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State Bill Would Slow Fire Prevention Work

On behalf of the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors and County Administrative Office, I am writing to inform you of the troubling consequences that would arise from Assembly Bill 338 if it were to be signed into law.

The 2023 Legislative Platform of the County of Tuolumne outlines the principles and priorities of the Board of Supervisors. The Board opposes any legislation that will impede our ability to self-govern and maintain local control. They also oppose any legislation that would impose undue burden or otherwise restrict Tuolumne County’s ability to efficiently perform forest management and fire mitigation activities. If passed, AB 338 would do both of these things. The Board of Supervisors has already sent two letters of opposition to this bill during this legislative cycle.

AB 338 would expand the definition of “public works” to include fuel reduction and fire mitigation work paid for in part or whole with public funds, thereby requiring the payment of prevailing wage. This would have very serious consequences for Tuolumne County. The County Administrator’s Office has been working with the US Forest Service to implement tens of thousands of acres of grant-funded fuel reduction projects in Tuolumne County. AB 338 would slow this process down, make it more expensive, take money out of our economy, and reduce the amount of work we can accomplish to protect our resources and communities.

  • Requiring prevailing wage would put many small Tuolumne County contractors at a competitive disadvantage. The requirements to become a prevailing wage employer are time, resource, and labor-intensive. This makes it more difficult for local contractors to compete with larger out-of-county contractors who have the resources and personnel to offer prevailing wage positions.
  • With local contractors less able to compete, the money that has been flowing into our local economy through these grant-funded projects will begin to flow into other economies instead of staying local.
  • Dollar-for-dollar, AB 338 will reduce the amount of work we can complete with these funds. Prevailing-wage employers have significantly higher administrative cost to maintain their status and their project costs are more expensive. This means fewer acres treated per project, and our community and resources will be less safe.
  • Last year, this bill’s author introduced an identical piece of legislation (AB 1717). Governor Newsom vetoed it, citing the exact same reasoning I am explaining now. These projects need to move quickly, and the imposition of prevailing wage will introduce red tape into the process unnecessarily. As currently written, AB 338 is identical to the language from AB 1717. This means the author has made no effort to address the governor’s concerns. This sends the message that they either do not care about the very real consequences that could arise if this bill should pass, or they are unwilling or unable to compromise on what they are trying to accomplish.

We want our community to light up the author’s office with letters and phone calls opposing this legislation. We want our community to absolutely flood the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee (the committee where the bill is currently assigned, but has not yet been heard) with letters of opposition.

The public can find a template letter of opposition on the Legislative Advocacy page of the Tuolumne County website at https://www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov/1732/Letters-of-Support-Opposition

They can download the template letter there and alter the highlighted sections to reflect their name and the current date. That web page also has all the instructions to register on the California Legislature Position Letter Portal so they can send letters directly to the committee. It also has the bill author’s name, PO Box in Sacramento, and three contact numbers for her offices: one for her capitol office and her two district offices.

Only large contractors would benefit if AB 338 were to pass, and the cost will be the economies, livelihoods, and possibly lives of people in rural areas like Tuolumne County.

Respectfully,
Mark Fischer
Legislative Analyst for Tuolumne County Administrator’s Office

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