Elk Grove Water District condemns 'Dodd Water Bill' protections being offered for low income ratepayers

December 20, 2018 |  

At the monthly meeting of the Elk Grove Water Service Board of Director, fear was expressed with the implementation of the so-called Dodd Water Bill. The legislation, California Senate Bill 998, was sponsored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D - Napa) and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 28. 

Among the main provisions in the legislation, "The bill would prohibit an urban and community water system from discontinuing residential service for nonpayment until a payment by a customer has been delinquent for at least 60 days" and requires "urban and community water system to contact the customer named on the account and provide the customer with the urban and community water system’s policy on discontinuation of residential service for nonpayment no less than 7 business days before discontinuation of residential service, as prescribed." 

“We simply cannot cut off water service to poor families just because they have fallen on hard times," Dodd said in a statement issued this summer. "This creates a sustainable and equitable delivery system that will protect this vulnerable population including seniors, children and those with illness or disability.”

Among other provisions in the bill are mechanisms for adjusting re-connection fees based on a ratepayers "who demonstrates to an urban and community water system household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line."

During comments to the EGWD directors, district general manager Mark Madison said the legislation "is not good" and that "it is a bad bill."

Madison said that while attending a recent ACWA conference in San Diego, he broached the topic of the SB 998 during a panel discussion and noted no one in attendance was willing to discuss the matter or if they were will to initiate litigation challenging the legislation. Additionally, Madison opined the legislation conflicts with Proposition 218, and that could provide the basis for a legal challenge. 

"I don't know what is going to happen here; it is not good," Madison said. "It won't help the customers." 

Currently, the district cuts off water service when a bill is about six weeks past due. Before cutting off service, ratepayers are notified via mail and posting at the respective dwelling.

Joining Madison in condemnation of the new ratepayer rights was board chair Tom Nelson who also was off the opinion that the legislation is contrary to Proposition 218.

"It's going to be a nasty time," Nelson said. "It breaks Prop 218 as far as I'm concerned. Prop 218 says you can't make everybody else pay for those who don't pay." 

While Madison and Nelson condemned the new law, social justice advocates praised the legislation. 

“This bill brings California one step closer to making the human right to water a reality for the low-income residents we represent,” Alexander Harnden, of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said in the statement at the time of the signing. “The bill’s common-sense reforms provide important protections for the most vulnerable Californians, for whom a water shutoff can have drastic impacts on everything from physical and mental health to job and housing security. We strongly support SB 998 and thank Sen. Dodd for authoring this important measure.”

Senate Bill 998 takes effect on January 1, 2019. 

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