AB32 Suspension on November 2010 CA Ballot

Initiative petitions are expected to be filed today to suspend implementation of AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, until the unemployment rate in California improves to 5.5% for four consecutive quarters, according to a story today in the San Francisco Chronicle.[1]

The story says the supporters will turn in more than two times the signatures they need to qualify the measure.  If this holds up the measure seems likely to be certified for the November general election.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

This is officially sponsored by a group called the California Jobs Initiative but the money to gather the petition signatures comes from two big oil refinery companies Tesoro and Valero who would be hit hard by AB32. The premise behind the campaign is that AB32 will cost California jobs—lots of them, when we can least afford it.  It also recognizes that an outright repeal of the measure is a much tougher sell in this state so this is a time-buying compromise designed to take the inevitability out of the AB32 momentum hoping for a better political climate in 2012 or beyond.

Unintended Consequences of the Progressive Era

California has a long history of direct democracy dating back to the Progressive Era when both the initiative and referendum were seen as a way to keep politicians and special interest groups honest. Today they are used primarily by those special interests to end run the legislature and put measures in front of the people usually with large campaign war chests to support them.

This direct democracy has produced both good and bad results including Proposition 13 limiting property tax increases but it also has been used to earmark money for pet programs so that today the State Budget is so pre-allocated that the Legislature and Governor have little flexibility in spending making it increasingly difficult to balance the budget.  The only way around that has been to raise revenue from taxes and fees to find a new creative source of funding.

Winners and Losers

If the measure is certified there should be polling results to test voter sentiment.

For Democrats this is rolling the dice.  Some political operatives may actually like to have this on the November ballot because it will certainly turn out the Democrat environmental base to save AB32 goals. For true believers this is the nightmare scenario as they fear all their work to move the California progressive agenda on climate change forward could be reversed by a voter backlash.

Given the already higher proportion of Democrats registered in California that may not bode well for Republican candidates who seem to benefit from lower Democrat turnout if they have stronger candidates.  With the Governor’s seat wide open and Senator boxer on the defensive it looked like Republicans had a good chance of winning one or both those prizes.

The voters could see through the jobs argument and vote no because of who the sponsors of the measure really are—and opponents will certainly rub their nose in it.  But AB32 has a problem because even the California Legislative Analyst says it will cost the state jobs and raises the cost of doing business so the proponents of suspension could score points—big points—on the downside of AB32.

Will it be enough to get AB32 suspended?  We’ll have to wait and see, but it may be enough to get a few more incumbents thrown out and a few more newcomers put in in this most volatile of election years.

California suspension of AB32 would almost certainly be interpreted as a death sentence for Congressional action on the Waxman-Markey Bill.  If Democrats can’t keep the AB32 dream alive here in the Golden State it is not safe anywhere.

That is all I know for now, stay tuned!

[1] http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/03/BA3P1D8EP8.DTL&feed=rss.bayarea