In a setback for Gov. Jerry Brown, legislative Democrats have rebuffed his proposal to amend major environmental legislation to authorize the extension of California’s cap-and-trade program beyond 2020.
Draft bill language proposed by the Brown administration was abandoned before the Assembly took up other amendments to the bill on Friday.
While the Legislature prepares to vote on Senate Bill 32, a broader measure to extend the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, Brown is seeking to preserve cap and trade. Critics of the program, in which polluters pay to offset carbon emissions, have argued it is a tax requiring a two-thirds legislative vote. Many environmentalists and Democrats disagree, but legislative leaders feared Brown’s effort to insert the program into Senate Bill 32 would complicate the broader bill’s prospects.
On Thursday, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said of the two issues, “Keeping them separate might help with the vote.”
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The cap-and-trade program is a critical source of revenue to Brown’s plan to build a high-speed rail system in the state, as well as various programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With the cap-and-trade program’s future uncertain, Brown’s top aide, Nancy McFadden, issued a prepared statement earlier this month affirming the administration’s commitment to cap and trade while downplaying the significance of any legislative vote this year.
“We are going to extend our climate goals and cap and trade one way or another,” McFadden said. “The governor will continue working with the Legislature to get this done this year, next year or on the ballot in 2018.”
In a procedural vote, the Assembly approved amendments to Senate Bill 32 on Friday but has yet to act on the full bill.
The amendments include language directing the California Air Resources Board to “achieve the state’s more stringent greenhouse gas emission reductions in a manner that benefits the state’s most disadvantaged communities and is transparent and accountable to the public and the Legislature.”