The Republicans really have one point of leverage in California government: the 2/3 vote on revenue. And every year they attempt to use it to pass some law that reduces workplace safety provisions, environmental protections or some other progressive policy.
And so it is no different this year:
The handful of Republican lawmakers most likely to provide crucial votes for Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan are threatening to withhold their support without a dramatic rewriting of state environmental law.
The demand, pushed in private talks with the governor, would curtail lawsuits against projects threatening ecological damage, grant waivers to big telecommunications companies and exempt many urban developments from environmental review.(LA Times)
You can view the proposed changes to the legislation here.
And to be fair, CEQA could probably use some updating. It often delays, sometimes unreasonably, very good projects. For example, the “NiMBYs” who are fighting high speed rail are using CEQA to muck up that project. You can find other good projects, that would be a net positive for the environment that have faced some pretty substantial CEQA headaches. On the flip side, we have saved many important environmental resources through CEQA. Wetlands in Orange County, to land surrounding the San Francisco Bay to forests. CEQA was there to protect them.
Yet, this is a democracy. And a democracy that is supposed to have some transparency. If CEQA is to be streamlines, it should be done in the light of day. It should happen in the standard committee process, with all stakeholders at the table. Not just a few telecoms and developers.
This is truly a fundamental problem of the 2/3 majority rules. It leads to legislative blackmail, and honestly, how can we not say a Democratic vote for this CEQA revision would be vote trading. And, you know, that’s not legal.
CEQA plays an important role in the development of this state, and amending it shouldn’t be treated casually, or done in the dark.