This is the truly crazy-making time of the legislative year, when hundreds of bills line up on the floor like airplanes on a crowded runway. And productivity isn’t measured by the quality of the bills being considered but rather by the number that are disposed of on the floor each day. With over 700 bills waiting for take-off or otherwise, it’s a madhouse. Several bills have already been or will be delayed, postponed or canceled while most of those lined up will take off for the Governor’s desk where their fate will be decided within thirty days of their final vote.
An action alert is up, here:
But read on for the details.
It is chaos, exhausting and usually a productive time. But this is also the time of year when egos and hard-feelings from past slights, disrespect or other machinations force otherwise important measures to languish and die, often even before hitting the runway.
Such is the fate of Senator Joe Simitian’s bill, SB 412 which would required the Liquified Natural Gas supporters to demonstrate an actual need for the product before any LNG terminals could be built in California. This seems like a no-brainer in that these plants are enormously expensive to build and often present serious environmental concerns. It would only make sense that before California allow any to be constructed under those conditions that we prove they are actually necessary. With that in mind, the measure should have made it to the floor—but was held up in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, along with several other important measures that had been developed and passed not only through their “house of origin” (the Senate) but had made it beyond all the Assembly committees. The process then calls for them to be heard or just temporarily held in the Appropriations committee before being released for floor vote in that house. In SImitian’s case, he had no such luck. Was it the nature of the bill and lots of opposition? Nope. Not in this case.
It was more a victim of the all-too-common tension between the “upper” and “lower” houses of the legislature. Considered by many to be the genius of our Founding Fathers and their creation of the bicameral system of government, bills must pass through two, separate legislative groups-the Senate and the Assembly (similar to Congress where the Senate and the House of Representatives often do battle). Unfortunately, the process often breaks down into petty or ego-driven disputes. In this case, the holding of Simitian’s bill is more a battle of power and ego where the upper and lower chambers are feeling slighted by each other. When that happens, good ideas and hard-fought bills are often the victims of political infighting. Such is the case with SB 412–and many other measures now languishing in the Appropriations Committee of each house.
The good news is that there is still time to resurrect SB 412 and that’s just what we here at Speak Out California are hoping will happen. On Tuesday, September 4th, we sent out an action alert to our subscribers asking them to contact the Speaker of the Assembly, Fabian Nunez, and urge him to release this bill from the Appropriations Committee so that it can be heard. While often bills can wait until next year, there is a time constraint on this measure that requires its implementation this year. Why?
In essence this bill does two things: It requires the state to do a LNG Needs Assessment as part of its Integrated Energy Policy Report before approving placement of an LNG terminal in California. If we don’t need it, why force it on our communities?
It also clarifies that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires strong alternatives technology analysis so that if an LNG terminal is approved for California, it will be the safest design with the fewest impacts.
With enormous cost and profit possiblities, there are several companies moving forward full-throttle to become California’s LNG supplier. The longer we delay in requiring these standards, the less likely we will be able to justify imposing them after millions and millions of dollars have been spent developing plans, permits, etc. that the process requires. Unless we pass this legislation into law this year, it will be too late to impose these important requirements on the companies developing their proposals as we speak.
For more information on this important measure, and to send a request to the Speaker urging his support of this measure, check out our recent action alert:
Of course, there are many bills that suffered a similar fate and many more that are on the floor of both houses during this last, frenetic week of activity. With 700 bills to consider, there will be days with votes on 100 bills or more. Some move within seconds and the most difficult take up to hours, especially in the Assembly where often all 80 members feel compelled to speak. It is definitely the most interesting time of the legislative year and often the most chaotic. Remember it was at this point in 1996 when the ill-fated electricity de-regulation bill took off, only to crash and burn on the watch of a totally new and unsuspecting legislature years down the road. We can only hope that this year the legislature will escape that fate. That answer, though, may not be known for some time.
For now, we can only keep our fingers crossed and take heed of the Hypocratic oath to “do no harm”. As in each and every legislative session, we shall watch and see.