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Volunteerism Protection Bill Authored by Assemblyman Gordon Signed Into Law

Law will bolster nonprofits' ability to use volunteers.

A bill authored by California Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) that bolsters volunteerism for nonprofits was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill, AB 587, extends for five years an existing wage exemption for volunteer and conservation corps members that would have expired at the end of this year.

Under existing California law, anyone who works on public works projects, such as beach cleanups or creek restorations, has to be paid a wage, even if they are volunteering.

“At a time when California is addressing very serious fiscal deficits, extending this provision will allow California to tap into one of our greatest and most economical resources—volunteerism,” Gordon said in a statement Wednesday.

The bill received widespread support from more than 100 local and statewide groups, including Canopy, Save the Bay, the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD).

"Land stewardship and restoration is essential to successful long-term conservation," said POST president Walter T. Moore. "To keep our natural lands healthy and wild, we need to keep the people of California connected to the land in a meaningful, productive way. By allowing volunteers to take part in critical public works projects, this law helps make that possible."

“Locally, this bill has profound impacts for many sites throughout the Bay Area,” said Gordon.  “Because of active volunteers, sites including the San Francisquito Creek, Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline, Bothin Marsh and Redwood Creek can thrive from a pristine eco-system and an engaged community to protect them.”

Santa Clara Valley Water District's Marty Grimes said the SCVWD board supported the measure because of its need for volunteers for community trash pick-up events and stewardship grants.

“The water district depends on volunteers for our Adopt-A-Creek program and events like the upcoming Coastal Clean-up Day,” he said. “Last year, 1,696 volunteers participated in that event. We appreciate that Assemblymember Gordon’s bill will allow for these events to continue. Ultimately, our creeks and the bay will reap the benefits.”

Save the Bay also relies heavily on local volunteers for its new greenhouse, unveiled last month in the Palo Alto Baylands, which will grow 30,000 native species that will be planted in that park.

“Restoring the Bay’s vital marshes is urgent work that rarely receives any funding but has inspired broad participation by volunteers willing to give their time and sweat to improve their part of the Bay,” said Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis.

“We are thrilled this law remains intact, as it has proven to help nonprofit and community groups secure the critical volunteers necessary to improve our quality of life and environment.”

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