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Moving the Ball Down the Field

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has consistently rallied our members and legislators to support regulatory reform in California — a cause made all the more urgent by the Great Recession and the continued slump of the California economy. It was exciting last week to watch members of the state Legislature respond to that rallying cry from the Chamber and other business and labor organizations.

SB 292 (Padilla) and AB 900 (Buchanan/Gordon/Steinberg) are companion bills that will protect large, job-producing development projects from protracted California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) legal challenges. These bills do not eliminate any CEQA standards, but they reduce the period of time that lawsuits from competitors and self-interested parties can delay a project. Thanks to the momentum generated by the Farmers Field stadium project in the heart of Los Angeles, some of these challenges will be put to rest sooner rather than later.

SB 292 was written specifically to address the critical issues facing Farmers Field. It won’t exempt the large-scale project from a robust environmental review process or comprehensive mitigation measures. But it will ensure that a project that could produce ten thousand good-paying jobs won’t be stuck in litigation for years — an occurrence that’s all too common with large construction projects in the Golden State.

As SB 292 made its way through the state Legislature, astute legislators started asking, "If this bill is a good idea, why are we only streamlining the litigation process for one project?" As a result, AB 900 was written to ensure that other large, job-producing projects have the opportunity to benefit from the same reasonable principle — meet environmental standards set by the state of California and get assurance of timely resolution of any legal challenges. After Sen. Ted Lieu read key parts of Chamber Board Chair Joseph Czyzyk’s letter in support of the bill on the floor of the Senate, AB 900 passed with a strong majority.

Two other bills that have received less attention but are also important in our efforts to streamline CEQA and other business regulations are SB 226 (Simitian/Vargas) and SB 617 (Calderon/Pavley). SB 226 shortens the CEQA review for infill development and SB 617 requires lawmakers to analyze the potential economic impact of legislation to avoid disincentives for innovation and investment in California.

We enthusiastically applaud the authors of each of these bills and many other local legislators who played a critical role in rallying their cohorts from around the State to begin creating a more favorable business climate in California. The real winners in these efforts will be the workers who are employed building and operating these new business investments, and local and state governments that will enjoy a new source of new tax revenue.

The Legislature crossed the goal line with these bills in the final series of plays on Friday. With Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature before the Oct. 9 deadline, we will all be able to celebrate this game-winning touchdown.

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