The Board of Supervisors had a light agenda on this Tuesday. The Board often begins their meeting with a Proclamation, following the Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance. This week’s Proclamation declared December 15 to be Bill of Rights Day, honoring the fact that the first ten amendments to the Constitution were ratified on December 15, 1791. The Board collectively read aloud the ten amendments. The list, of course, is very familiar in some parts: freedom of speech or the press; the right to keep and bear arms, as a well-regulated militia is necessary to a free state; and the right to a trial by jury, among others. It is a sign of our historical certainty in those rights that some seem antiquated, although they probably are not: the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances; or the requirement that no soldier shall be quartered in a house without the owner’s consent in time of peace, without specific legislation.
The Board approved letters to State Senator Ted Gaines and to Assembly Member Brian Dahle, put forward by Supervisor Leonard Moty in support of a Cattlemen’s Association effort. The letters call for development of legislation that makes specifically illegal the use of water without a right to it. Currently people have a right to water primarily in one of three ways: a riparian right, an appropriative right, or water through a water district that one pays for. Riparian rights are rights to water from a stream or water source on or abutting one’s land. Appropriative rights are use of water diverted from a water source for use, and generally registered with the state’s Water Resources Control Board. These rights are ranked in terms of time: first in time, first in right. (Water law in California is complicated and contentious, of course. These definitions are much abbreviated.) When someone takes water without one of these rights, the only enforcement is through action by a Regional Water Board, followed by a civil action. Criminal penalties only follow if the thief is diverting a stream or causing a drop in water flow. The proliferation of marijuana grows, including those that use water to which they have no right, is part of the prompt for this call for legislation. However, the letter’s request is for criminal penalties for any use or possession of water without a legal right.
The Board also adopted resolutions covering two Memoranda of Understanding with county employees: the United Public Employees of California – General Unit (the majority of county employees) and the United Public Employees – Professional Unit (employees required to have certification or special skills). The resolution for the General Unit moved the salary increase of 3% proposed earlier for 2014 up by a few months and extended the agreement for an additional year to 2015-16 with a 2% increase that year. The resolution for the Professional Unit increased the pay increase in 2014-15 to 3% and extended the agreement for additional year to 2015-16 with a 2% increase that year. Both resolutions included an increase in the county’s contribution to employees’ dependent health plans to 65%. The General Unit change will cost the county almost $1.5 million and affected departments will budget these costs in their budget; the Professional Unit change will cost the county approximately $440,000 and affected departments will budget for these costs. These changes are the result of bargaining with employee units. Supervisors noted that these changes to contracts negotiated earlier in the year bring these employees into consistency with contracts negotiated later in the year as finances improved. As Supervisor Moty noted, the Board wants to be fair and equitable with all employees.
Catherine Camp is currently retired. During her career, she worked as a policy and budget analyst for the California Assembly and California Senate, in health and human services fields. She worked as a policy analyst and advocate for California’s public mental health system. Early in her career, she worked in the Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.