California Democrats Sideline Gavin Newsom’s Plan to Build Big Things Faster

Dealing a blow to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Democratic legislators today shot down his ambitious attempt to reform state environmental law and make it easier to build big infrastructure projects in California. 

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In a 3-0 vote, a Senate budget committee found Newsom’s package was too complex for last-minute consideration under legislative deadlines. The cutoff for bills to pass out of their house of origin is June 2, just two weeks after the governor rolled out his proposal to adjust the landmark California Environmental Quality Act.

The 10 bills include measures to streamline water, transportation and clean energy projects with an eye toward helping the state meet its climate goals. The proposals also took aim at an environmental law commonly referred to by the acronym CEQA that critics have long decried as a tool to bog down housing and other projects. 

The committee members – two Democrats and one Republican – said no, for now, even as they expressed support for Newsom’s overarching goal.

“The overwhelming agreement is that we need to build clean faster and cut green tape,” said Committee Chair Sen. Josh Becker, a Democrat from San Mateo. “That’s been a legislative priority for me and will continue to be a legislative priority. Although today we are rejecting the governor’s trailer bill proposals based on process, as seven days is insufficient to vet the hundreds of pages of policy nuance in these proposals, we look forward to working with the administration on all of these critical issues.”

Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat from Santa Rosa, and Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican from Redding, also voted no.

That setback, served to Newsom by two Democratic allies, came just hours after the governor expressed confidence his package would prevail.

“I am proud of the Legislature on what we have achieved. I am confident that they will deliver on this,” he said, speaking during an event in Richmond today intended to highlight the state’s renewable energy achievements. 

That vote doesn’t mean Newsom’s infrastructure proposal is dead. His bills could return to Senate or Assembly committees in budget negotiations over the next few weeks. Or Newsom could instead re-introduce them through the Legislature’s policy committees, where they would go through a lengthier process of public comments, discussion and votes.

“The governor is committed to getting this proposal passed so California can maximize its share of federal infrastructure dollars and fast-track clean energy, transportation and water projects that deliver results for all Californians,” Daniel Villaseñor, deputy press secretary for the governor’s office, said in an emailed statement.

Gavin Newsom’s pitch for building big things

Newsom spoke plenty about his infrastructure legislation earlier in the day in Richmond, during an event that quickly morphed into an exhortation about the urgency of passing his proposal. 

“Enough. We need to build, we need to get things done,” Newsom said. “This is not an ideological exercise. We don’t have time. We gotta go.” 

Newsom said that streamlining legal review of clean energy projects is imperative if the state expects to reach its ambitious climate goals. Newsom cited a solar project that has taken 13 years to work its way through agency bureaucracy, a timeframe he called “absurd.”

His legislation proposed a fixed 270-day permitting process for some projects and 270 days for judicial reviews.

“If we don’t build, democracy is crushed,” Newsom said. “They say we can’t get things done anymore. We need to get moving and get ourselves out of the way.”

His package of bills would shorten the amount of time certain projects – namely water, transportation, clean energy and semiconductor or microelectronic projects – could spend in court. It also would have limited the amount of records parties involved in CEQA litigation would have to produce. Typically, preparing the required records for such lawsuits takes between four and 17 months, according to a document published with the bill.

Environmental groups against fast CEQA changes

But Newsom’s ideas to water down the state’s landmark environmental law immediately drew criticism from some environmental groups, including Sierra Club California and Restore the Delta.

Several groups also called into today’s hearing to express their concerns.

“This is moving in the wrong direction for protections for the environment,” said Deirdre Des Jardins, director of California Water Research. “We urge the Senate to completely reject the governor’s proposed trailer bill language. Frankly, there was no reason to spring it on the legislature or the public so suddenly and at the end of the legislative session.”

In voting down Newsom’s infrastructure package, Becker made it clear that he was not against the governor’s goals. But he and the other committee members determined the bills should face additional review instead of speeding through the budget committee. 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters


  1. Really??? says

    How interesting when the issues of environmentalism that made sure there were off street parking, road capacity, and such to match high density infill have been crushed by the now concerned Democrats.

    The idiots like Weiner, Newsom, the City Council of Frisco, etc. demand destruction of reasonable zoning and density for their future slums of the State are getting kick back.

    There is no reason to believe this is a long term issue. The machine politics of Democrats will eventually win. The crowding of the State and lack or water, road, ag. land, resources are of no concern to the Democrat Party.

    It is amusing the anti small government Dem’s are fighting among themselves because inflation, and big government spending is their base of both the national and state party.

    In the process they are taking down the state.

    Let them fight, as more and more middle of the road middle class flee the State.

  2. “We don’t have time. We gotta go…” sound a little like “we have to pass the bill so we can find out what is in it.” RED FLAG!

  3. Environmentalists evidently have not gotten the word yet. Woke now trumps tree hugging. As the Pied Piper of Sacramento leads us down the garden path into the ocean, remember one thing. We voted for these idiots believing the free stuff would never end. Well, saddle up buckaroo, we are crawling off into the socialist oblivion our history books tried to warn us about. Too bad todays corrupted public schools deleted that history lesson to promote a woke dystopia, that is doomed to failure. Hello Argentina!

  4. john kindseth says

    That poor stupid bastard is like a toddler. All he can see is to grab shiny objects and stuff them in his diaper. He doesnt know what to do with them and usually he is too stupid to do anything with them. The end result is he craps in his pants and doesnt know what he is doing. He’s going to change the earths climate by shoving his hand in his diaper and screw us with more taxes so he can buy more shiny objects ?

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