The 2017 legislative session came to a close in the predawn hours of September 16th with legislators already touting it as the most progressive and productive session in memory. Indeed, the Legislature passed a number of high-profile bills that were framed as a direct response or a form of resistance to the actions of the new administration in Washington. Below is a summary of the Legislature’s work on environmental issues this year:
Cap & Trade Extension
In July, the Legislature passed an extension of the landmark Cap & Trade program along with substantive air quality legislation. AB 397 by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D – Coachella) and AB 617 by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D – Bell Gardens) were a definitive response to the Trump administration’s pullout from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. With the threat of additional rollbacks at the national level that would stall progress to a green and clean economy, California responded by enacting legislation critical to meeting SB 32 goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while fostering economic growth in sectors that provide sustainable jobs.
Earlier in the session, the Legislature passed SB 1, a transportation infrastructure funding package authored by Senator Beall (D – San Jose). The package includes investments in active transportation, transit development, climate resilience, parks related transportation investments, and important funding for comprehensive mitigation of impacts to aid conservation efforts through Natural Community Conservation Plans and Regional Conservation Investment Strategies. Not only was SB 1 the largest infrastructure package nationally, it is also the most environmentally sustainable transportation program in California’s history.
In February, Senate leadership introduced the Preserve California package, a series of legislation intended to insulate California from federal actions to roll back environmental protections. Two of the three measures passed in the final hours of the session.
The package consisted of three bills:
- SB 49: Senator de León (D – Los Angeles) & Senator Stern (D – Canoga Park) which directs state agencies to fill any gaps in environmental enforcement created by the Trump administration.
- SB 50: Senator Allen (D – Santa Monica) allows state agencies to step in to protect environmentally sensitive lands that are given up by the federal government.
- SB 51: Senator Jackson (D – Santa Barbara) provides protection to whistleblowers.
SB 50 and SB 51 passed out of the Legislature, however, SB 49 was blocked before it could be voted on the Assembly floor due to heavy lobbying from industry and agriculture.
In line with the Preserve California effort, the Legislature has committed to defending public lands and National Monuments in response to the federal administration’s efforts to overturn protections for these lands and reduce our national monuments.
Park, Climate Resilience, and Water Investments
With threats of cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and other federal funding sources for conservation, the role of state funding for conservation and natural resources is more important than ever. In the previous legislative session (2015-2016), two park bond proposals were introduced but failed to make it through the Legislature. This year, SB 5 (de León) and AB 18 (E. Garcia) were introduced and moved through the Legislature. After negotiation between the authors and the Governor, on the last night of session, the Legislature passed SB 5. The final proposal authorizes $4 billion in new bond spending, with $2.83 billion in parks and natural resources funding and $1.27 billion in water funding. For more information on SB 5, see this summary or our previous blog post.
SB 5 will appear on the June 2018 ballot. CSG is already at work on the campaign to pass the measure.
The Legislature was not able to agree on legislation on two major environmental issues this year.
Energy: SB 100 (De León) would move California toward a zero carbon electricity grid. At the last minute it was caught up in a move by the Governor to create a regional electricity market. Both were put over until next year.
Water: Following the lifting of the drought state of emergency by Governor Brown, the Legislature moved to develop legislation to codify more aggressive water conservation goals for California. By the final weeks of the session, two key bills remained:
- AB 1668: Assemblymember Friedman (D – Glendale)
- SB 606: Senators Hertzberg (D – Van Nuys) and Skinner (D – Berkeley)
Last minute negotiations failed and neither bill was taken up for a final vote.
Also, next session, the Legislature is expected to continue working on the water conservation package and SB 623, authored by Senator Monning (D – Carmel), which sought to provide an ongoing funding stream to ensure that disadvantaged communities have access to safe drinking water.
Political leadership in Sacramento made great strides this year to protect the environment and address other priorities that are important to Californians. However, our national monuments, desert ecosystems, and natural resources are still under threat, with more challenges on the horizon. Additional work is needed to move the state to a full clean energy economy, manage our water resources for a more drought-resilient California, and continue to adapt to climate change. The CSG Team is focused on these problems and working towards a greener California.
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