Advocacy During a Pandemic: AB3030

BY DEANNA ROLDAN


This article explains the legislative timeline for AB3030, which is a California bill introduced earlier this year. AB3030 proposes that California will conserve 30% of the land and ocean within the state by 2030. I discuss my experience advocating for AB3030 over the summer as well as my insight on the bill.


Art by Jessica Kamman


AB3030 is an aspirational bill that encompasses what the United States should be doing in terms of conservation. California is a legislative giant when it comes to the environment and sets the precedent for how other states should be doing their part to help the climate crisis. The bill was introduced in the California Legislature by Assemblymember Ash Kalra in February of 2020. AB3030 declared that it is California’s goal to conserve 30% of the land and ocean within the state by 2030. This would lay out a clear goal to protect California’s resources and hopefully inspire other states to create similar bills. But, as we are all familiar with, COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives and the legislative process has been no exception.


The legislative process can be confusing, but from March to August, AB3030 went through the cycle of being referred to committees and being amended. Each committee the bill is referred to has the power to effectively end the bill, thus emphasizing the importance of AB3030 was crucial. It was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources and Water and the Committee on Appropriations on several different occasions. AB3030 was then assigned once more to the Committee on Appropriations in August 2020 where the fiscal impact of the bill was determined. Unfortunately, the committee held AB3030 in suspense, meaning that it would no longer continue in the legislative year. In a legislative year, the deadline for a bill to be introduced is in February. If the bill does not pass, the author can reintroduce the bill the next year after the legislature reconvenes from its recess of a few months.


My experience advocating for AB3030 didn’t start until May. I had no experience in advocacy prior to this, and knew little to nothing about the legislative process. Fortunately, I didn’t go through this process alone. I participated in the Audubon Advocates program held by San Diego Audubon Society. The Audubon Advocates program is an opportunity to gain hands on experience in advocacy by choosing an environmental issue to work on. The program runs from May to September and includes informational sessions about advocacy. Without this program, I would have never known what I know now.


I attended workshops and training sessions held by the program, gaining a broader understanding of how to effectively advocate for different causes. These trainings were held by professionals in a wide variety of fields such as law professors and campaign directors. Topics that were discussed included planning an advocacy campaign and diversity in environmental issues. I worked in a group with four other talented individuals to advocate for AB3030. I chose to advocate for AB3030 because in my classes, I learn about the science behind the environment and this bill would teach me about the policies behind conservation. Science can only go so far without policies to support it. Before doing anything, we created an action plan to reach our goal which was to demonstrate our support for AB3030 to elected officials. Our primary targets were Senator Toni Atkins and Senator Ben Hueso who both represent districts in San Diego. Communicating with elected officials from our own district carried more weight because elected officials prioritize the concerns of their constituents. Conveniently, Senator Ben Hueso also served on the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, which was important in keeping AB3030 alive for the legislative year. My group and I focused on communicating with these two elected officials and sent letters emphasizing how strongly we supported AB3030. We were also able to hold meetings over Zoom with some staff members from both senators. In addition, another strategy we used was to call in during committee hearings before committee members voted on the bill.


While AB3030 is a bill that should be prioritized, there was also opposition. It is important to remember that AB3030 only provides a goal for California and does not outline a plan on how to reach that goal. The vagueness of the bill was, of course, met with opposition. It is necessary to understand the concerns of the opposition so that those concerns can be addressed. Groups like fishers and, surprisingly, the NRA were the most vocal in opposing AB3030. The NRA believed that the bill did not protect hunting or angling. Some argued that a bill like AB3030 is not necessary because of California’s extensive efforts to battle climate change. In the case of the fishers, they felt that they had been left out of the conversation and were worried that the language of the bill could be used against them in the future. Fishing is some people’s livelihood which should absolutely be respected, while also seeking common ground to help the environment. Dissecting the bill can cause several concerns that should be looked into. This includes questions like, what is the definition of “conserve”? How much land and water is already being conserved? Who determines what land and ocean should be conserved? These big questions require complicated answers that can hopefully be resolved soon.


Even though AB3030 was held in suspense for the rest of the legislative year, it was revived by California Governor Gavin Newsom. Newsom signed an executive order in October 2020 that listed the ways that California’s biodiversity would be protected and included AB3030’s main goal of protecting 30% of California’s land and ocean by 2030. Even though AB3030 was effectively stopped in August, it was brought to life again in an unexpected way which only speaks to the unpredictability of advocacy. The governor signing AB3030 as an executive order was unlikely but reestablished the importance of the bill. The support from the governor reassured that California remains a leader when it comes to climate change.


It is impossible to know the future and advocacy for a bill deeply reflects that. The legislative process is extremely unpredictable, especially during a pandemic. AB3030 was able to pass despite its setbacks and speaks to the power that people have when we voice our opinions.


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