We Get Support From:
Become a Supporter 
 We Get Support From:
Become a Supporter 

Thursday Capitol Round-Up: Pro Bono Work, Faster Environmental Reviews, Hopping Turnstiles

  
The California state Assembly voted on more than two dozen measures Thursday. Here are a few highlights.

EXPEDITING CEQA

Major construction projects in California could continue to bypass the state’s lengthy environmental review process, under a bill moving through the Legislature. The Assembly voted overwhelmingly to extend an expedited process for some projects.

Democratic proponents call the measure a balance between economic development and the environment.

Republicans have long wanted to ease the review process required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which can stall projects for a year or more.

"I have never, as I’ve said before, seen a CEQA streamlining bill that I would not support, because it’s become clear that the process in California is broken," said Republican Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen.

The bill allows clean energy projects and energy-efficient buildings to receive a judge’s review within nine months of an environmental lawsuit. It extends a law passed during the recession to encourage development, although only six projects have qualified to date.

Some environmental groups opposed the extension, but no Assemblymembers spoke against it.

The measure now goes to the Senate for a final vote.


SKIPPING PUBLIC TRANSIT FARES

Minors who sneak onto buses or trains without paying the fares would no longer face criminal charges in California, if Governor Jerry Brown signs a bill headed his way.

The Senate had already voted for the measure, and the Assembly passed it by a vote of 44-28.

Democratic Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer says children who evade fares don’t deserve to be charged with misdemeanors.

"For one high school student in Los Angeles, not paying for the train resulted in her arrest, and once she was released, she was not allowed to attend continuation schools," Jones-Sawyer said. "Under current law, it is too easy for a child to be made a criminal for not paying a few dollars for the bus or train."

Los Angeles and San Francisco have begun issuing tickets to fare evaders, rather than charging them with crimes. The bill requires the rest of the state to follow suit.

Transit agencies oppose the bill, saying it could cost them money.


PRE-LAW PRO BONO

California lawmakers are considering whether law students should have to perform community service.

The state Assembly passed a bill that would require 50 hours of pro bono legal work before someone becomes a member of the state bar. The vote was 42-31.

Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher opposed the bill.

"To require them to do work and not get paid for that, think about what you’re talking about there," said Gallagher. "I think it’s pretty problematic."

Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo spoke next.

"I wanted to counter some of the arguments being made by my colleague—we went to the same law school," said Alejo. "If high school students can do a certain number of voluntary community hours, certainly law students could do it."

Under the bill, students could get paid by law firms to conduct the pro bono work.

The measure moves back to the Senate for a final vote.

Correction 9:14 p.m. -- The original version of this story said the bill did not pass. It passed in a vote at the end of session, after not receiving enough votes earlier. 

Ben Bradford

State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covers California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio