We made plans to post here and send out by email an URGENT CALL TO ACTION! > With only three days to the close of the California Legislature’s session (until Sept 13th), everyone was asked to call Assembly member Grayson and Senator Dodd’s office ASAP to advocate on the following bills: (see details at URGENT! Call our representatives today!! or download the list)
When oil industry supports legislators, air quality suffers
By By Kathryn Phillips, April 22, 2019
California journalists have reported over the last two election cycles on the effort by the Legislature’s “moderate caucus,” composed of conservative Democratic state legislators, to increase the caucus’ influence
During normal times—say, when the planet’s very future hasn’t depended on dramatically cutting combustion fueled by oil and methane gas—such facts would be just interesting data points for analyzing the Legislature’s political dynamics.
Now, though, the caucus members’ devotion to maintaining California’s oil dependence is having health-threatening consequences.
This devotion is especially playing out in the Assembly Transportation Committee. The committee is chaired by Jim Frazier, a Democrat from Discovery Bay, a leader of the moderate caucus.
California’s notorious air and climate pollution is driven by transportation. The smog and toxic particles that spark maladies ranging from low birthweight to asthma and heart disease are tightly linked to tailpipe emissions.
Reams of data, scientific papers and regulatory agency reports point to the need to transition California’s cars and trucks to zero-emission vehicles if the state is to ever have clean air or avoid the worst effects of climate change.
So one would expect to see growing devotion by the Democratic-led California Legislature to do more to help Californians access electric cars and cut pollution from delivery trucks.
Instead, the California Assembly is the graveyard for legislation designed to help advance zero-emission vehicles.
Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman Frazier has a commanding, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of governing. He has demonstrated that style by stopping bills to advance clean transportation by refusing to schedule them for a hearing in his committee.
One of the most recent victims is Assembly Bill 40, which would require the regulatory agency responsible for tailpipe emissions regulations, the California Air Resources Board, to produce and deliver to the legislature a strategy for fully transitioning brand new cars sold in California to zero-emission by 2040.
That is, the bill by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting would have asked for a study to be done and sent to the Legislature. It did nothing more. Yet it’s a bill the oil and gas industry and the California Chamber of Commerce strongly oppose. The bill isn’t being scheduled for a hearing.
There are a few bills in the Senate that advance clean transportation that may pass in that house. But they are sure to face the buzzsaw in the Assembly once they reach Frazier’s committee.
How can a single legislator stop progress in advancing technology and cutting pollution?
He can do this by not acting alone. The Assembly Transportation Committee includes at least four other moderate caucus members who won’t buck the chairman, and whose votes, when counted with the handful of Republicans on the committee, can stop any bill.
In essence, the committee is stacked against zero-emission technology.
Frazier isn’t the only pro-oil Democrat sitting in a leadership role this year. Rudy Salas, Jr., a Democrat from Bakersfield, is chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. His first action was to try to get an expansive and expensive audit of the air resources board’s work on transportation.
It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Salas’s audit request, which failed to garner the votes needed, echoed the complaints commonly heard from the oil and gas industry about the air resources board’s transportation policies.
Who pays campaign costs has consequences. In the California Legislature, the consequences are that we all live with more health-threatening transportation pollution with no end in sight.
Kathryn Phillips is director of Sierra Club California, the legislative and regulatory advocacy arm of the Sierra Club’s 13 local chapters. She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.
Progressive Women Positioned to Replace 9 Male Legislators in 2018 State Races
Below the Congressional “jungle primary” canopy, a groundswell of progressive women candidates is headed straight for Sacramento.
A record 98 women competed yesterday to win a spot in November run-offs for State Legislative seats. 43 will advance. This is the largest cohort of women to do so since 2004. Close the gap CA targeted 9 winnable districts to ensure at least one progressive woman was prepared to compete:
SD 12- Anna Caballero
SD 14- Melissa Hurtado
SD 22- Susan Rubio
SD 24- Maria Elena Durazo
SD 32- Vanessa Delgado
AD 15- Buffy Wicks, Jovanka Beckles (TBD)
AD 16- Rebecca Bauer-Kahan
AD 39- Luz Rivas
AD 76- Tasha Boerner-Horvath, Elizabeth Warren
In all districts except SD 32, at least one progressive woman has advanced to November (listed above). Two thirds are women of color. All targeted seats, except AD 16 have most recently been held by men.
“For the first time in over a decade, we are witnessing a decisive uptick in the number of women serving in the California State Legislature,” said Executive Director Susannah Delano. “Close the gap CA targets open and purple, winnable seats throughout the state—including those vacated in the wake of #MeToo allegations—recruiting progressive women and positioning them to launch competitive campaigns.”
“It’s not a coincidence that these accomplished women were ready to run successful campaigns with very short runways,” continued Delano. In the past 6 months, voters have held 5 special elections to fill legislative seats vacated by men. Progressive women have already won 3 of the 5– Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo and Sydney Kamlager, and now Assemblymember-Elect Luz Rivas. With progressive women positioned to replace male predecessors in 6 additional districts in November, 2019 could begin with gender parity numbers approaching their highest ever in California history.
“When more progressive women serve, our state’s policies become more comprehensive and just. And our Legislature itself is challenged to do better, for every Californian,” said Delano.
Close the gap CA is a campaign to achieve gender parity in the State Legislature by 2028. After watching women drop to just 23% of the Assembly and Senate over the past decade, we decided to do something about it: we recruit progressive women to run. For more information, please visit closethegapca.org.
Planning & Conservation League’s 2017 California Legislative Summary
Matthew Baker, PCL Policy Director, October 2017
It was a big year in the California Capitol: the precedent setting Cap and Trade program was extended, a major transportation funding program was passed (SB 1), a funding bond for parks, water conservation, and climate resilience (SB 5) was approved for the ballot, and a historic “Housing package” including major funding for affordable housing to address the state’s housing crisis also passed the legislature, after months of deliberation, and was approved by the Governor. By some accounts it was one of the heaviest legislative years in California ever.
There are too many important bills that passed this year than can be described in detail here, but the following are some of the highlights of the legislation PCL was engaged in:
It is a major disappointment to PCL to report that the Governor vetoed AB 890 (Medina). PCL worked very hard with the author and sponsors of this bill in an effort to correct a court-created loophole that has enabled project proponents to use the ballot initiative process to bypass environmental review. This is a difficult problem, but in the end our team developed a viable solution that had gained wide support. In his veto message, the Governor did indicate recognition of the problem and a willingness to correct it, and PCL looks forward to working with the administration and our partners to pursue this solution.
PCL was also extremely focused on this year’s “Housing Package” which was comprised of more than 15 bills signed by the Governor to address the housing shortage and the growing lack of housing affordability in California. PCL has worked for the past year with a coalition of diverse interests with the goal of identifying housing concepts, appropriate project review streamlining, and financial incentives to accelerate production of the right things in the right place—that is, equitable infill development without displacement of low income communities. While we had concerns with some specific bills, PCL supported the package in total, which represents a significant step forward in the right direction for California’s housing needs.
Some of the more significant bills in the package include SB2(Atkins) that establishes a long-sought after permanent source of funding for affordable housing, and SB 3 (Beall), a bond for the 2018 ballot for further affordable housing funding. Though more is needed, these bills represent the most significant investment in housing since the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in California. AB 1505 (Bloom) is another long-sought after win for equity advocates, clarifying a court decision to ensure that local inclusionary housing ordinances extend to rental housing. PCL helped to get the language right in SB 166 (Skinner) that requires jurisdictions make a new site available for affordable housing if a formerly identified site for affordable housing is changed to another use. PCL also worked very closely with the bill sponsor, Council of Infill Builders, to ensure that the NIFTY Act, AB 1568 (Bloom), stayed nifty—establishing a unique voluntary financing district mechanism for jurisdictions to fund affordable infill housing and associated utility and transit infrastructure upgrades.
Of the entire housing package, SB 35 (Wiener) posed the greatest challenge for PCL. SB 35 allows for “by-right” approval (a full CEQA review exemption) of housing projects that meet certain affordability and environmental criteria. Again, PCL worked very hard with diverse interests to ensure that this bill incentivized truly equitable infill housing, without displacement, and without urban “greenfield” expansion. While we greatly supported the intent of the author, in the end we found that the final language did not meet that intent and opposed the bill. Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis in the upcoming California Today newsletter of SB 35, strengths and weaknesses in the housing package, and what these implications mean for PCL’s work moving forward.
There were a number of bills which PCL supported that aimed at back-stopping California law with protections we currently rely on federal law for. SB 50(Allen), imposing restrictions on the privatization of federal lands, was signed by the Governor. SB 51(Jackson), establishing protections on science and climate data generated in California was vetoed by the Governor. The farthest-reaching bill in this regard, SB 49 (de Leon), seeks to adopt provisions of the Federal Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, as well as federal workers-rights protections, into the California Code. Due to practical concerns over how such a broad law will be implemented, the bill was held in committee. SB 49 will likely be a two-year bill and priority for PCL.
There were also multiple bills concerning water that PCL was engaged on. We supportSB 623 (Monning), which would establish a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. The bill was held this year in committee but will likely move again next year. We opposed SB 634(Wilk), a problematic privatization of a public water agency in Santa Clarita, which the Governor signed. PCL and many others strongly opposed the last-hour passage of AB 313(Gray), which would have restricted authority of the State Water Resources Control Board and posed a terrible precedent for the powers of other state agencies. Thankfully, the Governor vetoed AB 313.
PCL is always watching for last minute gut-and-amend bills, and particularly last-minute CEQA exemptions for special projects, and there was one such bill. SB 789 (Bradford) would have given a CEQA exemption to a proposed stadium in Inglewood, raising broad opposition in the last days of the session, and the bill was held in committee.
There were many wins for the environment and social equity in 2017, but there were some loses as well. PCL and our partners are already looking ahead to 2018 to build upon those wins and to find constructive approaches to the many challenges that remain. Stay tuned!