Governor Signs Wood Bill to Help Counties

For immediate release:

(Sacramento, CA) – Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) applauded Governor Brown for signing AB 707 into law last night. The bill, authored by Wood and sponsored by the County of Humboldt, now requires the State to notify local governments if the State’s cancellation penalty fee assessment, within the Williamson Act, differs from the County’s original assessment.

Under the Williamson Act, the State provided subvention payments from the State’s General Fund to counties for the loss of local resources to lands under Williams Act contracts. However, these subvention payments to local jurisdictions were eliminated, under Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration, to help balance the State’s budget. Due to the elimination of subvention payments, some local jurisdictions passed ordinances that impose an additional local cancelation penalty fee. If a property owner wanted to cancel a contract with the Williamson Act before the ten year period, the landowner must petition the local Board of Supervisor or City Council to terminate a contract. The County of Humboldt is one local jurisdiction that has a local cancelation penalty fee.

In 2011, a private land owner and the State negotiated a cancellation penalty fee which left the County of Humboldt out of the conversation. The Humboldt County Assessor originally assessed the property at $1.9 million, but the value after a deal was cut between the state and landowner was only $227,000.

Humboldt County received $28,375 from the cancellation instead of $237,375 – over $200,000 was lost to the County. This is a tremendous difference for the County; these few hundred thousand dollars may not sound like much, but to our rural neighbors, it was a substantial loss.

AB 707 removes the ability for a landowner and the State to negotiate a cancellation penalty fee that leaves out the County. The bill ensures local governments are continuously notified throughout all conversations that involve the cancelation of a contract under the Williamson Act.

“Local governments should never be left in the dark when negotiations are happening that directly affect them. AB 707 ensures that cities and counties always have a seat at the table. I’m thrilled that Governor agreed with me as well, said Wood.”

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Elected in 2014, Assemblymember Jim Wood (D- Healdsburg) represents the 2nd Assembly District, which includes all of Del Norte, Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino counties, plus northern and coastal Sonoma County, including the northern half of Santa Rosa.