April 2009

CalPERS Issues Circular Letter About Furloughs

Attorney Authors: 

In response to numerous inquiries CalPERS has received regarding the implementation of furloughs, CalPERS has issued a circular letter providing covered employers with information about the impacts of furloughs on employee benefits, contributions and other related issues. To read a copy of the three page circular letter please click here.

California To Spend $4 Billion in Federal Stimulus Funds for Transportation Projects

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law by President Obama on February 17th, 2009, includes funding initiatives to modernize America's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need. California's share of the $48 billion earmarked for transportation and infrastructure projects is nearly 10% of the total funds. California intends to spend most of the $4 billion in stimulus funds on highways, roads and bridge projects. The Recovery Act also permits California to apply for an additional $150 million in competitive grants for specific transportation projects. To read more about California's projects and for a breakdown of how the estimated $85 billion in funds will be expended in California, please visit the Governor's recovery portal website.

Recovery Act Funding for California Green Building

With the adoption of new laws requiring greener construction and greater energy efficiency, many local officials are wondering whether they will be able to fund critical infrastructure and building projects.

Last year, the State adopted the California Building Code, which contains both mandatory and voluntary green building and energy efficiency measures for public and private buildings. Additionally, at least thirty California cities and counties have enacted local green building ordinances in the last three years. All of these local green building regulations require LEED Ô certification, which can cost between 1% and 7% of a project’s overall cost.

Many local officials hope for funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allocated $60 billion for “green programs.” In an earlier post, we discussed California's share of funding allocated to transportation-related infrastructure. As of March 31, California will also be allocating infrastructure funds to storm sewers, new parks, government buildings, offices, and airport terminals. Additionally, the State will be receiving funds from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the General Service Administration (GSA). The DOE will receive roughly $32 billion of these funds for green programs, most of which will be focused on energy efficiency, renewable energies, and state weatherization. The GSA is expecting approximately $5.5 billion of these funds designated for green building. Federal green building funds are expected to be spent on greening federal buildings, state energy programs, state weatherization, and schools.

Local officials will be watching Governor Schwarzenegger’s office as it allocates funding to “shovel ready” projects. The estimated time for the funds to hit the market is the beginning of next year.

U.S. Supreme Court Limits Police Power to Search Cars Without a Warrant

In the recent decision of Arizona v. Gant, the United States Supreme Court said police may search a vehicle without a warrant only when the suspect could reach for a weapon or try to destroy evidence, or when it is "reasonable to believe" there is evidence in the car supporting the crime for which the person isbeing arrested. The decision changes a rule that law enforcement has relied on for nearly 30 years and which the justices noted was a misreading of the court's prior decision in 1981 (New York v. Belton).

Departments Revoke Recent Changes To Endangered Species Act, Section 7 Consultation Requirements

The Departments of Commerce and the Interior revoked an Endangered Species Act (ESA) rule previously enacted by the Bush administration. The Rule had expanded the circumstances in which an agency may determine not to engage in Section 7 consultations prior to undertaking an action that may affect threatened or endangered species. In revoking the rule, the Departments were responding to a March 2009 Executive Order in which President Obama requested that the Departments to formally reconsider this rule.

Now that the rule is revoked, federal agencies must complete the requisite Section 7 consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration before taking actions that may affect threatened or endangered species.

The Department of the Interior press release announcing this decision is available here.

Latest OPR CEQA Guidelines Emphasize Local Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plans in CEQA Review

Senate Bill 97 directed the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to develop regulations for the analysis and mitigation of greenhouse gases under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). OPR has issued a final draft of these regulations as amendments to the CEQA Guidelines. For the Guidelines to become law, the Natural Resources Agency must approve them by January 1, 2010. Read more here.

Navigating Stimulus Funding Red Tape

California may receive as much as $80 billion in federal stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The act sets a goal of allocating 50 percent of funds to projects that can be initiated by approximately mid-June 2009.

Given the tight timeframe for allocating such a large portion of the ARRA funds, local governments are wise to act now. The red tape begins before you apply for funding, and doesn’t end until the project is complete. In our new series on Maximizing Your Stimulus, we’ll be walking you through the process of obtaining ARRA funding. In this alert, we cover the steps up to and including applying for funding. Read more here.