CalBike Still Pushing to Fund California’s Bikeways—Special Session Update
The regular session of the Legislature wrapped up earlier this month with a flurry of bill signings by the Governor, and we were pleased to see nearly every one of our high priority bills signed! What didn’t get wrapped up, however, was our highest strategic priority—more state funding for California’s bikeways. There were two potential funding sources for this: an increase to the Active Transportation Program, or the special session on transportation (which Gov. Brown called to address our transportation budget shortfall). Despite the fact that most of the Legislature is back home in their districts on recess, the special session (which is not subject to the usual rules and deadlines) continues and your California Bicycle Coalition is still hard at work pushing for a few key asks that would exponentially increase our capacity to build California’s bikeways:
- Strong complete streets requirements to ensure protected bikeways, crossings, and improved sidewalks are included in road maintenance projects
- $125 million to the Active Transportation Program for bikeway and pedestrian network grants
- Prioritization of transportation investments to disadvantaged communities
- Strong reporting and accountability requirements to track how transportation investments are contributing to health, equity, environmental, and climate goals.
So, what’s next? The special session has entered its next phase with the appointment of a joint conference committee—ten legislators, five from the Senate and five from the Assembly. The six Democrats and four Republicans are tasked with crafting a compromise deal to raise $3-6 billion for transportation. The pressure is on this group of ten to hash out a deal by the time the full Legislature reconvenes in January for the 2016 session—not only because the flurry of the next session will bring new issues and distractions, but even more so because it’s an election year. It’s a lot harder to pass new taxes in an election year, especially when you need Republican votes.
Last Friday, the conference committee had its first official hearing, which set a clear direction for the deal they aim to craft in the special session. That direction was clearly pro-business, and focused only on roads and highways to move more cars and trucks. The panel of “interested parties” that were invited to give official testimony talked only about the need for smoother pavement, repaired culverts, and retrofitted bridges on behalf of a healthier economy. None of them talked about the need for bicycling, walking, and transit facilities for healthier people and communities, except for CalBike staff and our allies. We stood up to give public comment at the end of the three hour hearing, demanding that the committee take into consideration people walking and riding bikes.
We will continue to put pressure on Sacramento, but it’s clear that we’re up against some deep pocket interests, and we need the help of all our members! If you live in any of the conference committee member’s districts, call your member now to ask them to support the four key priorities above in a final deal.