Law­mak­ers give fi­nal ef­forts to stalled-out bill

SB 100 pro­nounced dead; ad­vo­cates are hope­ful be­fore Fri­day dead­line

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Katy Mur­phy and Casey Tolan Staff writ­ers

SACRA­MENTO » With the clock tick­ing down on Cal­i­for­nia’s 2017 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, and a log­jam on Thurs­day still hold­ing up ma­jor votes on af­ford­able hous­ing and en­ergy, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists were fight­ing to push loose a sig­na­ture cli­mat­e­change bill that ap­peared to be hope­lessly stuck in com­mit­tee.

Se­nate Bill 100, a ground­break­ing mea­sure that would com­mit the state to pro­duc­ing 100 per­cent of its elec­tric­ity from fos­sil-free sources by 2045, was es­sen­tially pro­nounced dead for the year by Assem­bly­man Chris Holden, a Pasadena Demo­crat who is chair­man of the util­i­ties and en­ergy com­mit­tee where the bill is stalled.

But the pro­posal’s cham­pi­ons, know­ing the top­sy­turvy, never- say-no world of the Cal­i­for­nia Capi­tol, weren’t giv­ing up.

“The peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia de­serve clean en­ergy, and we want a vote on the bill,” said the au­thor, Se­nate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los An­ge­les.

As de León and his staff worked be­hind the scenes to ad­vance the bill among a jum­ble of com­pet­ing priorities, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists on Thurs­day ral­lied out­side of Holden’s dis­trict of­fice in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. The Sierra Club said that as the Leg­is­la­ture’s mid­night Fri­day dead­line ap­proached, thou­sands of peo­ple around the coun­try had joined its na­tional cam­paign to pres­sure state law­mak­ers on SB 100, mostly through phone calls and so­cial me­dia posts.

Ac­tor Mark Ruf­falo and Bill Nye the Science Guy were among them. “Let’s pass # SB100 & get CA to 100% clean en­ergy,” Nye tweeted Wed­nes­day. “We can do this, peo­ple(s).”

SB 100 had sailed through the Se­nate and cleared nu­mer­ous com­mit­tees be­fore Holden balked at call­ing a vote on the pro­posal, say­ing the votes sim­ply weren’t there to move it to the floor. The Cal­i­for­nia Cham­ber of Com­merce and other busi­ness groups have op­posed it, and the bill re­ceived last-minute op­po­si­tion from the union rep­re­sent­ing elec­tri­cal work­ers con­cerned about the prospect of job losses.

“What’s the rush?” read a bul­letin to law­mak­ers sent by the union.

The bill’s progress was also com­pli­cated by ne­go­ti­a­tions with the gover­nor’s of­fice and oth­ers over the fu­ture of the state’s power grid. Holden an­nounced Wed­nes­day that the bills he in­tro­duced last Fri­day night with ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for the grid — pro­pos­als backed by Gov. Jerry Brown but de­nounced by some en­vi­ron­men­tal groups — also would not ad­vance. The pro­posal, how­ever, may be re­con­sid­ered next year, the sec­ond half of a two-year leg­isla­tive ses­sion, he said.

In a state­ment Thurs­day, Holden said he sup­ported the leg­is­la­tion’s goals and was “100 per­cent com­mit- ted” to Cal­i­for­nia’s cli­mate change lead­er­ship. But be­cause of a new, voter-ap­proved re­quire­ment that amend­ments be pub­lished at least 72 hours be­fore a vote, Holden said, he had run out of time to ad­dress op­po­nents’ con­cerns about the bill.

“There­fore,” he said in a state­ment Thurs­day, “we look for­ward to re­solv­ing those is­sues and mov­ing this im­por­tant leg­is­la­tion for­ward next year.”

Among the lob­by­ists and ad­vo­cates swarm­ing the Capi­tol on Thurs­day was Sierra Club Cal­i­for­nia di­rec­tor Kathryn Phillips, who of­fered some his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive as she stood un­der the ro­tunda be­tween the two cham­bers.

“Re­new­able en­ergy bills tend to get stuck,” she said, “but they also tend to get un­stuck be­fore the stroke of mid­night on the last day of ses­sion. This is not the first time we’ve sat around bit­ing our nails about whether some­thing will get out.”

A pack­age of bills to ad­dress Cal­i­for­nia’s af­ford­able-hous­ing cri­sis was still on the As­sem­bly’s to- do list Thurs­day evening, though law­mak­ers were plan­ning to re­con­vene af­ter din­ner. The bills in­clude a pro­posed new fee on some real es­tate trans­ac­tions and a $4 bil­lion af­ford­able-hous­ing bond, both of which re­quire two-thirds votes, along with laws to en­cour­age lo­cal govern­ments to build more hous­ing.

While law­mak­ers didn’t vote be­fore din­ner­time Thurs­day on some of the ses­sion’s big­gest bills, they did pass these mea­sures: • Se­nate Bill 149: pres­i­den­tial can­di­date tax re­turns. In a jab at President Don­ald Trump, the As­sem­bly ap­proved a bill re­quir­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to pub­licly re­lease their tax re­turns in or­der to get on Cal­i­for­nia’s bal­lot. Trump was the first ma­jor pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in four decades who did not re­lease his tax re­turns dur­ing his cam­paign. Un­der the bill, can­di­dates who don’t file copies of their tax re­turns with the Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice would be banned from ap­pear­ing on the state’s bal­lot. “The re­cent elec­tion ex­posed a flaw in our sys­tem and we have an op­por­tu­nity to fix it,” said Assem­bly­man Rob Bonta, D-Oak­land. The bill, which passed 42-18, now goes back to the Se­nate for ap­proval of amend­ments. • Se­nate Bill 595: Bay Area vote on bridge toll hikes. Res­i­dents of the nine Bay Area coun­ties would vote on a toll in­crease un­der a bill passed by the Se­nate. It voted 26-11 Thurs­day to au­tho­rize a re­gional bal­lot ini­tia­tive aimed at hik­ing bridge tolls around the Bay Area by up to $3. The mea­sure is ex­pected to raise up to $4.2 bil­lion over a 25year pe­riod — fund­ing that would be used to lengthen BART trains, pro­vide more fer­ries and speedy buses, and cre­ate about 30 other trans­porta­tion projects. “Traf­fic con­ges­tion in our free­ways in the Bay Area and over­crowd­ing on our tran­sit sys­tems … is erod­ing the Bay Area’s qual­ity of life and un­der­min­ing our job cre­ation and re­ten­tion,” said Sen. Jim Beall, D-Camp­bell, the bill’s au­thor. • As­sem­bly Bill 569: ban on “moral­ity clauses” in Cal­i­for­nia. It would be il­le­gal for an em­ployer to fire or dis­ci­pline a woman for be­ing preg­nant, tak­ing birth con­trol med­i­ca­tion or mak­ing other de­ci­sions about her re­pro­duc­tive health if the gover­nor signs the mea­sure from Assem­bly­woman Lorena Gon­za­lez Fletcher, D-San Diego. The bill, which pre­vents em­ploy­ers from re­quir­ing em­ploy­ees to sign codes of con­duct about their sex­u­al­ity and re­pro­duc­tive health — like the “moral­ity clause” the arch­bishop of San Fran­cisco at­tempted to im­ple­ment for Catholic school teachers — won fi­nal ap­proval from the As­sem­bly Thurs­day morn­ing. “Women in this coun­try have been fired for get­ting preg­nant while un­mar­ried, for us­ing in-vitro fer­til­iza­tion and for other per­sonal rea­sons re­lated to their own re­pro­duc­tive health,” Gon­za­lez Fletcher said in a state­ment Thurs­day. • As­sem­bly Bill 168, equal pay for women. The mea­sure, car­ried by Assem­bly­woman Su­san Tala­mantes Eg­gman, would pre­vent em­ploy­ers from ask­ing job ap­pli­cants for their salary his­tory, a prac­tice known to per­pet­u­ate the pay gap be­tween men and women. “The prac­tice of seek­ing or re­quir­ing the salary his­tory of job ap­pli­cants helps per­pet­u­ate wage in­equal­ity that has spanned gen­er­a­tions of women in the work­force,” Eg­gman said in a state­ment. “AB 168 em­pow­ers women to de­ter­mine for them­selves where they start ne­go­ti­at­ing.”

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