidates running for 20 Senate positions and 80 Assembly positions. It is expected that Democrats will retain majority of both chambers; Democrats control roughly three in four seats in both the Senate and Assembly.
This unique time is also coupled with a state legislature and administration that has provided funding for natural resources to the tune of a projected $8-10 billion in just the last three years. We have an unprecedented opportunity right now to advocate for big scale restoration. We cannot nickel and dime salmon, steelhead, and trout recovery. CalTrout is pushing state agencies to build their capacity to make watershed-level impact, from ridgetops to river mouths. Moreover, we are actively building relationships with other NGOs, tribal nations, and water users to find common ground on which to build a California that includes a future for our state’s keystone fish species.
These major needs were reflected in CalTrout’s latest budget bid. CalTrout is pushing for billions of dollars to be sent to agencies that share the ideals that we have and we’re also supporting legislation that builds tribal capacity for Indigenous folks to lead in restoration activities.
My testimony that morning was hurried and done in front of a plexiglass COVID barrier in the new swing space for the legislature. Post-testimony, I met up with CalTrout’s Associate Director of Policy, Analise Rivero, and we shared our thoughts on the shifting political climate over two much-needed iced coffees in an already sweltering morning in Sacramento. Things are shifting in a good way for CalTrout’s legal and policy team. Our organization has never been better poised to take advantage of our growing reputation as the leader in freshwater restoration throughout the state, and we are fully staffed to handle the responsibility.