Assembly adds urgency clause to bill to save Delta Independent Science Board

As detailed in our June 29 blog post, Senate Bill 821 was introduced by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee to address the funding crisis for the Delta Independent Science Board. The bill has passed out of the Senate and is in the Assembly.

California Water Research raised concerns at the Delta Stewardship Council’s June 24, 2021 meeting that the bill would not take effect until January of 2022. Council member Christy Smith responded:

I’m very hopeful that an urgency clause can be added in Assembly policy committee because I think it’s warranted in the case.

The bill was amended in the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee on July 1, 2021 to add an urgency clause.

California Water Research had also submitted comments on the bill supporting increasing compensation. Our comments stated:

We believe it is insufficient to properly compensate Board members, who are nationally or internationally prominent scientists with expertise to evaluate the scientific programs that support adaptive management of the Delta.

Ryan Stanbra, the Council’s Chief Deputy Executive Director, stated at the June 24 Delta Stewardship Council meeting that increasing compensation was under discussion. SB 821 was amended in the Assembly to increase compensation to $150 an hour.

The Assembly amendments did not address concerns raised by California Water Research that the Delta Stewardship Council has not disclosed their budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21, and the lack of fiscal transparency.  We’ve also never been able to get a straight answer on the legal justification for abruptly discontinuing the contracts that had paid the Delta Independent Science Board members at professional rates.

Our comments requested that the legislature require a formal annual budget process to support the Delta Independent Science Board, stating:

This is a major challenge for the Board as well as stakeholders who rely on open and transparent governance. We ask that the legislature consider a requirement that the Board prepare and formally submit annual budget and staffing requests to DSC for approval. This procedure is used by the National Academies of Science in administering the National Research Council.

We remain hopeful that a more formal buget process could be adopted administratively by the Delta Stewardship Council.

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