March 16, 2011 in Nation/World

California budget tied to environment

Five GOP lawmakers seeking concessions
Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The handful of Republican lawmakers most likely to provide crucial votes for California Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan are threatening to withhold their support without a dramatic rewriting of state environmental law.

The demand, pushed in private talks with the governor, would curtail lawsuits against projects threatening ecological damage, grant waivers to big telecommunications companies and exempt many urban developments from environmental review.

The legislators have declined to share the details of their proposal publicly, but draft legislation to overhaul the law was obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Sweeping changes in the California Environmental Quality Act would stand little chance of approval through the normal legislative process, which Democrats – environmentalists’ usual allies – control. But the governor’s budget cannot pass without some Republican votes, and GOP lawmakers see an opportunity to win long-sought concessions.

Environmentalists expressed outrage at the Republicans’ bid. Bill Magavern, director of Sierra Club California, said that what the legislators want amounts to a “wholesale gutting” of the law.

The proposal was presented to the governor and legislative leaders by five Republican senators considered key to any budget deal with Brown, as they are the only GOP senators actively negotiating.

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