Assembly Bill 1265, The Williamson Act, introduced by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), passed unanimously on the Assembly Floor yesterday. AB 1265 would allow counties to voluntarily implement new land preservation contracts that are ten percent shorter in return for a ten percent reduction in the landowner's property tax relief.
"I am pleased that the Legislature once again has affirmed the importance of preserving and protecting California's agricultural lands," said Nielsen.
AB 1265 re-instates the Williamson Act subvention program that was authored by Assemblyman Nielsen last year (Senate Bill 865 and Assembly Bill 2530). The language of SB 863 and AB 2530 was eliminated with the passage of Governor Brown's budget bill (SB 80) earlier this year.
Approximately half of California's farmland (16.6 million acres) is under Williamson Act contracts. The Williamson Act is a three way partnership between landowners, counties, and the state. Landowners agree to forego the possibility of developing their land during the term of the 10 or 20 year Williamson Act contract in return for lower property taxes.
AB 1265 would also allow participating landowners to opt out of the new shorter contracts and lesser benefits by simply exiting the program through notice of nonrenewal. If landowners agree to enter into contracts that are 10 percent shorter than a standard Williamson Act contract, they would still save 90 percent of their property tax relief and counties would be encouraged to stay in the program. Without AB 1265, the only alternative for counties that cannot afford the loss of subventions would be mass contract non-renewals