Sprints, Marathons & State Legislation: The USGBC California Report

Like so many other things, the California legislative calendar is different from other states. Compared to most legislatures, it is a marathon. Despite the Sacramento heat, USGBC California has been running a good race on a number of important policy fronts, most notably the advancement of our sponsored legislation.

Both AB127 (Skinner), which seeks the curtailment of toxic flame retardants in building insulation and AB341 (Dickinson /Gordon), which aims to streamline and clarify CALGreen procedures and policy, have advanced through the Assembly with impressive floor votes (49-26 and 76- 1 (!) respectively) and through Senate policy committees with overwhelming support. They now await action in Senate Appropriations, the last stop before a Senate Floor vote and Governor Brown’s consideration. Both bills have allowed us to work closely and build relationships with a diverse group of stakeholder organizations, among them the Green Science Policy Institute, the California Building Industry Association, BOMA, the California Business Property Association, AIA, California Professional Firefighters, the California State Pipe Trades Council and the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation.

statewide_advocacy_news_buttonTo quote legislative advisor Justin Malan of EcoConsult, AB127 had “a very impressive vote count considering the opposition from the chemical industry. This has been a tough session for environmental bills moving out of the house, but we are proud to say AB 127 has!” Getting through the Senate Business and Professions Committee required a great deal of effort and necessitated urgent “Call to Action” emails asking Northern California Chapter members to make calls to their Senators. Since all politics invariably is local, we have developed an opt-in statewide advocacy database to more effectively handle situations where a little constituent advocacy action can offer big help.

Compared to AB127, AB341 has been a veritable lovefest. We seem to have run out of opposition, and have worked closely with the building and construction industry to craft needed process reforms. We plan to continue working together with our new allies on code education and enforcement. In a related development, Vice Chair Wes Sullens has partnered with USGBC Director of Technical Policy Jeremy Sigmon on starting a CALGreen/LEED implementation committee that will recommend better integration between mandatory code and voluntary, market-driven standards.

2013 is turning out to be a disappointing year for energy efficiency finance measures, highlighted by the epic fail of on-bill repayment SB37 in the face of PUC and IOU passive aggression as well as Governor Brown’s decision to “loan” the general fund up to $500M of cap & trade proceeds.

However, we are not without hope. The Prop39 legislation (AB39 & SB39) was folded into “trailer” bill SB73 in the recently approved budget and looks likely to go to good uses. After working hard arranging “Green Schools = Healthy Schools” testimony at hearings in San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside and Fresno, we will continue to actively follow regulatory developments and press for a green, healthy school agenda and pilot funding for innovative, market-based financial concepts like CO2toEE (Cap & Trade for the built environment) and passive investor-funded Environmental Covenants. In addition, we have been keeping up to date on AB1103 (State benchmarking) progress and have been involved with Global Green on AB758 implementation, the Energy Upgrade California “reboot,” and pushing this year’s corrective AB489 (Skinner) legislation, which seeks to open up funding for AB758 from strictly diminishing ARRA proceeds.

lornafearpolicypaloozaWe have taken a big step up in knowledge transfer this year with the 2013 PolicyPalooza in Sacramento, and look to follow up with Council of Expert “green paper” briefs, topical webinars and better member outreach and Chapter coordination. Stay tuned.


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