Environmental groups say the recent California Legislative session was a big win for coastal protection, clean water among other issues. A statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and groundwater rules were among key issues passed by the legislature. Capital Public Radio Reporter and All Things Considered News Anchor Ed Joyce talked with Environment California's Legislative Director Dan Jacobson about the session. Jacobson said there were two main reasons for the passage of key bills.
JACOBSON: Politicians really looked at the polls and they really listened to their constituents and as you see time and time again, overwhelmingly, people support clean air, clean water and protecting our beautiful places. And whenever politicians listen to the people, we end up having a pretty good session. The second reason is that if you look at some of our environmental champions [legislators] over the past couple of years, they came into some really powerful leadership positions.
ED JOYCE: In terms of the single-use plastic bag ban, I know that you've been working to get that legislation through for a number of years. Its been tweaked over the years many times, what made the difference this time?
JACOBSON: You know to be honest, I think the biggest difference that we had, is that when we had opponents to the bill over the past couple of years instead of rejecting what they were saying and just not listening, we sat down and really listened to what the opponents said to us. And last year for instance, it was Senator Lara [Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach] and Senator de Leon [Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles] that had real problems with the bill. We could have taken the position of not listening and trying to jam the bill through but being able to work together with our opponents and turning them into real supporters, that's what got us to 41 on the Assembly and 21 on the Senate.
JOYCE: What are some of the key bills that passed this session?
JACOBSON: The first is the one that we just talked about, which is banning single-use plastic bags. The second is protecting our groundwater, I think that was a really instrumental bill. The third was making sure that the public had access to the beach and Senator Jerry Hill had a bill that protects the public's right and access to critical spots along the California coastline. And SB 1204 by Sen. Lara and SB 1275 by Sen. de Leon really enable us to move from oil-based cars to electric or hydrogen or other clean cars, trucks and buses. And really making sure that those programs are focused in some of the most polluted areas of the state.
JOYCE: Along with the passage of many bills, there were also disappointments for environmental advocates including bills related to oil drilling and fracking?
JACOBSON: Going into the year, we didn't think that we would get it, but we wanted to show the state legislature that the environmental community was fully unified around a moratorium on fracking in the state of California. There is no doubt that we showed that. I think that bill is an example that the oil and gas companies still wield tremendous power in the state legislature and those powerful special interest groups were able to stop that good bill from getting through.
JOYCE: Overall if you were going to give a letter grade to the environment, health and natural resource bills that passed this session, what would that grade be?
JACOBSON: I'd give us a B+ this year. Because of our leaders, because they were listening to the people of the state of California and not the special interest groups and I also think because it's an election year we were able to get some good bills through.
ED JOYCE: And, looking ahead to the next session, what’s on your and other environmental groups’ radar?
JACOBSON: I think what we want to continue to do is look for opportunities to continue to move toward clean energy, continue to figure out the ways that California can tackle global warming and continue to look for ways to protect our drinking water and preserve some of our beautiful places in California.