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Newsom Signs Tech, Budget Bills Targeting Wildfires, Modernization

Several bills signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom would provide funding for technology modernization and bring some additional oversight.

California Capitol building.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has about two weeks remaining to approve bills sent to him by the state Legislature, has signed several measures of significance to government IT entities and vendors.

The bills, which the governor signed late last week, include a key piece of wildfire legislation and bills updating and refining the state budget which, by law, had to be enacted before the start of the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year on July 1. Newsom has until Oct. 10 to sign or veto legislation from lawmakers. Among the takeaways:

  • State Senate Bill 170, from state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, amends the state budget and is known as Budget Bill Jr. It includes up to $5.8 billion for “project costs to support modernization of technology and data analytics ... authorized for expenditure upon project approval by the (California) Department of Technology.” More specifically, it also includes approximately $285 million “for support of state Department of Social Services,” with the provisions that the California Department of Finance and CDT “determine the appropriateness of maintaining funding for permanent positions included in this item for the Child Welfare Services-California Automated Response and Engagement System (CWS-CARES) project” either during the development of the current budget or after project implementation, “whichever is later.” There’s also $11,291 for external consulting and professional services for the “design, development, and implementation of the Facility Management System project,” which “shall be augmented” with CDT’s Stage 4 project approval. For local assistance, there’s nearly $2.8 billion from the state DSS including more than $39 million to support CWS-CARES — contingent on project document approval by DOF and CDT. And this amount may be augmented by up to $28.6 million for the project, with DOF approval of elements including project milestones, adoption and road map change management. Per the bill: “Such an augmentation shall only be used to support an acceleration of planned project activities and shall not be used to increase total project costs.”
  • An historic $1.5 billion package for a “comprehensive forest and wildfire resilience strategy statewide” includes an additional $988 million this fiscal year to, generally, “fund projects to reduce wildfire risk” and improve forest health. Also on Friday, Newsom signed SB 109, from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, creating the Office of Wildfire Technology Research and Development within the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and under control of its director. The office will study, test and advise on “procurement of emerging technologies and tools” to do a better job of preventing and suppressing wildfires statewide. The bill also creates a nine-member Emergency Wildfire Technology Research and Development Review Advisory Board to review the new office’s work.
  • Assembly Bill 163, from Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, which takes effect immediately, requires CDT to work with state entities to create and implement a plan to “establish centralized contracts for identified shared services, as defined.” It authorizes that plan to include “a list of existing service contracts of state agencies and state entities that may be replaced with centralized service contracts managed by the department, as specified.” The bill requires CDT to submit this plan to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee by Feb. 1, 2023.
  • AB 177, also from Ting, builds on a Newsom executive order authorizing the Judicial Council or its chairperson to take “action, via emergency order or statewide rule, necessary to maintain the safe and orderly operation of the courts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” It extends that emergency authority through Jan. 31 and requires the Council to report to Newsom and the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2023, on the “use of remote technology in civil actions by the trial courts, as specified.” The bill requires the Council to create a working group to recommend a “statewide framework for remote civil court proceedings that addresses equal and fair access to justice” and requires it to report the working group’s recommendations to the Legislature and the governor by Jan. 1, 2023. The bill also builds on existing law requiring the Council to develop an online tool to adjudicate “infraction violations” by requiring that tool be accessible to “a defendant, a designee of the defendant, or the defendant’s attorney.”
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.