Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Spring 2014, Vol. 23, No. 1

The 2013 Environmental Legislative Recap: A Break in the Perpetual Gridlock*

by Gary A. Lucks†

Suddenly there is a sea change of cooperation in Sacramento thanks to an improving economy and a more moderate Legislature. Of the 38 so called "job-killer" bills targeted by the business-friendly California Chamber of Commerce, all but one was defeated during the 2012-2013 legislative session. This new paradigm was driven by a significantly improved state budget picture along with several political reforms that resulted in a Legislature comprised of fewer deeply ideological law makers.

The improved financial situation stems from Propositions 25 (which in 2010 established a majority vote to pass the state budget) and Proposition 30 (which in 2012 temporarily raises revenues). These developments, along with an improving economy, made it easier to approve a budget while adding revenues to staff coffers and erasing the perennial deficits that plagued past legislative sessions. The budget surpluses, which are now projected into 2018, have lifted the mood in Sacramento and lowered tensions.

The revised primary structure is one of several political reforms that conspired to yield a more moderate legislative body that helped set the stage for more consensus and less acrimony. Now the primary requires that the top-two vote getters face each other in the general election. This has the tendency to attract more moderate candidates that face off in the general election. In addition, redistricting, which is now led by citizen panels instead of legislators, results in districts that more closely reflect the electorate. Finally, modified term limits, allowing a legislator to serve up to a dozen years in either house, has resulted in more seasoned, and perhaps less ideologically driven law makers.

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