Sacramento legislative season update: the good, the bad, and the oily

Whew! This year’s legislative season, which ended last week, was quite a whirlwind. While ClimatePlan doesn’t endorse legislation, we work to keep our partners informed about bills that might influence all of our work.

Hang on to your hat — here’s a high-speed rundown:

Action on climate change

This year, we saw several exciting proposals to advance California’s climate leadership. While not all made it across the finish line, they show how much energy there is around climate action and building equitable and sustainable communities in California. Two were most closely watched:

Senate Bill 32 (Pavley) — Maintaining Economic Growth through Climate Pollution Reduction — would have set a climate pollution reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, as well as authorizing the California Air Resources Board to adopt interim targets. It passed in the Senate but stalled in the Assembly and was tabled to become a two-year bill, to return next year.

Senate Bill 350 (De León and Leno), the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 was actually adopted, to much celebration. As passed, SB 350 formally adopts Governor Brown’s goals to double the energy efficiency of the state’s buildings, and generate half of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Mired in oil

Originally, SB 350 would have done even more: it would have required a 50 percent cut in petroleum use by vehicles by 2030. Unfortunately, in the last week of the session, Senator De León and Governor Brown announced the bill would drop this provision. Although the goal was well within reach, the provision was choked out of the bill by false advertising and intense lobbying from the oil industry. As the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board wrote, “we are disgusted by the influence of oil money on the Capitol.”

It sounds like this setback has galvanized our state’s leadership, however. Governor Brown promised, “California is not going to miss a beat… The only thing different is my zeal has been intensified to a maximum degree.”

Ours too. And we applaud all our partners who worked hard on this. Thank you.

Getting moving again

Governor Brown and California legislative leaders can show their zeal at this fall’s Transportation and Infrastructure Development Extraordinary Session. This special committee session could put billions of dollars in new revenues toward transportation. This presents an opportunity for progress — that is, if our infrastructure investments and climate goals are linked by funding public transit and safe walking and biking, as well as supporting underserved communities and conservation.

Early proposals did not show much potential, focusing largely on highways and roads. But more recently, amendments to a key bill, SBX1-1 (Beall), turned things in the right direction, requiring road improvements to include safe space for walking and biking, and report on impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, public health, communities, and more. Governor Brown then provided his own proposal: it’s a start, but still needs attention to key elements, such as those outlined by NRDC.

Stay tuned. This transportation session has real promise but it has a long way to go.

No place to call home

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, people need affordable homes in places where they don’t have to drive long distances. ClimatePlan partners continued working hard on a permanent source for funds for affordable housing. AB 1335 (Atkins) would have levied a small real-estate fee to create a housing trust fund. Unfortunately, this bill did not advance out of the Assembly.

After some struggle, a new funding source was created to help disadvantaged communities apply for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds. Starting as a large amount, it ended up smaller and focused on the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program — but it made it through!

Wins for under-served communities

A little more good news: Assembly Bill 1288 (Atkins and Pavley) will enable the Air Resources Board, whose important work reduces pollution and advances California’s climate policy, to focus more on communities most in need. It will add two new members to the Board who work directly with communities that are especially burdened by, and vulnerable to, pollution.

Communities of color and low-income communities will also now get help in applying for grants to reduce greenhouse gases. This technical assistance program is now part of this year’s state budget, passed as part of SB 101. The program, as initially envisioned, spanned the breadth of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund efforts; it was scaled down somewhat — this first iteration will focus on the Strategic Growth Council’s work, particularly the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program.

Falling forward

It hasn’t been a dull season in Sacramento, even if we’ve seen a step back for every two steps ahead. (Read another great recap here, too.) Now we’re looking forward to the special session on transportation. Hang on for the ride!

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