Sunday, September 13, 2015

Why Did California's Democratic Party-Controlled State Legislature Fail To Pass Real Climate-Change Legislation?


Big Oil and the bipartisan pack of corrupt state legislators their lobbyists buy at bargain prices freaked out over the climate-change legislation that was barreling through the California legislature. Democrats hold 52 seats in the Assembly; Republicans have 28. When lobbyists can bribe enough Democrats to vote with the Republicans, guess what happens? And that is what happened in the case of the climate-change bills, SB350 and SB32. And there are now so many members from the Republican-wing of the Democratic party in Sacramento,the lobbyists have a head-start. The media still calls these corrupt conservatives "moderates," as in "the level of persuasion needed to advance even weakened legislation underscores the influence of moderate Assembly Democrats-- a loosely formed group elected with the help of corporate interests" or as in "moderates significantly altered or blocked several bills."

In the case of the bill mandating a life-saving/planet-saving cut in greenhouse gases, 21 Democrats crossed the aisle to make common cause with the Big Oil-financed Republicans.
A key portion of SB350, touted by Gov. Jerry Brown and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, was gutted after weeks of intense opposition from the petroleum industry. SB350 would have required a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by 2030.

While the rest of the bill’s regulations will remain intact-- the state will still be required to increase the proportion of electricity derived from renewable resources and increase energy efficiency in buildings-- the gasoline regulations were both controversial and critical.

Though Brown insisted that “California is not going to miss a beat” in a press conference following the setback, this was by far the best year to get the petroleum reduction enshrined in law.

This is Brown’s final term as governor, and next year, state legislators who are facing election battles will be even less likely to take tough votes.

Another bill, SB32, also failed to muster enough support for passage through the Assembly this week.

SB32 would have made the state’s long-term targets for carbon emissions reductions, currently set by executive order, a matter of law.

Its targets included a 40 percent emissions reduction rate (below 1990 levels) by 2030 and an 80 percent emissions reduction rate by 2050. The bill was rejected by the Assembly, 30-32.

SB32’s author, Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills (Los Angeles County), said that the bill will return next year.

...Even though California has been a global leader in the fight against climate change, there are still enough legislators who are worried about whether doing the right thing will cost the state too much in the long run.

If they need more convincing, they don’t need to look any further than California’s own data on jobs and economic growth. When state legislators were considering AB32, they were lobbied incessantly by those who claimed that California couldn’t combat climate change and roll back fossil fuel use without incurring drastic economic results. In the years since then, California’s economy has expanded, its private sector job market has gone from strength to strength, and its dependence on fossil fuels has declined.

The Legislature had a chance to continue that progress, and it punted. It needs to do better next year.
Once California term limits kicked in, the (now) 1,760 registered lobbyists essentially began running the legislative process. This weekend the Sacramento Bee reported on how the current session showed off their immense power. That probably has a great deal to do with how pointless Californians tend to find state and local government.
Disdain and disgust have been common sentiments when it comes to Americans' views of the national political environment. But local government was supposed to be the safe haven, where things got done in a more neighborly way, with a lot less frustration than, say, dealing with the groaning bureaucracies of the IRS or Veterans Affairs.

It hasn't worked out that way, exactly.

In a somewhat surprising twist, a new USC Dornsife/California Community Foundation/Los Angeles Times poll on community involvement suggests tension between California voters and their local governments.

A quarter or more of California voters say their elected officials are not responsive to their needs, a figure larger than might have been expected years ago. Voters cast a broad brush of negativity about the usefulness of volunteering for or giving money to political candidates and politicians.

When it came to a host of other civic activities that Californians engage in-- volunteering for organizations, donating to charity, attending local meetings, talking about issues with friends and family-- voters were far more upbeat. Those activities were deemed hugely beneficial both to their communities and to themselves, and more to the former than the latter.

Political activities stood out alone. When asked whether their community benefited when they donated money to a candidate, 46% said it did and 49% said it did not. White voters were slightly more optimistic, with about half saying benefits accrued, but only 41% of Latinos and 45% of Asian voters said donations would benefit the community... Just over half of Democrats, for example, felt it was a community benefit to give money to candidates. Just under half of Republicans felt the same way. But independent voters, those not allied with any political party, were highly negative, with only 36% saying there were benefits to political donations.

Republican strategist Mike Madrid, who has studied local government for 20 years and was a consultant on the poll, said the findings reflect a downturn in political confidence that is years in the making.

"There has been this rather fast slide down, where people just say it doesn't matter if you're a local mayor or a U.S. senator-- a pox on all their houses," Madrid said. "There's just an increasingly pervasive sense at the local level that it just doesn't matter."

Poll director Dan Schnur, head of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, suggested that animosity toward national politics may be breeding discontent closer to home.

"Voters are getting so increasingly angry and dismissive of national politics and national politicians that it's beginning to ooze downward," he said.

...When asked about the responsiveness of their local government, 26% of California voters said it was not responsive and 65% said it was, to some degree. Democratic areas were more upbeat: 72% of Bay Area residents described government as responsive and only 20% felt it was unresponsive.

But in the more conservative environs of the Central Valley and far northern California, a full third of voters said government was not responding to their needs, and only 61% said it was.

"Conservatives are more distrustful of government by definition, so it stands to reason that they'd think government is less responsive," Schnur said.
A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found that over 60% of Californians agree that global warming is already affecting the state. Republicans are less convinced than normal people, most of them insisting that either climate change isn't happening or, if it is, it doesn't mean anything serious. They back expanding fossil-fuel production-- from increasing offshore oil drilling along California's coast to expanding fracking.
"There are very strong and persistent partisan differences," said Mark Baldassare, CEO of the PPIC. "There is generally a very substantial majority of Californians who feel their way of life is threatened by what's occurring."

Baldassare said that Republicans are taking their cues from national leaders, including GOP members of Congress and presidential candidates, many of whom say that the science of climate change remains unsettled or that the issue is overblown.

"There are times when the politics does trump the science," he said.

All of the major scientific institutions in the world that study climate and weather, from NASA to the National Academy of Sciences to the World Meteorological Organization, say that Earth is getting warmer, in large part because of the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2014 was the hottest year in California history and world history back to 1880, when modern records were first kept; the 10 hottest years globally have all occurred since 1998.

When it comes to the partisan divide, a study by Duke University last year found that when conservatives and liberals evaluate major societal problems they tend to deny problems exist if they don't like the potential solutions.

..."Political beliefs are so much more than beliefs about facts," said Troy Campbell, a researcher at the Duke Fuqua School of Business and lead author of the study. "It's not just the way you think the way the world is; it's the way you want the world to be-- and the way you have identified yourself. If somebody tells you the solution to a huge problem is not your ideology, it is a massive threat to who you are as a person and the way you see the world."

According to the new poll, 62 percent of California residents say the warming climate is having an impact on California today, and 64 percent believe global warming has contributed to the current drought.

Fifty-two percent of state residents called climate change a "very serious" threat to the state's future, and 27 percent said it is "somewhat serious." Democrats (66 percent) were more likely than independents (51 percent) and much more likely than Republicans (26 percent) to call the threat "very serious."

...Sixty-four percent of Californians also favor the state passing stricter climate rules than the federal government, with Democrats (75 percent) and independents (65 percent) more likely than Republicans (43 percent) to be in favor.

Although Californians of all parties said they support increasing tax credits for electric vehicles and solar power, 62 percent of Republicans favored expanding offshore oil drilling in California and 53 percent favored more hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Only 27 percent of Democrats favored more offshore drilling, and 22 percent of Democrats favored more fracking.
It's probably worth mentioning now that there is no other local race in the state pitting a lobbyist-backed Big Oil shill against a tireless environmental fighter than the battle over the open congressional seat (CA-44) in San Pedro, Willowbrook, Carson, Compton, Rancho Dominguez, Lynwood, Wilmington in South Bay L.A. The Big Oil shill is state Senator Isadore Hall, and the fighter for working families is Nanette Barragán, who has been endorsed by Blue America. As an effective climate activist, Nanette has a solid history of fighting the oil companies, and she's shown that she's the kind of candidate who can fight and win the battles ahead in Congress.

Citing the impact that the oil industry has on air quality and the health of kids, Barragán led on the Measure O battle that stopped oil companies from even more drilling off the California coast. That's a fight that sets her apart from her opponent, who has instead excelled at donations from the oil industry.

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