The reasoning and intent behind a law is of upmost importance especially when courts attempt to interpret legislative actions. Yet, the Air Resources Board and even the bill’s author, Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, are ignoring the clear intent of “fee” revenue raised under the provisions of AB 32, the 2006 bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week, the former speaker wrote an op-ed piece in the Sacramento Bee in which he proudly hails the legislation putting a “price on pollution” so that revenues can be collected and directed toward technologies and programs that he claims will benefit the economy and environment. He writes that the legislature has the responsibility to invest these “forthcoming cap-and-trade proceeds” for pollution reduction and to stimulate the economy.

Hold on a moment, Mr. Speaker. That’s not what you said the intent of the “fees” were when the bill was considered and passed in 2006.

In a letter written to the Chief Clerk of the Assembly for the official journal, Nunez wrote, “AB 32 authorizes the California Air Resources Board to adopt a schedule of fees to pay for the direct costs of administrating the reporting and emission reduction and compliance programs established pursuant to the bill’s provisions.

It is my intent that any funds provided by Health and Safety Code Section 38597 are to be used solely for the direct costs incurred in administering this division.”

If the “sole” intent the speaker clearly stated is just to pay for “administering” the program, why will the legislature have the ability to “invest” all these revenues that can “flow to technologies and programs?”

Courts look into the history of a particular piece of legislation to discover its legislative intent. Aware of this concern, most initiative proponents declare the “Purpose and Intent” of a proposition and legislative bills carry the author’s intent. In this case, the bill’s author spelled out the intent of the “fee” provided for in AB 32.

Now, however, it seems the former speaker is advocating violating the intent of his own legislation – Click image for full PDF.