Four Orange County Republican state lawmakers have signed on to co-author last-minute legislation that would restrain litigation under California’s environmental-protection laws.
The proposal, Senate Bill 317 by State Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, seeks to scale back lawsuits faced by construction projects under the California Environmental Quality Act, a 42-year-old law that requires state and local agencies to analyze and require mitigation for the environmental impacts of proposed developments.
CEQA, as the law is known, has long been a source of contention among Republicans, who say its provisions, particularly those that allow for litigation by environmental-protection groups, dramatically increase the cost of doing business in California.
Every year, it seems, the Legislature approves a handful of bills that create CEQA exemptions for specific projects, like the one approved last year for the proposed Farmers Field football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. Republicans, however, have pushed for broader reforms and some said Wednesday that the Rubio bill might just be the solution they’ve been looking for.
“It’s closer than we’ve ever been to real CEQA reform,” said Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, one of the Orange County co-authors.
Joining Wagner as co-authors is Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, and state Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, whose district includes a piece of Orange County.
“It’s still percolating,” Norby said, “but I think if we’re going to have a bipartisan vote on it, it will pass.”
The proposal is likely to face opposition from the environmental lobby as well as some Democrats in the Assembly and Senate. Earlier this month, more than 30 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, saying they’re concerned about proposals to weaken CEQA.