How the Voters Feel About Climate Change Legislation

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

When the greenhouse gases extension bill seemed to be stalled in the legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Secretary, Nancy McFadden, said that the administration would get its way on the climate change: Either the bill would pass the legislature or the governor would take his agenda to the ballot. He filed papers for a ballot measure committee as a first step.

Now the bill has jumped a difficult hurdle by passing the Assembly. However, new polling by the California Business Roundtable indicates that the voters might not be so supportive of new regulations if they heard a complete explanation of the law’s effects.

Maybe the climate change debate should go to voters.

The greenhouse gases extension bill, SB 32, which would require greenhouse gas levels to be reduced 40% of 1990 levels by 2030, made it out of the Assembly to face fairly clear sailing in the Senate. Expect it to land on the governor’s desk.

There could be a complication because SB 32 is joined to AB 197, which would give more power to the legislature to oversee the California Air Resources Board. An argument is made that AB 197 could undermine the cap-and-trade law, something the governor wants, especially to help fund his financially struggling bullet train.

The Assembly vote came on a day when the latest cap-and-trade auction results were announced and they continue to show poor results. Hanging over the head of the cap-and-trade law is a question of legitimacy. A lawsuit filed by the California Chamber of Commerce and other business interests presently sits with appellate court judges to determine if the cap-and-trade revenue is a tax. If so, the law requires a two-thirds vote, a standard that was not achieved in the legislature.

Business is particularly concerned with the costs to the economy and to workers if the climate change legislation passes. Tom Scott, president of the small business organization, National Federation of Independent Business/California, said after SB 32 passed the Assembly, “SB 32 will make California even more hostile to small businesses, increasing costs and making them less competitive, discouraging growth and expansion across the state.”

The California Business Roundtable poll showed strong support for the first greenhouse gases (GHG) law. By 66% to 18% the 1200 voters surveyed agreed with the goal of reducing GHG by 2020. The extension to 2030 also received strong support, 63% to 21%.

But when asked if voters knew that state regulations to combat global warming would increase the price of gasoline, electricity and groceries, support collapsed to 47%; opposition rose to 46%.

Opposition skied when the question of lost manufacturing jobs was tested. The potential loss of thousands of middle class jobs garnered only 24% support for the climate change regulations, 66% opposed.

Such arguments would be part of a campaign if the issue comes before voters.

The Business Roundtable poll asked who should enact tougher environmental regulations, the legislators or un-elected state bureaucrats. The legislators prevailed 42% to 28%. But the question seems incomplete. Given the poll results, it probably should have included the voters.

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