John Laird: Environmental Champion
John Laird has had a significant environmental record during his twenty-three years in elected office, particularly during his six years in the State Assembly. He received a 100% score from the California League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club California during each of his years in the legislature, and was a CLCV- and Sierra Club-endorsed candidate in each of his state races. Between his city and state service, he chaired the Sierra Club’s Water Committee in the Santa Cruz County portion of the Ventana Chapter.
As a city councilmember, Laird was part of the Council that won a federal court case to protect the voter initiative that zoned greenbelt lands around the city – and helped secure the purchase of the Pogonip property to permanently protect those lands.
In his re-election campaign for the Santa Cruz City Council in 1985, John and his colleague Mardi Wormhoudt proposed a ballot measure on offshore oil drilling that was approved with 82% of the vote. That measure opposed the drilling proposals at that time, but also stipulated that no zoning change for onshore oil drilling support facilities could be approved without a vote of the people. The measure further authorized city support to educate other cities and counties on how to do a similar thing. By the end of John’s council service in 1990, twenty-six other local California jurisdictions had adopted similar measures – including San Luis Obispo City and County and the City of Morro Bay.
John’s legacy bill during his Assembly service was AB2600 in 2004, which established the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. John worked to achieve a bipartisan compromise in the legislature on that bill, and the Conservancy just celebrated its fifth anniversary and is a major force for environmental protection in the Sierra Nevada.
He also authored the update to the Natural Resources Tax Credit to allow acquisition of open space land at a lower cost to the state general fund by backfilling the state tax credit portion with bond funds and utilized the federal tax credit as a contribution to the acquisition.
As Assembly Budget Chair, John worked hard to finally turn the tide after years of the state’s under-funding resources and environmental protection. Laird’s most outstanding achievements included allocating $250 million to the state budget to begin funding the $1 billion backlog in state parks deferred maintenance,providing for $19 million to protect and manage California’s ocean resources and augmenting Fish & Game’s funding by over $70 million.
John was a significant leader in coastal issues, authoring legislative measures on the coastal trail, storm water runoff, invasive aquatic species, cruise ship dumping, sea otter protection, oil spill response funding, and enhancing the marine protection process.
He was also a significant leader in water conservation. His two bills on outdoor urban landscape water use led to ordinances throughout the state of California. His toilet efficiency bill led to massive water savings. He authored legislation to require state grantees to have water conservation programs in place before receiving integrated watershed planning grants. He successfully authored a bill on agricultural water measurement, and came very close to getting the Governor his bill on a 20% per capita water reduction by 2020.
In addition to many other bills, the Ventana Chapter was particularly pleased that Assembly member Laird authored AB2945 in 2008, which added 413 acres of new wilderness area to the state park system at Limekiln State Park.
Laird taught in the environmental studies department as UC Santa Cruz in 2010, and worked as a consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council on state environmental issues.