The 2010 California Environmental Legislative Recap: Public Policy Paralysis

The 2010 California Environmental Legislative Recap: Public Policy Paralysis

By Mr. Gary Lucks

Get the latest analysis of environmental laws recently passed by the California Legislature. The article, originally published as the Lead Article for the February 2011 issue of the California Environmental Law Reporter (Matthew Bender), includes coverage of 2010 state legislation on a variety of topics, such as climate change, energy, air and water quality, the California Environmental Quality Act, land use, sustainability, and hazardous waste.

“Preoccupied by another financial crisis and election year politics, the California Legislature and the outgoing Governor concluded one of the most lackluster legislative sessions in decades. Despite the dearth of earth-shattering legislation, last year was eclipsed by significant ballot initiatives that may have far reaching implications in California and on the national stage,” writes Gary Lucks. “This year was marked by the passage of Proposition 26 which changes the California Constitution so that some fees will require a two-thirds vote. Due to major fluctuations in the general fund from year-to-year, California environmental agencies have resorted to regulatory fees to support environmental programs. Proposition 26 could jeopardize some of these programs by recasting environmental fees as taxes, making it virtually impossible to obtain the requisite two-thirds vote for approval. This could have profound and wide-ranging impacts on implementing many California environmental laws including the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (otherwise known as AB 32).”

“Proposition 22 is another voter-approved initiative that will impact the fiscal picture for California. Because it restricts the state government's ability to collect local funds, it is expected to contribute another $1 billion gap to the projected $28.5 billion dollar budget deficit over the next 18 months. On the other hand, the electorate approved Proposition 25. This initiative eliminates the two-thirds requirement to approve spending; however, it is still necessary to produce a supermajority in the legislature to increase revenues,” explains the author. “ Nonetheless, the recently closed legislative session produced noteworthy policy on product stewardship for carpet manufacturers; waste paint recycling, and limits on heavy metal content in bead blasting. The balance of the new laws addressed a number of technical clean up provisions affecting existing environmental programs.”

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Gary A. Lucks, JD CPEA is a Principal at BEYOND COMPLIANCE, LLC, in Oakland, California, where he advises clients on multimedia environmental regulatory compliance, auditing, and sustainability. He is a certified professional environmental auditor and regular instructor at the University of California (U.C.) Berkeley and U.C. Davis Extension Program where he teaches courses on environmental law, legislation, auditing, compliance, and sustainability. He currently serves as an advisor to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and on the California State Bar Environmental Legislation Committee. He also chairs the West Coast Auditing Roundtable. Mr. Lucks has published numerous articles and newsletters addressing environmental legislation and policy. He is the coauthor of a book entitled: California Environmental Law and Policy: A Practical Guide and is co-founder of the Sustainable Earth Initiative (SEI), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping businesses and government become more sustainable through local actions.

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