California Leadership in Wake of National Change

Thursday, November 10, 2016

California Leadership in Wake of National Change

Tuesday’s election means California’s leadership on environmental issues is more important than ever.  CSG offers a summary of election highlights below, and some insights into the road ahead.

With Trump’s election and continued Republican control of both Houses of Congress, we can expect a rollback of conservation and environmental policies on climate, water, and conservation.  In Sacramento, the California Assembly will have a two-thirds Democratic majority but with a significant group of moderate Democrats (“Mod Dems”) with strong ties to oil and business interests.  The State Senate fell short of a two-thirds majority.  Fundamentally, the balance of power on environmental issues in the California Legislature remains unchanged, although there was some indication of vulnerability to Mod Dems in races against other Democrats on environmental issues.

California voters rejected a well-funded industry campaign to overturn the plastic bag ban, demonstrating the power of the environmental vote to stand up against corporate money.  Additionally, the marijuana initiative’s passage creates a new, large funding source for State Parks and wildlife areas as well as restoration of watersheds.  There was generally good news on local ballot measures particularly in Los Angeles with passage of Measure A, which will fund local park needs.  Overall, California voters show a continued and even increasing willingness to support funding measures at the ballot, including state bonds and local parcel and sales tax measures.

For more information on the environmental implications of the election, please contact Joe Caves at or Mark Smith at To learn about other CSG projects and services check out To stay up to date on major policy issues in California, sign up for our Policy Blog emails here.


Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. The broader implications for conservation policy and budget funding relative to conservation and environmental priorities is largely unknown, although it is expected to be negative.  Trump’s limited comments on these policies include opinions that the current drought in California does not exist, support for natural resource extraction (drilling, mining, etc.), and a desire to abolish the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  It is unknown at this point who he might consider for key administrative conservation oriented positions, including the Department of the Interior (Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management), Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and others. It is also unknown what the dynamics of the White House will be with Congress in enacting the Trump Administration agenda, as many in the Republican party very publicly distanced themselves from Trump.

US Senate
Democrats have picked up two seats with Tammy Duckworth defeating incumbent Republican Senator Mark Kirk in Illinois, and Maggie Hassan unseating Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. Democrats also held on to Senator Harry Reid’s seat in Nevada,however the Senate will remain in Republican control, albeit with a slightly smaller margin. Senator John Barrasso (R – Wyoming) is expected to lead the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works since current chairman Jim Inhofe is term-limited. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska) is expected to retain control of the Energy and Natural Resources committee.

US House of Representatives
Democrats had predicted that Donald Trump’s presidential nomination would prompt an anti-Republican wave that would sweep 20 or more Democrats into the House. Instead, Republicans maintained control of the House with a net gain of only five Democratic seats as of Wednesday morning. Democrats seized four redrawn, GOP-held districts in Florida and Virginia and have small leads that may not hold up in several other battleground districts. However, Democrats were unable to unseat Republicans in key districts across the country, including in California where Democrats had targeted fourRepublican held seats.

California State Senate
Senate District 29 was the main seat with potential to switch from Republican to Democrat.  Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang has taken the lead in the race to replace outgoing Senator Bob Huff by a narrow margin of four thousand votes.

California State Assembly  
The Democrats won enough seats to achieve two-thirds control to the State Assembly.  This threshold is important for the ability to place measures on the ballot, and raise taxes.  Several moderate Democrats were elected, although in one high visibility race (Assembly District 47) the incumbent moderate Democrat, Cheryl Brown, was ousted by efforts from the environmental community over a voting track record sympathetic to oil and business interests.

California Initiatives

·  Proposition 64 (Recreational Marijuana) – Recreational marijuana use approved in California, the measure contains significant funding for mitigation and restoration from areas impacted by illegal cultivation (watersheds, landscapes, etc).

·  Propositions 65 and 67 (plastic bags) – Proposition 65, a measure to redirect grocery bag fees to conservation funding, fails.  Proposition 67, the referendum on overturning the statewide ban on plastic bags, passed, meaning the effort to overturn it was unsuccessful, and the statewide legislation previously passed will now take effect.

Other conservation funding measures of note throughout California:

·  PASSES Santa Clara County the transportation measure passed with about 70% (needed two-thirds) and is key to an ultimate mitigation credit agreement related to the yet to be completed Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS).  However, the transportation measure in Contra Costa County that is also linked to a RCIS only received 62% of the vote, not reaching the two-thirds it needed to pass.

·  PASSES Fairfield: Measure T, annexes a parcel dedicated to build the Pacific Flyway Center

·  PASSES Oakland: Measure KK, a bond measure for roads, sidewalks and community facilities, includes up to $35 million for parks.

·  ALL THREE MEASURES PASS Milpitas: Measures I and J would renew expiring limits on hillside development, and a third, Measure K, would require a two-thirds public vote to rezone parks and open space land for industrial, commercial or residential development.

·  PASSES Hayward, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and nearby communities: Measure F1, a $250 million bond, would fund parks, playgrounds and trails.

·  PASSES Gilroy: Measure H would put an urban growth boundary around the city, limiting new development on farmland.

·  PASSES Napa County: Measure Z, a quarter-cent sales tax that would raise $112 million over 14 years, would protect forests, rivers, wetlands and other natural areas.

·  FAILS Sonoma County: Measure J, a half-cent sales tax, would raise $100 million over 10 years for parks, streams, rivers and wildlife habitat.

·  PASSES Monterey County: Measure E, a $25 annual parcel tax, would raise $24 million for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District over the next 20 years.

·  FAILS San Diego County: Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase for roads, public transit and open space, would provide $2 billion to parks and open space over the next 40 years.

·  PASSES Los Angeles County: Measure A would raise $1.8 billion over the next 20 years for playgrounds, parks and trails through a property tax increase of 1.5 cents per square foot, or $22.50 a year for a typical 1,500-square foot house.

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