The Trump administration’s new Endangered Species Act regulations released this week could breathe new life into a twice-defeated effort to grandfather Obama-era environmental rules into California law.
Democratic Senate leader Toni Atkins says her bill, SB 1, is necessary to leave existing protections in place.
“We are not changing the rules midstream," Atkins said. "We are saying, let’s continue the federal baseline that we have been working on — in some cases, for decades.”
Many business, agriculture and water groups have raised concerns. They argue the bill could “handcuff” state agencies by forcing them to rely on “decades-old science” and “outdated on the ground conditions.”
Atkins spoke in an interview Wednesday with Capital Public Radio, in which she also said she didn’t think the business-labor battle over whether “gig economy” contract workers should be classified as employees will be resolved this year. Here are some of the other highlights:
On her bill to codify Obama-era environmental regulations into California law:
I think we’ve seen an exacerbation of rolling back protections and regulations designed to support the goals that we have as Californians around our environment — water, clean air. We’ve seen example after example of that happening. And this week is one more example of why we need the bill.
On how she’d respond to criticism from business and industry groups that argue her bill would create uncertainty and an unequal playing field in California:
I think the administration has created an uncertain playing field. I totally understand and agree: We all need certainty in terms of how to plan for what we’re doing today, what we intend to do going forward. This is a real reversal of where we’ve been headed. These are not new regulations. We are not changing the rules midstream. We are saying, let’s continue the federal baseline that we have been working on — in some cases, for decades.
On efforts to resolve whether gig economy workers at companies like Lyft, Uber and Postmates should be classified as employees (click here for her full answer):
[In] the final few weeks of session, anything is possible. That’s when it gets serious, real, and we come down to the wire. And there’s nothing like the last minute to try to really push those tensions to where they need to be to accomplish something meaningful.
I think [last year’s California] Supreme Court [ruling that gig economy contract workers should in most cases be classified as employees] has put us in the position to try to figure out how we provide some clarity on the law and the ruling, so that people know where they stand. And I think getting into each of these types of professions and businesses has allowed us to see the complexity.
As we look at a gig economy, which provides some benefits to people who want to work in a different way, want to take advantage of innovation and a change in how we work, we want to continue to make sure that those workers have the flexibility — but also have the ability to make a decent living. And that is about benefits, workers’ compensation and workers’ rights.
Where do you balance all of that, and how do you look at all of the industries? I have no doubt that we will discuss this into next year. I think at some point [before lawmakers adjourn next month], we move forward and we take action on [a pending bill to codify the Supreme Court ruling into state law]. And there’s no doubt in my mind that we probably have more work to do going into next year, as we continue to have conversations throughout the state for various professions.
I don’t think many of us understood how many professions would then come forward and say, ‘What about us?’ And I think we have to strike a balance.
On the chances of a compromise on rent caps and tenant protections being reached before lawmakers adjourn next month:
It’s one of our most critical issues. I am hopeful, I would like to see us come to some agreement that really provides some protection to tenants in this market. I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to recognize this crisis. I saw this coming. But others were not as much willing to be engaged in the discussion. But now we need to be. And I do hope we can come up with some compromise or resolution that will benefit tenants in California.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the interview.