Watered-Down SB 350 Still Threatens California

Diane Harkey Board of Equalization Member Diane Harkey Leave a Comment

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This op-ed originally appeared in the Riverside Press-Enterprise

Once in a while, even in the California state Legislature, we witness democracy in action or a rare moment when a well-intentioned, but harmful, strongly supported and lobbied bill, is rejected due to a lack of votes.

In the final days of the Legislature’s 2014-2015 session, the right number of elected officials listened to their constituents and defeated a costly measure that would have forced every Californian to cut their gasoline use in half and increased the cost of electricity in the Inland Empire and throughout California.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown called for a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by 2030, and Democratic state Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León introduced Senate Bill 350. SB350 included drastic gasoline cut and a new state mandate to produce 50 percent of our power from wind and solar.

Meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. Fran Pavley decided our 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which required greenhouse gas reductions to 1990 levels by 2020, was inadequate. SB32, as introduced, would have given the unelected California Air Resources Board the power to reduce emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

These egregious measures failed because your “lobbying” effort (emailing and calling your elected officials) made it happen. SB32 did not advance, and the gas cut component of SB350 was removed, albeit leaving the new renewable energy mandate in place.

As an aside, controversial issues in the Capitol are usually presented in competing proposals should one measure fail. This strategy provides insurance, but in this instance, both bills wound their way through the Senate and passed to the Assembly floor, enjoying support from the governor and Senate Democrats. Initially, industry and elected Republicans were alone in sounding the alarm on the financial havoc these bills would wreak on the state’s economy and your pocketbook.

However, resistance began forming. Moderate Democrats, such as one Central Valley lawmaker, noted that while we should deal with climate change, his constituents couldn’t afford higher electric bills while being forced to use less gasoline. Others noted a strategy that makes energy more expensive for low-income Californians is not a strategy, but rather an economic straight jacket for the poor.

Generally, Inland Empire residents commute to work, commute for family activities and are financially sensitive to gas prices and home energy bills. The real-world impact of ever-increasing conservation mandates on Californians’ jobs and budgets is simply increased costs with flat-lined or decreasing paychecks.

It has been said that “all politics is local.” But when it comes to expensive regulations, the Legislature has repeatedly shown a willingness to saddle businesses statewide and pass the costs on to consumers. However, with bipartisan support, enough legislators finally stood up to the leadership and just said “No.”

A watered down version of SB350 is awaiting action from Gov. Brown. The remaining renewable energy provisions, however implemented, will still drive up costs for all of us.

Home energy costs in California are 41 percent above the national average. It’s nice to know we can still use gasoline in our cars, but should SB350 be signed, Inland Empire residents can expect even higher electric bills in the near future.

I urge you to tell Gov. Brown, “No on SB 350.” For more information and to sign a petition opposing SB 350, go to www.californiadriversalliance.org.

Diane Harkey represents San Diego County on the California State Board of Equalization.

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