SCGA Public Affairs

AB 3192 [Muratsuchi; D-Torrance]

Monday, February 26, 2024

We picked up this late entry into the 2024 Assembly pile just before we sent out last Wednesday’s Public Affairs Update – a report that was mostly about the way in which Mother Nature and the California Legislature had given us a breather “to focus less on the exigencies of the moment and more on the challenges of the longer term.” “Mostly” but not entirely, as we edited the Update just before sending to indicate that we had tagged AB 3192 for additional scrutiny with an eye toward coalescing SCGA’s partners in the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) around some kind of response.


That “additional scrutiny” has only heightened our resolve to proceed down this road.

SUMMARY

AB 3192 [“Major Coastal Resorts Environmental Accountability Act”] would among other things prohibit the use of “any nonorganic pesticide or fertilizing material at a “major coastal resort” that per the Act is defined as a resort or hotel that meets all of the following:

  • Is composed of more than 300 guest rooms or units.
  • Includes or operates a golf course on the premises.
  • Is located in whole or in part in the coastal zone.
  • Is either of the following:
    • Located, in any part, within 100 meters of the mean high tide line of the sea.
    • Includes, is adjacent to, or is within 400 meters of, any part of any of the following:
      • An environmentally sensitive area.
      • A sensitive coastal resource area.
      • An area otherwise protected or preserved under state, federal, or local law, including, but not limited to, marine managed areas and marine protected areas as defined under Section 36602.
      • The habitat of a species protected under state, federal, or local law, including, but not limited to, species that are identified as endangered, threatened, rare, species of concern, or species of special concern by a state or federal agency, and special status species tracked by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s California Natural Diversity Database.

Per the language of the bill:

“Pesticide” means a conventional pesticide with all active ingredients other than biological pesticides and antimicrobial pesticides, with conventional active ingredients generally produced synthetically, including synthetic chemicals that prevent, mitigate, destroy, or repel any pest or that act as a plant growth regulator, desiccant, defoliant, or nitrogen stabilizer, and shall include insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, fungicides, and growth regulators.

A broad definition to say the least and certainly one that would include at least some of the products now permitted in California’s Coastal Zone. It’s important to remember that certain non-organic inputs permitted in the rest of California are already prohibited in the area deemed “coastal zone” and regulated as well as permitted separately by the California Coastal Commission.

There are additional proscriptions in the bill related to the use of single use plastics along with additional layers of oversight, stringent compliance audits, and a set of focused whistleblower protections for employees who report violations to state agencies. But it’s the blanket use of all “fertilizing materials” that is of concern to the golf community.

HISTORY

AB 3192 is almost identical to a bill (AB 1590) filed last session that imploded when brought before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee – “imploded” as in coming close to failing to get a second to the motion to move it out of committee, a motion that the bill’s author had to make when none of her colleagues saw fit to move it, and then receiving less than half of the votes required to move it. One of the members who stayed off the bill was none other than the author of this 3192 duplicate, who may be the author, but it’s clear from last year’s Committee hearing that the sponsor of the bill is Unite Here Local 11, and the target of the bill is not so much those resorts in the Coastal Zone and ONLY those resorts in the Coastal Zone that “include or operate a golf course on the premises” but one resort in the author’s District. Labor and this golf course have been enmeshed in a long running labor dispute, which we thought had subsided when the parties reached a settlement last year, but apparently not.

When the bill imploded in committee, it was made clear that both author and sponsor were open to working with many of the organizations that had filed letters opposing the bill unless amended as well as organizations that had filed letters opposing the bill. This wasn’t surprising given the numerous obvious questions that neither the bill’s author, its sponsor, nor its language could answer – questions driven by the bill’s many anomalies, including but hardly limited to its application only to resorts sporting golf courses but not stand-alone resorts or stand-alone golf courses in the Coastal Zone, its failure to define what it means to “include” a golf course, its failure to define what it means to “operate” a golf course, and its creation of a complicated regulatory structure to oversee what may only be six (6) resort properties in a state with 900 miles of coastline.
IMPLICATIONS

The slope here is slippery to say the least! The precedent created by the successful passage of this bill could open the door to discussion of the same blanket 100% prohibition on ALL “fertilizing materials” at all golf courses in the Coastal Zone and perhaps beyond. It could presage something much different and much more impactful than the cascade of restrictions the golf community has become accustomed to accommodating over the years – things such as the addition of more non-organics to the state’s list of prohibited substances, the creation of more invasive auditing protocols, the promulgation of rules that restrict previously unrestricted applications only to those directly licensed by the state, the issuance of reporting mandates requiring ever increasing detail, and the creation of new local, state, and federal discharge permits. The California golf community has managed to not just cope but prosper with all that. But the precedent of a blanket proscription on everything as apparently outlined in AB 3192 is another matter.
CONCLUSION

The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) cannot ignore AB 3192. First order of business is to acquire as much intelligence about the bill, its implications, its amenability to amendment, and its prospects for passage that the members of the Alliance can before determining what the wisest course moving forward might be. That is a process as iterative as it is collaborative; thus, we cannot provide anything more specific or definitive at this early moment other than to share that SCGA and its allied partners in the California Alliance for Golf will be taking the bill very seriously. And given that this may be the only bill in the 2024 hopper that merits such heightened scrutiny, we can still safely conclude that both Mother Nature and the California Legislature have given us a bit of a breather “to focus less on the exigencies of the moment and more on the challenges of the longer-term.”

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