Repub­li­can law­mak­ers give Cal­i­for­nia cli­mate law a boost

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jonathan J. Cooper and Sophia Bol­lag

SACRAMENTO, CALIF.» When Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers backed a land­mark law that seeks to com­bat global warm­ing, the key sup­port came from a sur­pris­ing group of leg­is­la­tors: Repub­li­cans.

As the GOP na­tion­ally looks to roll back cli­mate poli­cies, a contin­gent of Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­cans is ten­ta­tively em­brac­ing them in de­fi­ance of much of the party’s base and its con­gres­sional lead­ers.

Cal­i­for­nia’s top Repub­li­can As­sem­bly­man and a hand­ful of his col­leagues are look­ing to put a conservative im­print on cli­mate pol­icy and a new face on their party, which has seen its in­flu­ence steadily de­cline in the state.

“Cal­i­for­nia is dif­fer­ent from the rest of the coun­try, and Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­cans are dif­fer­ent,” said Chad Mayes, the As­sem­bly GOP leader. “The truth is, there are a large num­ber of Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can con­stituents who be­lieve that we have to do some­thing about cli­mate change.”

Mayes, 40, the son of a preacher, has had a fast rise in Sacramento, where he be­came the GOP leader dur­ing his first term. He has tried to put a fresh face on the party, steer­ing clear of Pres­i­dent Donald Trump, who is un­pop­u­lar in Cal­i­for­nia, and look­ing to en­gage — from a conservative per­spec­tive — on is­sues such as cli­mate and poverty that of­ten are seen as Demo­cratic pri­or­i­ties.

Mayes said he be­gan work­ing with Gov. Jerry Brown’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and Demo­cratic lead­ers when a dozen GOP As­sem­bly mem­bers ex­pressed in­ter­est in it. They were con­cerned that a Cal­i­for­nia law en­acted last year — which re­quires the state to meet ag­gres­sive goals for car­bon re­duc­tion — would lead to much more costly reg­u­la­tions if cap-and-trade were al­lowed to ex­pire.

But the eight Repub­li­cans who jumped on board are now see­ing back­lash from con­stituents who are frus­trated they en­gaged on a pol­icy that many in the party view as a stealth tax hike.

“A lot of conservative ac­tivists and donors work hard to elect our Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors with the ex­pec­ta­tion that they’re go­ing to hold the line against tax in­creases,” said Jon Fleish­man, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the state Repub­li­can Party. “I feel taken ad­van­tage of.”

Enough Repub­li­cans voted for the cap-and-trade bill that some vul­ner­a­ble Democrats were able to ab­stain or vote against the mea­sure, said Fleish­man, who runs a conservative blog. That could help them keep their seats in swing dis­tricts.

They also got pres­sure from Wash­ing­ton. Four Repub­li­cans in Cal­i­for­nia’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion — in­clud­ing Kevin McCarthy, the U.S. House ma­jor­ity leader — wrote a let­ter to their GOP coun­ter­parts in Sacramento last week, urg­ing them not to vote for cap and trade.

As­sem­bly­man Marc Steinorth, a Repub­li­can from a swing dis­trict in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia who voted for the bill, said he re­ceived more than 60 calls on his cell­phone Tues­day about cap-and-trade. He shared the num­ber on his Facebook page. He said he thinks much of the back­lash is in re­sponse to mis­lead­ing crit­i­cism of the bill on conservative talk ra­dio and blogs.

The GOP law­mak­ers joined most Democrats on Mon­day night to ap­prove a bill that keeps Cal­i­for­nia’s cap-and­trade pro­gram alive for an­other decade. The 5-year-old pro­gram, which was set to ex­pire in 2020, puts a cap on car­bon emis­sions that has re­duced each year. Busi­nesses such as oil re­fin­ers, ce­ment pro­duc­ers and food pro­ces­sors must ob­tain per­mits for each ton of car­bon they emit.

Repub­li­cans have a long his­tory with cap-and-trade, which was de­vel­oped through leg­is­la­tion signed in 2006 by thenGov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, a Repub­li­can. It was con­ceived as a mar­ket-based ap­proach to re­duc­ing green­house gases, giv­ing busi­nesses to flex­i­bil­ity to fig­ure out on their own how to re­duce their car­bon foot­print or to choose not to, al­beit at a price.

“I hope Repub­li­cans around the coun­try can learn from the ex­am­ple of As­sem­bly­man Mayes and his fel­low Repub­li­cans that we can fight for free mar­ket poli­cies to clean up our en­vi­ron­ment for our chil­dren at the same time we fight for a boom­ing econ­omy,” Sch­warzeneg­ger wrote on Facebook on Mon­day night.

To win over Repub­li­cans, Democrats agreed to con­tinue a se­ries of ex­pir­ing tax breaks and re­peal a con­tro­ver­sial fire­pro­tec­tion fee paid by ru­ral landown­ers.

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