Legal Alerts May 14, 2018

Administrative Hearing Office Proposed for State Water Resources Control Board

Proposed Legislation Would Provide for Efficient Hearings by Qualified Officers

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With the release of California’s budget trailer bill came proposed new legislation on Friday that would add an Administrative Hearing Office within the State Water Resources Control Board. If passed, the newly formed Administrative Hearing Office would provide a neutral, fair and efficient forum for adjudications.
 
The Water Board is tasked with conducting many adjudicatory and quasi-adjudicatory proceedings, which are either run by staff or Water Board members who may not have experience in conducting hearings. This new legislation would provide a new tool for the Water Board to conduct more efficient hearings by qualified hearing officers. The newly formed unit’s purpose would be to provide qualified, impartial hearing officers, to ensure that water rights matters and cannabis enforcement matters are resolved in a timely manner and to provide the Water Board flexibility to assign hearing officers to other matters, such as permits, licenses and change petitions.
 
A similar bill, Assembly Bill 313, was passed last year by the Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. AB 313 proposed that hearings for the Water Board would be conducted by a hearing unit housed in the Office of Administrative Hearings. Over the last several years, the Water Board has been tasked with additional responsibilities. This new legislation seeks to promote efficient hearings by appointing qualified hearing officers to conduct hearings, compile evidence and submit a draft order for Water Board consideration. The Water Board will still maintain authority to adopt, remand or revise the order. Finally, the legislation would allow the Water Board to adopt fees to fund this new unit. The full text of the bill can be found by clicking here.
 
If you have any questions about this proposed legislation or how it may impact your agency, please contact the author of this Legal Alert listed to the right in the firm’s Water practice group, or your BB&K attorney.
 
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Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

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