BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó

                                                                     AB 386

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          Date of Hearing:  April 29, 2015 


                              Brian Maienschein, Chair

          AB 386  
          (Dahle) - As Amended March 24, 2015

          SUBJECT:  Tulelake Irrigation District.

          SUMMARY:  Makes changes to the qualifications for voters and  
          directors in the Tulelake Irrigation District (District), and  
          requires voters to be landowners instead of registered voters in  
          the District.   Specifically, this bill:  

          1)Requires voters in the District to be owners of real property  
            assessed by the District instead of registered voters in order  
            to vote in District elections.  

          2)Establishes a weighted vote system that provides landowners  
            with either one, two, or three votes based on the total number  
            of assessed acres owned in the division, as follows:

             a)   For 50 or fewer assessed acres, one vote;

             b)   For more than 50, but no more than 250 assessed acres,  
               two votes; and,


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             c)   For more than 250 assessed acres, three votes. 

          3)Requires each director of the District, at the time of his or  
            her nomination or appointment through the entire term, to meet  
            the following requirements:  

             a)   Be a registered voter in California;

             b)   Reside within the residency area, as defined by this  
               bill; and,

             c)   Be a landowner within the division he or she represents.  

          4)Defines the following terms:

             a)   "Corporation" to mean "any legal entity, public or  
               private, properly organized under the laws of the state in  
               which it was created, that is allowed to own real property  
               in California;"

             b)   "Legal representative" to mean "a person authorized to  
               act for or on behalf of a corporation, estate, or trust  
               holding title to land within the District;"

             c)   "Residency area" to mean both of the following:

               i)     Land within the exterior boundaries of the District;  


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               ii)    Land within 10 miles of the exterior boundaries of  
                 the District and within California.  

          5)Provides that the last District assessment roll is conclusive  
            evidence of ownership and the number of assessed acres owned  
            by the voter in the division.  

          6)Requires, if land is owned in joint tenancy, tenancy in  
            common, or any other multiple ownership, the owners of the  
            land to designate in writing, as specified, which owner is  
            deemed the owner of the land for purposes of qualifying as a  
            voter.  Requires the designation to be made upon a form  
            provided by the District.  Requires the form to be filed with  
            the District at least 40 days prior to the election and  
            remains in effect until amended or revoked.  Prohibits any  
            amendment or revocation to occur within the period of 39 days  
            prior to the election.  

          7)Allows the legal representative of a corporation, estate, or  
            trust owning real property to vote on behalf of the  
            corporation or estate, including a designee.  Requires a legal  
            representative, before voting, to present the District a copy  
            of his or her authority.  

          8)Authorizes every voter, or representative, to vote at any  
            District election either in person or by a person appointed as  
            a proxy.  Requires the appointment of a proxy pursuant to the  
            existing process for California Water Districts.  

          9)Provides that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines  
            that this bill contains costs mandated by the state,  
            reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those  
            costs shall be made pursuant to current law governing state  


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            mandated local costs.  

          EXISTING LAW:    

          1)Requires that each voter of an irrigation district be a  
            resident registered to vote in the district.  

          2)Requires that each director of an irrigation district be a  
            voter, a landowner in the district, and a resident of the  
            division of the district that he or she represents at the time  
            of his or her nomination or appointment and through his or her  
            entire term, unless elected at a formation hearing.  

          3)Provides that, in any district having no more than 15  
            landowners who are voters in the district, a person need not  
            be a voter in order to be a qualified director, if  he or she  
            is a landowner of the district at the time they are nominated  
            or appointed and during their entire term.  

          4)Provides that a director of a district that submits an Urban  
            Water Management Plan does not have to be a landowner within  
            the district, if appointed or elected on or after January 1,  

          FISCAL EFFECT:  This bill is keyed fiscal and contains a  
          state-mandated local program.  


          1)Irrigation District Voter and Director Qualifications.   
            California's 93 irrigation districts function under a range of  
            statutes that are a hybrid of registered voter and  
            landowner-voter type districts.  In general, registered voters  
            are eligible to vote in district elections, but directors  
            (also referred to as board members) must be landowners of the  


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            district.  Originally drafted in 1897, the provisions  
            requiring directors to be landowners in the Irrigation  
            District Law were drafted to recognize that landowners at that  
            time were the only ones affected by the decisions that  
            irrigation district boards made.  The Legislature has  
            continued to recognize landowners' special concerns for  
            irrigation districts' operations by creating unique separate  
            statutes that preserve the landowner requirement to vote in  
            districts that primarily deliver agricultural water.  Some of  
            these districts have landownership, but not residency  
            requirements.  These provisions in current law for individual  
            irrigation districts either contain a process to allow the  
            irrigation district to internally change to a landowner voter  
            district, pursuant to a resolution of the governing board and  
            a protest process, or make the change outright legislatively,  
            as this bill would do for the District.  However, the  
            Legislature has not passed a bill limiting voting to  
            landowners for an individual irrigation district in over a  

            Historically, irrigation districts only provided irrigation  
            water services to agricultural land.  However, as California's  
            population has grown, more and more residential and commercial  
            development is encroaching on agricultural land.  In response  
            to this growth, many irrigation districts began providing  
            retail water service to residential customers that live within  
            their jurisdictions in the absence of traditional retail water  
            suppliers in the area.  This trend has caused the Legislature  
            to reevaluate these landowner restrictions both uniformly and  
            on a case by case basis.  

          2)Are the Landowner Qualifications Constitutional?  The  
            California Constitution provides that the right to vote or  
            serve in elected office may not be conditioned on a  
            landownership qualification.  However, in 1973, the U.S.  
            Supreme Court ruled in Salyer Land Co. v. Tulare Water  
            District that the California statute requiring a landownership  


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            qualification did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of  
            the U.S. Constitution.  The court ruled there was no violation  
            because those districts do not exercise normal governmental  
            authority and their activities disproportionally affect  

            The California Supreme Court, in Choudhry v. Free (1976) 17  
            Cal. 3d 660, declared unconstitutional a section of the  
            Irrigation District Law requiring potential board candidates  
            to be landowners.  The court ruled that this section was  
            unconstitutional as applied to the Imperial Irrigation  
            District and its board of directors, the real parties in  
            interest, because it deprived the irrigation candidates and  
            voters, including petitioner voters, of equal protection.  The  
            court's opinion gave two reasons it did not extend its ruling  
            to other irrigation districts.  First, the Imperial Irrigation  
            District was singular at that time among irrigation districts  
            in that it had more residents, land, and employees than any  
            other irrigation district and it was providing retail water  
            service.  Second, neither respondents nor real parties in  
            interest had opposed petitioners' claim that Water Code  
            Section 21100 was unconstitutional, and numerous irrigation  
            districts in the state that would have been affected by a  
            finding of unconstitutionality did not have the opportunity to  
            present their views or offer evidence regarding the  
            characteristics and operation of irrigation districts in  

          3)Bill Summary.  This bill establishes a separate provision in  
            Irrigation District Law for the District and specifies voter  
            and director qualifications.  

            Under existing law, voters in the District are registered  
            voters.  This bill allows all owners 


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            of real property assessed by the District to vote, but no  
            others.  Under this bill, any owner 
            of property assessed by the District, regardless of where they  
            reside, would be eligible to vote in elections and any  
            non-landowner registered to vote within the District would no  
            longer be eligible to vote.  Additionally, this bill  
            establishes a weighted vote system based on the total number  
            of acres owned within a division of the District.  Landowners  
            of 50 or fewer acres would get one vote, 50 to 250 acres would  
            get two votes, and more than 250 acres would get three votes.   
            This bill also makes a number of other changes to the  
            qualifications of voters to address different types of  
            ownership and the use of a legal representative or proxy.  
            Under existing law, directors of the District are registered  
            voters, landowners, and residents within the division they  
            represent.  This bill makes changes to the qualifications for  
            directors to allow landowners who do not live within the  
            division or even within the District to serve as a director.   
            Under this bill, owners of assessed parcels would need to  
            fulfill three qualifications during the time of nomination or  
            appointment and through the entire term as director: a) be a  
            registered voter in California; b) reside within the exterior  
            boundaries of the District or on land within 10 miles of the  
            exterior boundaries of the District within California; and, c)  
            be a landowner within the division they represent.  

            This bill is sponsored by the District.  

          4)The District.  The Tulelake Irrigation District is located  
            within the Upper Klamath Basin and includes land in both Modoc  
            and Siskiyou counties.  The District has an exterior boundary  
            that includes 96,000 acres, and its northern boundary is  
            contiguous to the border between California and Oregon.  The  
            District's governing body is a five-member board of directors.  
             According to Modoc County Local Agency Formation Commission's  
            municipal service review, the District was formed in 1952, and  
            entered into a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in  


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            1956 for repayment of construction charges and the transfer to  
            the District the maintenance of the facilities used to deliver  
            water to District lands.  In 1957, the Board of Directors  
            approved the formation of an improvement district to operate  
            and maintain pumps, dikes, and drainage facilities already  
            constructed by landowners and to apportion all charges among  
            several landowners according to the number of acres of land  

          5)Author's Statement.  According to the author, "Currently the  
            District has had difficulty finding landowners who are willing  
            and eligible to serve on its Board of Directors.  Current law  
            requires Board Members to reside within the division he/she  
            will represent.  This bill implements a tiered voting  
            structure that weighs each landowner's vote and allows smaller  
            landowners in the District to have a voice in the District's  

          6)Prior Legislation.  This Committee has heard a number of bills  
            addressing qualification requirements for both voters and  
            directors of irrigation districts.  There have been several  
            legislative attempts that have sought to limit landowner  
            qualifications for board directors.  SB 614 (Wolk) of 2013  
            would have removed the landownership requirement from the list  

          of qualifications to serve as a director of an irrigation  
            district, if the district provided water for agricultural  
            purposes and water for municipal or industrial purposes.  SB  
            1939 (Alarcón), Chapter 1041, Statutes of 2000, deleted the  
            landowner qualification for board members of irrigation  
            districts that provide electricity.  AB 2279 (Dymally) of 2004  
            would have deleted the landowner qualification for board  
            members of most irrigation districts, but failed passage in  
            the Senate Local Government Committee.  AB 159 (Salinas),  
            Chapter 847, Statutes of 2006, removed the landowner  


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            requirement for irrigation districts that are required to  
            submit an urban water management, and thus, provide 3,000 or  
            more acre-feet of water to residential customers or that have  
            more than 3,000 customers.  
            AB 1156 (V.M Perez), Chapter 245, Statutes of 2013, made  
            changes to the weighted vote 

            of a landowner in the Palo Verde Irrigation District to  
            determine votes based on number 
            of acres of land owned instead of the assessed value of  
            property.  However, the Palo Verde Irrigation District already  
            limited voting to landowners.  
          7)Policy Considerations.  The Committee may wish to consider the  

             a)   Favoring Landowners?  The Committee may wish to ask the  
               author and sponsors how many non-landowners that currently  
               have the ability to vote in District elections will no  
               longer have that right should this bill be signed into law.  
                Supporters argue that the District only provides water  
               services for agricultural purposes and are financed solely  
               through assessments on landowners.  Therefore, the  
               qualifications for voters should be consistent with who  
               receives and pays for services.  However, absent specific  
               facts about how many non-landowners currently vote, the  
               Committee may wish to consider the necessity for this  
               change in law.  

             b)   Favoring Certain Landowners?  The Committee may wish to  
               ask the author and sponsor how many landowners fit within  
               each category of the tiered weighted vote structure that  
               this bill would establish.  The Committee may wish to  
               consider, without knowing what the practical implications  
               of the weighted voting scheme are, if it is reasonable to  
               implement this policy.  


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               Supporters argue that this bill establishes a weighted vote  
               system that protects the vote 

               of small landowners.  However, the Committee may wish to  
               consider if one vote per landowner or one vote per  
               registered voter would better accomplish the goal of  
               protecting the vote of all individuals.  
             c)   Allowing Directors to Live Outside the District.  The  
               Committee may wish to ask the author and sponsor how many  
               landowners live outside the District within the residency  
               area that is defined by this bill.  Supporters argue that  
               the Legislature has granted the authority to individual  
               irrigation districts in the past to allow non-resident  
               landowners to be voters and directors.  

             d)   Too Many Questions and Not Enough Answers.  The  
               Committee may wish to consider, given all the outstanding  
               questions about the practical implications of this bill, if  
               it is appropriate for the Legislature to create these  
               specialized qualifications for voters and directors in the  

          8)Arguments in Support.  Supporters argue that this bill better  
            represents the interests of those most affected by the  
            District's purposes and function.  

          9)Arguments in Opposition.  None on file.  



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          Tulelake Irrigation District [SPONSOR]

          Association of California Water Agencies

          Ben DuVal Farms, Inc.

          City of Tulelake

          Frey Farms

          Gold Dust Potato Processors, Inc.

          Klamath Water Users Association

          McKoen & Son

          Modoc County Board of Supervisors 

          Seus Family Farms Inc.

          Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors

          Staunton Farms

          Walker Brothers


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          Individuals (2)


          None on file

          Analysis Prepared by:Misa Lennox / L. GOV. / (916) 319-3958