Most people either love the California Environmental Quality Act or hate it. CEQA supporters say it protects the state from sprawling development. Critics say it's often abused to block projects for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment. They've been lobbying strongly for changes to CEQA before lawmakers adjourn for the year at the end of next week. The result: fierce pushback from environmental groups and more than 30 Democrats like Assemblyman Jared Huffman:
Huffman: "It is a terribly overreaching and devastating proposal that has no business being part of our legislative process in the final five or six days of session."
That message apparently worked. Democratic Senator Michael Rubio, who's been leading the effort inside the Capitol, joined Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg to promise CEQA changes next year. Rubio referenced a comment this week from Governor Jerry Brown, a frequent CEQA critic who called efforts to change the law "the Lord's work."
Rubio: "Listen, folks - the Lord's work is not done overnight, nor is it done in two weeks. But we need to roll up our sleeves, get to work."
Rubio and Steinberg say they'll work with supporters and critics to craft thoughtful changes to the law. But Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff says by not acting now, Democrats are missing a critical opportunity to help the state's struggling economy.
Huff: "We've had unemployment just south of 11 percent. We're two-and-a-half points higher than the rest of the nation. We need to create jobs. This is a way to create jobs now."
With the CEQA overhaul off the table, attention will now turn to two other big issues in the final week of session: changes to California's pension and workers compensation systems.