Last Friday marked the last day of this legislative session, ending a very busy month for CLCV in the Capitol.
Though CLCV worked on - and worked with you on - many bills this year, we had five top priorities that held true through the year:
Fair and equitable allocation of AB 32 cap-and-trade revenue
Protecting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Curbing plastic pollution of our oceans and communities
Protecting state parks
Fairness in elections and voting rights
We shared the first four priorities in common with Green California. Throughout the session we worked with you and in Sacramento with our partners to advance these issues. As you may know, Green California is a powerful network of 85 environmental, public health, and social justice organizations facilitated by the CLCV Education Fund. CLCV’s work with Green California allows us to magnify our community’s strength and speak to the state legislature and regulatory agencies with a unified voice on issues impacting California’s air, water, and natural resources.
How did we fare on our priorities? Overall, pretty well, but with some disappointments too.
First, the good news – we were successful at helping pass bills aimed at implementing California’s landmark climate legislation, AB 32, by guiding the allocation of revenues from the planned cap-and-trade auctions. AB 1532 (J Perez) provides a comprehensive framework for how the revenues from the auction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission allowances will be allocated. The bill will help ensure that these revenues are allocated to uses that reduce GHG emissions, including renewable energy, low-carbon transportation, natural resource protection, and research and development of clean energy technology. SB 535 (De Leon) directs a portion these revenues to help Californians who are least able to confront the expected impacts of the climate crisis at the local level. Specifically, the bill directs the Administration to allocate 25% of the revenue to projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities, and to allocate a minimum of 10% of the revenues to projects located within disadvantaged communities. Passing SB 535 was a huge win for the environmental and social justice communities, as we’ve been working to pass this important bill for several years.
Another big win was not in a bill passed, but in our success at stopping efforts to gut the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CLCV worked to protect CEQA with the help of many environmental partners, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Planning and Conservation League, and Sierra Club. We worked inside the Capitol, meeting with legislators and urging them not to make major changes that would significantly change CEQA in the last two weeks of the session, with little time or opportunity for review or input. Assemblymember Jared Huffman authored a letter to Assembly and Senate leadership, co-signed by 33 lawmakers, urging the same. Outside the Capitol, in just a few days, thousands of CLCV members signed on to a letter urging the legislature not to gut CEQA. These efforts worked, and several bills that included significant revisions were never introduced. Our efforts to support CEQA will continue; it is very likely that next session will see include significant attention to CEQA.
Some much needed good news for state parks came in the passage of two bills supporting parks. AB 1589 (Huffman) provides a wide-ranging flexibility for additional funding streams for state parks. Among the many provisions in the bill, AB 1589 establishes a new State Park Enterprise Fund to identify, evaluate, and pursue future revenue-generating options within state parks that are mission-consistent. AB 1478 (Blumenfield) would halt state park closures for two years. The bill appropriates funds to parks, specifically allocating matching funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis for parks with funding agreements with private organizations.
One major parks bill that CLCV and allies in Green California worked to pass for the past two years did not pass. SB 580 (Wolk), which would have instituted a no net-loss policy on parks land, was held in Assembly Appropriations earlier in August.
Fairness in Election and Voting Rights
CLCV worked on three bills related to elections and voting rights. AB 1648 (Brownley), the California Disclose Act, would have fought back against hidden spending on campaigns by letting voters know who really is paying for political ads — in the ads themselves. The bill passed the Assembly, but unfortunately time ran out and it was not brought up for a Senate vote.
The other two bills fared better. Assembly Joint Resolution 22 (Wieckowski) calls upon the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. It passed both houses, and since it is a resolution, it does not need to be signed by the governor. AB 1436 (Feuer) would allow Californians to register to vote up to and on election day, potentially allowing 850,000 more eligible voters in California to register and vote in the next election. It also passed both houses and awaits the governor’s signature.
Major disappointments included the failure of two proposals aimed at reducing plastic pollution. AB 298 (Brownley), which would have phased out plastic bags from California's supermarkets, retail pharmacies and convenience stores, was not able to muster the votes for passage in the Senate and was held in Senate Appropriations. SB 568 (Lowenthal), which would have phased out polystyrene take-out containers, failed on the Assembly floor. These bills would have made a huge impact on improving the health of our marine environment. Though both bills failed, dozens of cities this year banned plastic bags and/or polystyrene take-out containers. Just last week the Los Angeles Unified School District – the largest school district in California and second largest in the country – announced it would ban polystyrene food trays, after students advocated for the change. CLCV and our Green California partners will continue working to curb plastic pollution in California.
Other Environmental Legislation:
Outside of our top four priorities, CLCV and partners in Green California worked to pass many other bills this year. Here’s a brief roundup of what happened.
After a two year effort, the main bill in last year’s six-bill Human Right to Water package, AB 685 (Eng), passed (four of the other bills in the package passed last year).
Despite several attempts in this session, three fracking regulation bills failed. SB 1054 (Pavley), calling for disclosure of fracking installations, failed on the Senate floor. AB 591 (Wieckowski), regulating disclosure of fracking chemicals, and AB 972 (Butler), a fracking moratorium, were held in Senate Appropriations.
Unfortunately, under intense lobbying from the utilities, two bills aimed at expanding renewable energy failed. AB 1990 (Fong), “solar for all,” failed on the Senate floor and SB 843 (Wolk) was held in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee.
Two bills that will reform and strengthen the Department of Fish and Game passed – AB 2402 (Huffman) and SB 1148 (Pavley)
SB 1156 (Steinberg) passed, providing a new financing option for cities and counties replacing the loss of redevelopment funds from the state. The new tax increment funding source would support sustainable economic development and promote affordable housing near transit, which could help implement SB 375.
SB 1455 (Kehoe), which aimed to increase usage of alternative fuels, failed to get the 2/3 vote needed to pass, despite the work of a broad coalition supporting the bill.
We’re not done yet…
The bills that made it through the legislature now must be signed by Governor Brown. Please visit our Take Action page to contact him today.