In the California legislature, standing up for the environment while taking a shot at the Trump Administration is business as usual. But when business as usual casts a wide net that comes with consequences that can interfere with the state’s agriculture and the state’s economy then legislators should have second thoughts. Such is the situation with Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ SB1.
The bill is intended to protect the environment against measures put forth by the Trump Administration to weaken current environmental laws. While the law has good features, freezing environmental law at its 2017 status could restrict advancements in water management. Water to agriculture is like blood in the human body—if it doesn’t keep pumping through the system things die.
Secondly, SB 1 continues a dangerous trend the legislature places on California businesses by opening another door for private attorneys to sue businesses for not living up to the rules without a chance to fix any problems.
Under the proposed law, state agencies could establish rules and regulations on their own if an agency determines new federal regulations protect the environment less than the rules in place on the day before Trump was inaugurated. This authoritative lack of due process spells danger for businesses that must respect environmental laws.
Creating different state and federal laws becomes a burden for farmers. Water management, based on the latest science, would be subject to what the rules were in 2017 based on outdated science that could hinder water management issues for the state’s agriculture, a backbone of the state’s economy.
The farming business has been dearly tested over recent years on water issues. Another detriment to gaining the necessary water for their crops is the last thing they need.
In the past, laws passed by the legislature have caused headaches for businesses when private attorneys are allowed to file lawsuits on behalf of the state. We have seen that with the laws governing Disability Act regulations and the Private Attorney General Act on labor laws. When businesses are not given the chance to correct any mistakes, no matter how minor, under the many governing rules and regulations placed upon them, lawyers attack businesses hoping to gain quick settlements or greater rewards through class action lawsuits.
SB 1 could become another bullet in the attorneys’ gun.
The legislature can still protect the environment and enjoy beating up on Trump without adding features that also endanger California businesses and the economy.