Spring Legislative Conference

On May 16, transit leaders will update attendees about Association advocacy efforts, sponsored legislation, and our regulatory program.
By Arianna Smith 
Managing Editor
Transit California

This year’s Spring Legislative Conference is a can’t-miss event for California Transit Association members, transit policy experts, and anyone whose organization is working to address issues arising from the ongoing transit operations funding shortfall crisis.

The conference will be held on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 from 8:00 am am to 3:00 pm at Sacramento’s SAFE Credit Union Convention Center at 1401 K Street.

Discussion of the funding shortfalls threatening California transit agencies will be at the center of the discussion: transit agencies across the state may be forced to cut service and staff due to the loss of federal emergency relief funds, higher operating costs, and the ongoing issue of ridership that continues to lag pre-pandemic levels.  

The conference will feature perspectives and proposals to address this crisis from  key decisionmakers in Sacramento. Attendees will also get the latest updates on Association-sponsored legislation, have numerous opportunities to network, and meet directly with state legislators and staff.

Panels, discussions, and speakers

The conference will kick off with a sober but hopeful welcome from Karen King, Association Chair and CEO of Bakersfield’s Golden Empire Transit District. In 2020, King applied her decades of experience in public transit to chair the Association’s rapidly convened Task Force responsible for making recommendations to secure federal funding and statuatory relief for transit agencies early in the pandemic. In November 2021, she ascended to the role of chair of the Association’s Executive Committee.

“Transit operators are first responders to climate change, the housing crisis, and unequal employment, school, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Robust, safe, well-funded transit systems create solutions to these top California concerns,” said King.“This conference and advocacy day gives Association partners the chance to bring this important message to state decisionmakers.”

Michael Pimentel, Executive Director of the Association, will provide remarks that delve into the structure and status of the Association’s advocacy efforts. Pimentel, who has served as Executive Director since 2021, is no stranger to leading the Association through recent transit operation funding crises. He spearheaded efforts to secure multiple rounds of federal funding for pandemic relief, as well as for state- and regulatory-level protection from redirection of limited resources.

“Because of the potential for reduced overall state budget expenditures and the looming operations funding shortfalls, this year’s conference is especially essential for our members and partners,” said Pimentel.  “Attendees will get the information they need to engage with local and statewide leaders, and they’ll be well prepared to advocate for the transit services upon which millions of Californians depend.” 

Liane Randolph, Chair of the California Air Resources Board since 2020, will make the keynote speech.  Randolph served as a Commissioner on the California Public Utilities Commission, as counsel to the Natural Resources Agency, and as Chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission. She has played a key role in policy decisions on energy efficiency, integrated energy resource planning, and regulation of transportation network companies.

The much anticipated Path to Securing Transit Operations Funding panel will bring together legislative leadership for an in-depth discussion, including a deep dive into recent legislative transportation hearings and a preview of next steps on the state budget. Moderated by Michael Pimentel, the panel includes Assemblymember Steve Bennett (Oxnard), Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Climate Crisis, Resources, Energy, and Transportation; Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco), Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Transit; and Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 5 on Corrections, Public Safety, Judiciary, Labor and Transportation (Los Angeles) [INVITED].

Attendees will also hear about the state’s efforts to support transit agencies in securing federal funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. Elissa Konove, Deputy Regional Administrator, Federal Highway Administration [INVITED]; Tyson Eckerle, Senior Advisor for Clean Infrastructure and Mobility, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development; and Mark Tollefson, Undersecretary, California State Transportation Agency [INVITED]. The panel will be moderated by Georgia Gann Dohrmann, Chair of the Association’s Federal Legislative Committee.

During the networking lunch, attendees will learn about AB 917 (Bloom, 2021) from Dan Katz, Vice President of Public Policy at Hayden AI.  Hayden AI uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to improve performance of transit safety and speed, and the company’s signature transit products include AI-powered cameras to detect and enforce violations in dedicated bus lanes and bus stops. The new law authorizes all public transit operators to install automated forward-facing parking control devices on transit vehicles to enforce parking violations occurring in transit-only traffic lanes and at transit stops until January 1, 2027.

The conference will be rounded out with the Association’s annual state legislative and regulatory update panel. Attendees will learn up-to-the-minute status updates of Association-sponsored and co-sponsored bills, including AB 463 (Hart), which would establish priority access to electricity during planned outages to California transit agencies, and AB 719 (Boerner-Horvath), which would require Medi-Cal Managed Care Plans to reimburse public transit operators for nonmedical transportation and nonemergency medical transportation services. The panel is moderated by Beverly Greene, Chair of the Association’s State Legislative Committee and Executive Director of External Affairs, Marketing and Communications for the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, and will feature Executive Director Michael Pimentel and Association legislative and regulatory advocates Matt Robinson and Alchemy Graham.

Networking opportunities and & individual advocacy meetings

The conference will provide numerous formal and informal networking opportunities, as well as an option to participate in policy advocacy meetings with state legislators and staff.

Registered attendees are invited to attend our legislative reception the evening before the conference. Attendees will talk with invited legislators and Capitol staff, network with Association membership, and enjoy drinks and appetizers. The reception will be held on Monday, May 15, from 5:30-7:30 pm at Ella Dining Room & Bar on 1131 K St. 

At the conference itself, our breakfast and lunch hours are designed to provide attendees with plenty of time to connect with colleagues on the issues facing our industry. Breaks will also be provided throughout the day.

The formal conference schedule concludes at 3:00 pm on May 16, affording attendees the opportunity to meet with the legislators and staff who represent all or parts of their transit agencies’ service areas. Attendees are encouraged to set up meetings with State Senators and Assemblymembers between 3:00 pm -5:00 pm. Association staff will provide background materials for use at these meetings, which will be available at the registration desk.

To set up advocacy meetings, attendees should contact legislative offices by phone to request the scheduling form or scheduler’s email address; some offices also have information about how to request meetings on the legislators’ state websites. Attendees should provide the date (May 16) and preferred time window for the requested meeting, along with the names, titles, and organizations of two to four meeting participants.  Meetings should last 15 to 30 minutes, and attendees may bring handouts about their agencies and/or advocacy efforts. Attendees who wish to organize advocacy meetings should contact offices as soon as possible. Contact information and websites can be found here for Assemblymembers and Senators. To determine which legislators represent which service areas, input service area addresses here.

Haven’t registered yet?

Registration costs $260 per attendee for Association members and $310 per attendee for non-members. To register, click here. For questions, please contact Maria Barajas at 916-446-4656 or maria@caltransit.org

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