Triplicate staff

California's State Senate unanimously passed emergency short-term loan funding for rural school districts in California Thursday.

The measure, SB 133, was authored by Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, who represents the 4th Senate District, which includes Del Norte County.

He introduced the measure at the request of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a temporary andquot;backfillandquot; to temper the effect of federal funding lost under the recently expired Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act.

Schwarzenegger's budget proposal provides $69 million in general fund money for the loans.

Federal payments to rural schools in the state began in 1908 with the enactment of the National Forest Revenue Act. Revenues were traditionally generated by timber sales on National Forest land.

Environmental restrictions cut the federal timber sales program during the 1990s and markedly reduced the amount of money available to the schools.

Intending to make up for the loss, Congress enacted the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act in 2000.

The measure, however, has expired, and Congress has not acted to reauthorize the program.

The result is that rural districts face losing millions of dollars in funding they relied on.

Twenty-seven counties from northern to southern California also qualify for loan funding under Aanestad's measure.