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In Rare Bipartisan Effort, California Legislature Extends California’s Cap and Trade Program

Early this week, state lawmakers approved a 10-year extension for California's cap-and-trade program. Cap and trade provides flexibility and a favorable market based approach for achieving the required reductions in greenhouse gasses. The legislation will continue the program until 2030. The extension was necessary to provide clarity and predictability to assist companies in complying with the required reductions. The legislation was fiercely opposed by some in the environmental community who say it is not aggressive enough for progressive California. Several Democrats who voted against the measure felt it did not go far enough in pushing for command and control climate change policies.

That being the case, two companion measures also introduced attempted to incentivize a bipartisan vote. AB 617 is aimed at reducing pollution that cause local public health problems like asthma, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Many of these communities are located near industries and means of transportation that cause a large amount of pollution to affect these areas. To pull conservative legislators into supporting the climate change measure, a constitutional amendment was negotiated that would require a one-time, two-thirds vote in 2024 to reset spending of the cap-and-trade revenues. Republicans viewed this as a way to insure accountability and a check on the program’s progress. In another attempt to satisfy Republican lawmakers, an additional provision included suspending the state’s six-year-old fee paid by some 800,000 rural property owners for fire prevention. Republicans, who represent many of the areas where the fee is charged, have been trying to get rid of it for years through the courts and legislation. On average, property owners pay about $117 a year. In addition, the package included an important extension to 2030 of the existing sales tax exemption on manufacturing equipment.

And though the three bill package did garner enough votes from Republicans to pass, the decision was hardly unanimous. In the Assembly, where 54 votes were required for passage, 48 Democrats voted aye, Assemblymembers Adam Gray (D – Merced), Monique Limon (D - Santa Barbara), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D – Fullerton) and Mark Stone (D - Scotts Valley) voted no, Assemblymembers Sabrina Cervantes (D – Corona) and Jacqui Irwin who was absent (D – Thousand Oaks) abstained, and one Assembly seat is vacant. On the Senate side, all 27 Democrats voted aye, with Republican Senator Tom Berryhill of Modesto lending his approval, while the remaining 12 Republicans all voted against.