The End is Nigh…Preparing for the long weekend, Squid was feeling extra lazy. Ineffective tanning of Squid’s translucent limbs? Check. An extra night to watch re-runs of Squid favorite apocalyptic movies? Check. Everything felt settled and routine. That’s how it was in Squid’s lair, anyway. But lo and behold, it was not to be at the Capitol—with just two weeks left of this legislative session and hundreds of bills to sort through, it’s crunch time for lawmakers in Sacramento, and some bills are coming off the rails and dying unpredictable deaths.
To most everyone’s surprise, Senate Bill 189, which would extend the life of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority for two years past its sunset date of June 30, 2020, did not make the cut.
State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, authored the bill and shepherded it through the State Senate. But when it came before the members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday Aug. 30, they decided to hold the bill—which is a bureaucratic way to say they killed it.
Josh Metz, one of the remaining executives on FORA’s shrinking staff, tells Squid’s colleague he was notified on Friday but did not receive an explanation for the committee’s decision.
“The official word is that it was held in suspense, which means that it is not going forward save for whatever special maneuvers lawmakers come up with,” Metz says. “That effectively means, yes, it’s dead.”
Unofficially, Metz says he heard that a senior lawmaker—“someone with influence”—intervened to scuttle the bill.
“There is substantial work to be done,” Metz says. “We could be seeing the loss of a regional governing body that played a unique role. What happens next will be interesting to watch.”
An analysis of the bill by the staff of the Appropriations Committee noted opposition from the city of Marina.
Marina wrote to the committee, accusing FORA of pursuing “nonsensical priorities.”
“The cities of Marina and Seaside are expected to fund projects established by the FORA board located largely outside their jurisdictions and which show little, if any, benefit on regional traffic impacts and water augmentation, both critical concerns,” per the “opposition” section of the staff report.
Marina also wrote that FORA has failed to remove 588 blighted and dilapidated military structures on city property: “These structures are in plain sight, full of hazardous asbestos and lead, and are routinely slept in by the homeless.”
Neither Monning nor Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, were available on Tuesday morning for comment.
Squid will be watching closely to see what happens next. It rivals any rom-com or post-apocalyptic TV movies, with all the characters in their places. There's Marina the antagonist, with its impassioned written opposition. There's Monterey playing a weak protagonist, which authored a milquetoast argument in support (contrasting with Marina's impassioned opposition): "The fees generated on the land were calculated to attribute individual responsibilities to our communities in order to improve the overall economic and social health of our region…"
And of course there's the longtime staff member at the helm of FORA, Michael Houlemard, who already has plans to ride off into the sunset. After earning a hefty $342,022 in wages and benefits in 2017, the FORA board already approved his plan to retire in December with some cushy conditions: He's allowed to work remotely three days a week; he gets an extra 20 days of paid leave (a notably large proportion of his remaining time on the clock and, seemingly, FORA's existence); and his medical insurance premiums will be reimbursed until June 30, 2021. (Squid's not sure what happens to that last perk if FORA itself no longer exists after 2020.)
And of course there's Monning, who already extended FORA's sunset date once, with AB 1614 in 2012 when he was in the Assembly; that kept the agency going from its original end date of 2014 through 2020.
Just when Squid started to feel like we'd seen this movie before, this time it looks like it will have a different ending.