Capitol Alert

State senate leader looks home from Paris: Now ‘the real work begins’

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León tours the Musée d'Orsay in Paris on Dec. 11, 2015.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León tours the Musée d'Orsay in Paris on Dec. 11, 2015. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

One day after Gov. Jerry Brown left Paris, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León – having concluded his own meetings on climate change – walked through the Musée d'Orsay on Friday, interpreting art on the left bank of the Seine.

There hung Henri Regnault’s bloody “Summary Execution under the Moorish Kings of Grenada.”

Translation: “This is the way decisions are made in appropriations.”

Of the executioner, the pro tem said, “Presumably, this is our chair.”

For the California politicians in Paris this week, the United Nations climate summit was an ego-boosting affair. The state’s greenhouse gas emission policies are among the most aggressive in the world and were held out as a model here.

Yet as the talks appeared to draw to a close – with negotiators now expected on Saturday to take up a final draft of a pact to reduce emissions – de León was mindful of work to be done back home.

A proposal to extend a 2020 sunset on the state’s cap-and-trade system, in which polluters pay to offset carbon emissions, stalled in the Legislature this year. So did Senate Bill 32, which sought to dramatically increase California’s greenhouse gas reduction targets, to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Legislative leaders plan to take those issues up again next year. In addition, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens Democrat, plans to introduce legislation setting reduction targets of 40 percent to 50 percent below 2013 levels for emissions of black carbon, methane and fluorinated gases, which can come from refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

De León said of Lara’s bill, “That’s going to be huge.”

Resistance to the most aggressive environmental initiatives backed by Senate Democrats this year came from Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Assembly.

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, a Lakewood Democrat and the lower house’s incoming speaker, said of the Assembly’s appetite for more legislation related to climate change, “I don’t know … I’m just saying we as a body, and we as a state, are pretty committed to dealing with this issue.”

“It’s something that I’m personally going to urge for,” Rendon said before the Paris talks. “I think it will be a tough lift, but most of our big accomplishments are.”

In Paris, de León was staying in an apartment with a strict no-noise policy after 10 p.m., compelling him to tiptoe, he said.

The tenor of the negotiations outside the city suggested to many observers that a strong agreement might be reached, and de León was optimistic the message would resonate in Sacramento.

“It’s hard not to be touched,” he said, “by what’s happening in Paris.”

De León turned 49 the other day. He was planning to go to dinner with friends to celebrate his birthday before returning home this weekend.

Then, he said, “The real work begins.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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