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Cap-and-Trade Vote Splits California Republicans

Twitter account of Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego)

In a photo posted to the Twitter account of Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Gov. Jerry Brown poses for a victory photo with Democrats and Republicans after the Legislature voted to extend California's cap-and-trade program on Monday, July 17, 2017.

Twitter account of Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego)

Well into the Assembly’s cap-and-trade debate Monday evening, a little-known Republican raised his microphone, asking to speak.

“This sucks,” said Asm. Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), “but there’s other things that suck more.”

As bad as cap-and-trade is, Mathis argued, it beats the heck out of top-down state regulations. Particularly for his district’s agriculture industry, which will get help buying greener farm equipment – and something less tangible, but far more valuable.

“I can guarantee thousands of my friends and neighbors stability in their lives,” Mathis told his colleagues. “I can tell them they’re gonna be able to keep their jobs.”

Monday's vote extending California’s signature effort to fight climate change showcased a deep split among legislative Republicans.

Mathis, six other Assembly Republicans, and Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) voted yes. And Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes was a key player in talks with Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats. Without those votes, and Mayes' active role at the negotiating table, the extension may well have failed.

But most fought hard to defeat the deal, as did conservative activists and the influential Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

“I don’t work hard to elect Republicans so they can decide that a small tax increase might be better than a big tax increase,” said Jon Fleischman, a leading California conservative who publishes the Flash Report blog.

“Most hard-working Republican activists expect our legislators to draw a line in the sand, and to not broker the influence we give them in return for taking care of some of their special interest friends,” Fleischman added.

Mayes is already facing calls to resign his leadership post, and there are murmurs of discontent in the Assembly Republican caucus. It remains to be seen if those murmurs erupt into shouts.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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