Same Play as Last Year: No Respect for Laws Passed by the Majority and Supported by Californians—Only This Year, They’re Also Picking on Workers
Republican State Senators held a press conference last week and demanded that California delay implementation of AB 32—our landmark global warming law—and that other changes be made to our state’s overtime law, a progressive reform enacted decades ago. This is like a bad dream. And it could not come at a worse time than now, where there is a need to pass a budget on time or California will face irreparable harm to its creditworthiness and increased costs in borrowing.
Last year, the state budget was held up by this band of 15 because they wanted to deny California Attorney General Jerry Brown the funds to enforce California’s basic environmental law—signed by Ronald Reagan when he was governor—the California Environmental Quality Assurance law known as “CEQA.” They had egg on their face, came out on the short end of the stick and were blamed by California voters for their obstructionism. And they were thwarted.
Not a single one of these Senators voted for AB 32. Some of them, including Senator Tom McClintock, the right-wing nut job running now for Congress, are among the global warming deniers. McClintock in the Senate debate derided the idea that global warming was man made and talked about the coming of the next ice age. Failing in blocking AB 32, which passed both houses of the California legislature and was signed into law by Republican Governor Schwarzenegger, they now don’t want the law on the books to be enforced. This, from the party of law and order.
There are larger public policy implications for their actions that go to the very basics of majority rule and respect for democracy and the rule of law. The image that comes to my mind is that of terrorists—who cannot win by other means, including the ballot box where voters have displaced them to general irrelevance and recent voter registration figures show they are being outstripped by California’s Democrats who increased the gap in every single Assembly and State Senate district while Republican registration actually fell statewide. And I’m talking about registration changes after the California Presidential primary. You wonder why the Republicans are such a minority party in this state and have been literally a bankrupt party with more in debt than money in the bank, and its numbskull actions like this.
Sadly, it fits in with the Bush Administrations defiance of the federal courts including the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA and continuing attempts to block our enforcement on global warming with tailpipe emission clean air standards. Something 18 other states want to join us in. Consider just for a moment this information put out Friday by the Environmental Defense Fund:
“Ohio Senator George Voinovich today proposed to address the rapidly escalating threat of climate change by delaying meaningful federal action to control greenhouse gas emissions, obstructing existing state programs, and allowing U.S. global warming pollution to increase for decades to come.
“This proposal can be summed up in one word: bankrupt,” said Steve Cochran, national climate campaign director at Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s a detailed prescription for doing nothing. If you think climate change is a hoax, this is your bill.”
“The plan outlined by Senator Voinovich today postpones meaningful action on greenhouse gas emissions for at least twenty years, calling for weak, non-binding emissions reduction benchmarks “current levels in 2020 and 1990 levels in 2030 while providing taxpayer-funded subsidies for favored technologies.”
Here in California, poll after poll shows voters support our environmental laws and want them enforced. The response to the Senate Republicans was swift from the environmental community. Sierra Club California Director Bill Magavern made the following statement:
“Once again, these Senate Republicans are showing why they’re a minority party — they’re so desperate to please their corporate contributors that they’re trying to roll back vital protections for our air and atmosphere that most Californians strongly support. Their proposal would further delay our state’s achieving healthy air quality by extending deadlines for cleaning up dirty diesel engines. They also propose to delay for a year the implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), even though that law already is driving technological innovation that will fuel California’s economy. Furthermore, we are highly suspicious that when they say “Streamline the building permitting process,” the Republican leaders mean weakening safeguards that protect our quality of life from rampant over-development.
“These same reactionary senators held last year’s budget hostage in a futile attempt to roll back California’s Environmental Quality Act. They are out of touch with the governor and with the voters of all parties, who understand that cleaning up our air and water helps California’s economy.”
So, we’ll dust off the headlines from last year for this year’s sequel. On August 14, 2007, we wrote “Republican State Senators Holding up the California Budget Should Get Their Facts Straight on California Environmental Laws and Who We Elected to Enforce Them.” Here’s a part of what we had to say:
“The principle at stake here is also not inconsequential. It is really about the rule of law and the California Constitution. Lost in all of this is that the voters of California, by a landslide margin larger elected Jerry Brown to be the chief law enforcement office of the state. Brown won by a margin larger than even Governor Schwarzenegger. It is his constitutional duty to enforce our laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which has been on the books since Governor Ronald Reagan signed it in 1970. Under our system of government, the legislature passes laws, the Governor signs them, and the Attorney General is the state’s lawyer charged with upholding them and the courts make decisions where there are disputes about the application of laws.
“If you disagree with a law, get a majority of the legislature to amend it and the Governor to sign the change. If you don’t, the law is there to be obeyed. We, the people elected the Attorney General to uphold the law, not 14 state senators, not one of whom voted for AB 32, the landmark law on greenhouse gases and who probably would not have voted for CEQA.
“We should not establish the principle that a small minority can hold up the state budget and demand that laws they do not like, passed by the majority and signed by the governor, not be enforced.
“Republican Senator Cogdill, who while in the Assembly voted against AB 32, recently sent his constituents a letter that contained the following:
“”Senate Republicans have openly expressed concerns about lawsuits being filed by the State Attorney General Jerry Brown under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This is a blatant attempt by extreme environmentalists to put a halt on progress. They contend that local governments, builders, and developers should account for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions when preparing environmental documents even though there is no requirement in law that they do so. Last year, the Legislature approved AB 32 which directs the Air Resources Board to develop regulations on GHG emissions by 2012 as of now, no regulations exist so how can anybody be expected to abide by them?
“You may read in the press that this is not a budgetary matter, but, indeed it is. There is $1 million proposed in this budget to fund the Attorney General’ s witchhunt. The Republicans have proposed that this money be cut from the budget. As mentioned, bond implementation is frequently included in the budget, and as such, legislators need to make sure that the will of the people is respected in that process. The Attorney General’s lawsuit signifies a direct threat to this process and will jeopardize projects, $43 billion in funding for which was expressly approved of by voters.”
“First of all, Senator Cogdill is confused about the $1 million in the budget. That money is for enforcement of tail pipe emissions, was discussed in the budget conference committee, and when his fellow Republican Senator Hollingsworth brought up concerns about this, it was agreed that this money is not to be used for CEQA enforcement and the opposition to this line item was removed and it passed out.”
Well, take a look at the Sacramento Bee on this from last week. It is the same Republican Senator Cogdill, now the Republican Party leader in the Senate, who is behind this:
“Senate Republicans stood with business representatives Tuesday in demanding a series of business and environmental regulation changes as part of state budget talks.
“The measures included delaying implementation of a landmark greenhouse gas reduction law and suspension of mandatory overtime for working more than eight hours a day.
“Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill said he wanted to make GOP requests public after criticism last summer that Republicans did not fully reveal their budget demands.”
Will we have a repeat of last year’s headlines? Such as August 10, 2007: California’s Republican Director of Finance Targets G.O.P. Senator Denham’s Refusal to Support Governor’s Budget–“Hard to Understand”? Or August 11, 2007: Schwarzenegger Director of Finance, Former Senate Republican Staffer, Says Budget Should Have Been Passed Weeks Ago.
At least they are out in the open. Are all 15 Republican State Senators in on this and will they invoke the unit rule on this to hold out for these changes with the budget held hostage? Last year Republican Senator Abel Maldonado broke ranks early. What will Senator Jeff Denham do? Will he hold the budget up again this year? Senate Democrats need two Republicans to decide to not go along with this conspiracy in order to get the two-thirds vote to pass the budget.
We may begin to find out tomorrow at 10 a.m., when the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection, and Energy will have a hearing on the Governor’s proposed budget. The subcommittee will examine issues surrounding AB 32 and climate change response with a variety of agencies, including the Air Resources Board, the Secretary of Resources and the Public Utilities Commission.
At least it’s out in the open. Stay tuned.