Virtual Winter Conference Recap
Thank you to all the attendees, speakers, members, and staff who joined us in making this year's virtual 2021 Winter Conference a success! The two-day event was well attended with nearly 250 registrants and several preeminent speakers who shared insights on the future of work, the neuroscience behind communication in water, what comes next for agency financing, and what to expect as state and federal legislative priorities in 2021.
The conference kicked off Wednesday, January 27, with keynote speaker Heather McGowan, future-of-work strategist, followed by a California executive and legislative priorities panel, featuring Christine Hironaka, from the office of Governor Gavin Newsom, and Senator Ben Allen, from the California Legislature. Lunchtime was filled with a special session on the Brave Blue World Project with Aoife Kelleher, Lead Researcher and Producer at Blue Tech Research. The day concluded with the ever-popular roundtable sessions and three-afternoon committee meetings.
Thursday opened with a virtual women’s networking breakfast/coffee and a welcome from CASA’s vice president, Jasmin Hall, before a panel on what to expect next in Washington D.C., followed by an agency finance panel. The virtual luncheon was packed full of exciting updates including a message from CASA’s Executive Director, Adam Link on the new 5-year strategic plan, CASA’s awards of excellence presentation, and state and federal updates. The conference wrapped up with a panel on Forging Partnerships for a Shared Future and CASA’s state legislative committee meeting.

Presentations and materials from the conference are available online for those who registered for the Winter Conference. Thank you to everyone who joined us virtually!
State Legislative Update
Senator Hertzberg Introduces SB 273
On Febuary 1, 2021, Senator Hertzberg introduced CASA sponsored legislation Senate Bill (SB) 273. Similar to SB 1052, which CASA sponsored last session, this bill will authorize wastewater agencies to voluntarily enter into agreements with stormwater management facilities in order to manage stormwater. We look forward to partnering with Senator Hertzberg to work on this important piece of legislation which will improve water quality throughout the State. The bill introduction deadline is Friday, February 19, and we expected to see a lot more bills introduced between now and then. We will continue to keep you updated with news of any relevant legislation. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Jessica Gauger or Alma Musvosvi.
Federal Update
Congressional Update: Reconciliation, Power Sharing Agreement, & Committee Assignments
The Biden Administration and congressional Democrats have moved forward and approved the budgetary framework, known as Reconciliation, that will ultimately produce a federal spending relief package that may amount to the $1.9 trillion mark sought in the American Rescue Plan. Approval of the measure allows congressional committees to move ahead and draft legislative language that will implement program spending decisions that align with the American Rescue Plan’s provisions. Furthermore, the decision to use reconciliation means that the package will be subject to limited floor debate and only require a simple majority vote to pass and avoid objects from Republican lawmakers that would otherwise kill the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reaching a power-sharing agreement, the chamber is now able to go forward and begin legislative business for the 117th Congress. The power sharing agreement set the rules for how a 50/50 Senate will operate and, while text of the agreement has yet to be released as of this writing, it is expected that the agreement will be similar to the 2001 agreement when the chamber was last split 50/50 between the parties. It also finalized committee assignments for the new session that were held up until an agreement was reached. An important assignment is California’s new Senator Alex Padilla’s membership on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act, water infrastructure, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
Senate Committee Considers USEPA Administrator Nominee
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held the nomination hearing for Michael Regan to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). While Republican committee members pressed Regan on how he would act as Administrator under the Biden Administration, overall, Regan's nomination was well-received broadly across the committee. Regan, who currently serves as Secretary for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, testified to his experience and expertise if confirmed.
Lawmakers Reintroduce Special Districts Legislation Ahead of COVID-19 Relief Package Consideration
Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have reintroduced companion legislation to clarify the definition of “local government” to include special districts to allow special districts eligibility to receive relief assistance in future COVID-19 relief packages. Special districts are units of local government that provide public services to residents that counties and cities do not provide, such as water and wastewater services. As explained in Garamendi’s press release, the Special Districts Provide Essential Services Act (H.R. 535/S. 91) would make special districts eligible for direct federal financial assistance appropriated by Congress and would be subject to the same oversight requirements as states, counties, and local governments receive, as well as provide special districts access to the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility. The Municipal Liquidity Facility provides states, counties and cities federally guaranteed “bridge financing” to help offset unexpected short-term revenue shortfalls, but does not extend to special districts. The legislation aims to extend financial relief to special districts in future congressional relief packages that have, up until now, been shutout of assistance eligibility.
Member News
CASA Awards of Excellence 2020
Thank you to all who submitted an application for the 2020 Awards of Excellence, the competition was as fierce as ever! We are excited to share the 2020 CASA Awards of Excellence recipients:
Outstanding Capital Project
East Bay Municipal Utility District
Innovation & Resiliency Excellence Large Agency
Vallecitos Water District
Innovation & Resiliency Excellence – Small Agency
Encina Wastewater Authority – Small Agency and Carollo Engineers
Organizational Excellence
Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment
Public Outreach & Education – Large Agency
Inland Empire Utilities Agency 
Public Outreach & Education – Small Agency
Dublin San Ramon Services District
Making Strides Towards a Cleaner Environment and Better Service
The Sausalito-Marin City Sanitary District has been conducting a years-long upgrade of their entire wastewater system and taking many other actions to improve reliability and cost-effectively protect the community’s health and the environment. Check out the press release to read more about these actions including major treatment plant upgrade, gathering COVID data for the UC Berkeley study, investing in backup power generators, and more!
In Case You Missed It
NACWA and AMWA Launch Affordable Water, Resilient Communities Campaign
The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) launched a joint Affordable Water, Resilient Communities campaign to highlight the critical role of water utilities in their communities and the nation and the need for increased federal investment in water infrastructure. Timed to coincide with the start of a new presidential administration and a new Congress, the campaign will help elevate the importance of water and water infrastructure at a time when national policy discussions are ripe for greater attention to investment.
The campaign will focus on advocacy and communication outreach to Congress, federal and local policymakers, and water stakeholders around three key issues: 
  • The need for greater federal investment in water infrastructure, both by expanding existing federal programs but also by prioritizing water investment in any large infrastructure legislation and/or additional COVID-19 relief legislation.
  • The importance of rapid and effective distribution of the $638 million in low-income water customer assistance funds appropriated by Congress at the end of 2020, along with aggressive advocacy to establish a permanent federal low-income water customer assistance program.
  • Education of policymakers, stakeholders and the public about the complex and expensive work of water utilities, and ensuring that the goal of safe and reliable water access for all Americans must be understood in the context of the costs of these services, the disproportionate economic impact on low-income households, and the efforts of utilities to address affordability challenges.
CASA represents more than 125 local public agencies engaged in the collection, treatment and recycling of Wastewater and biosolids to protect public health and the environment. Our mission is to provide trusted information and advocacy on behalf of California clean water agencies, and to be a leader in sustainability and utilization of renewable resources.