As Trump Goes Backward, California Pushes Forward

California legislative wrap-up
California Capitol
Under California's Capitol Dome


The California legislature adjourned in the wee hours on September 16, closing out what legislative leadership is calling the “Most Productive Session in Memory.” From new parks, affordable housing to transit funding, to climate investments, campaign disclosure and immigrant rights, the legislature sent some amazing bills to Governor Brown’s desk. California’s first year of progress under a new federal administration is more important than ever as Trump seeks to dismantle our most basic protections for public lands, our health, consumers, and our communities.

NRDC, our legislative allies, and our coalition partners in California are not afraid to push bold environmental and public health protections, and it can take time to achieve success. Our bills are often opposed by industry lobbyists and trade associations, many of whom are also aiding and abetting the anti-environment agenda in Washington, D.C.

Below is a rundown of what passed in California, and what didn’t. In this first year of the two-year legislative session, bills that do not come to a vote can be taken up next year and are known as “two-year bills.” 

On Governor Brown's Desk

Cleaning product disclosure, SB 258 by Senator Lara. This bill, for the first time, requires cleaning products sold in California to disclose ingredient information (including fragrances ingredients) on product labels and online, particularly for chemicals of concern. Many cleaning product companies support the bill, in addition to more than 100 organizations representing public health, environment, environmental justice, janitors, and domestic workers.

Affordable housing, SB 35 by Senator Wiener, SB 2 by Senator Atkins and SB 3 by Senator Beall. SB 2 and SB 3 provide funding for affordable housing, both a permanent source and a bond that will go before voters in November, 2018. SB 35 includes carefully crafted incentives to promote infill housing, with strong protections for sensitive habitat and resource areas.

Park bond, SB 5 by Senator De León is a $4.1 billion bond for parks and water projects, with a strong emphasis on urban parks in underserved communities. It has been 15 years since the state made any major investment in parks and natural resources. The bond will go before voters in June, 2018.

Preserve California, SB 50 by Senator Allen and SB 51 by Senator Jackson. Two of three bills in the Preserve California package passed this year. SB 50 would create the state’s right of first refusal to acquire any public lands put up for sale or transfer by the federal government. SB 51 protects whistleblowers and scientists in California by ensuring they would not lose data, scientific reports or state licenses. 

Transportation and land use, SB 150 by Senator Allen. This bill strengthens California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Law (SB 375, 2008) by requiring the Air Resources Board to monitor and regularly report on each region’s progress towards meeting their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, including a discussion of best practices and any challenges faced.

Buy Clean, AB 262 by Assembly Member Bonta requires consideration of climate pollution when certain materials are purchased for government construction projects. This would be the first law of its kind in the country and would help motivate cleaner manufacturing of construction materials.

NRDC opposes AB 313 by Assembly Member Gray. This bill would create a costly and duplicative administrative law system for water rights administration and enforcement. It threatens water rights holders, California’s rivers and fisheries, and the communities and jobs that depend on healthy fisheries. 

Already Signed in to Law

As noted in my earlier blog, major climate and clean air legislation (AB 398 and AB 617) passed over the summer. The legislature followed up by passing AB 134 and AB 109 to direct spending of up to $1.4 billion in “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund” revenues.  These funds will be used for electric transportation, clean air programs, natural resource conservation, energy efficiency and more.


Unfinished Business

The bills below did not come to final floor votes but can be taken up again in 2018.  

Water efficiency standards, drought management and planning, SB 606 by Senators Skinner and Hertzberg and AB 1668 by Assembly Member Friedman. These bills ensure efficient use of California’s precious water supplies to help our communities better withstand droughts and climate change. Stabilizing our water supplies is good for the environment, communities, and the economy. 

Trump insurance, SB 49 by Senators De León and Stern, would ensure no backsliding in California’s clean air, clean water, endangered species, and workplace safety protections in case these laws are weakened at the federal level.

Renewable energy, SB 100 by Senator De León would advance California’s portfolio of clean, zero-carbon energy to 100 percent by 2045

Clean Energy and Healthy Homes for Renters, AB 1088 by Assembly Member Eggman would improve coordination across clean energy programs and increase investments in these programs for rental housing.

Regional electric grid, AB 813 by Assembly Member Holden would enhance and fully integrate the Western electric grid.

Vaquita-friendly fish, AB 1151 by Assembly Member Gloria would prohibit the sale and distribution of fish and fish products that are not vaquita-friendly. The vaquita is the world’s smallest porpoise and is critically endangered.


You can urge Governor Brown to sign the environmental bills on his desk by taking action here.

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