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Lawmakers Send California Drought Aid Package To Governor

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

The California Assembly debates drought aid legislation Thursday morning at the state Capitol.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

The $1 billion emergency drought aid package announced by Governor Jerry Brown last week has cleared the California Legislature. But a late addition to one of the measures has Republicans and farmers upset.

The addition is a provision intended to crack down on illegal marijuana growers. It would allow the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to fine water rights violators up to $8,000 a day.

Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher argues it would give the department too much autonomy.

“The problem with granting Fish and Wildlife these powers is that they’re not gonna just use them against marijuana growers. They’re also gonna use them against people who have existing rights to divert water,” Gallagher says.

But Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams says it wouldn’t be fair to only go after marijuana growers – and leave farmers violating water rights alone.

“That’s called unequal protection and is very unsound constitutionally. We do not have enough water to tolerate people illegally diverting water,” William says.

Despite Republican objections, the Assembly sent the drought package to Gov. Jerry Brown.

 drought

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio