California lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen bills that make changes to the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, critics of the 43-year-old law say it’s a barrier to economic growth.
Most lawmakers agree that CEQA needs to change. The act guides most development projects in the state. But exactly how to change the law is where the issue becomes contentious. Democratic Senator Noreen Evans is authoring two bills she says are designed to make the CEQA process more efficient and transparent.
“One of the bills would bring California into the electronic age and require such things as electronic records to be kept and electronic notifications, basically what we’re trying to do is modernize the law,” says Evans.
But Republican Senator Tom Berryhill says more changes are needed to prevent CEQA from delaying projects. He has introduced legislation similar to a bill killed last session to overhaul the law. It aims at minimizing CEQA lawsuits.
“What we don’t want to see is this thing thrown in court time and time again because it takes forever to get through the process, what this bill attempts to do is to keep that from happening and hopefully it will,” says Berryhill.
But it needs leadership’s support. Democratic Senate President pro Tem Darrel Steinberg says he won’t back legislation that goes that far.
“My job is going to be to try to steer this down the middle and improve the law in smart ways,” says Steinberg.
One of those smart ways he says is to expedite review for projects designed to improve the environment. He’s introduced his own legislation to do that. It would also prevent so-called “document dumps” used to delay projects late in the process.