For several years the term “Environmental Republican” has been an oxymoron in the halls of the California Legislature. However, with the most recent set of votes in the California Assembly, the tide may be turning.
For years, Republicans in the California State Legislature have voted consistently against the environment. Of course there were a few important exceptions including Bruce McPherson, Abel Maldonado, Tim Leslie and Shirley Horton (Assemblymember Horton was the only Republican to vote for AB 32- the Global Warming Solution Act). But by far, the expected vote within the Republican Party in Sacramento has been a ‘no’ vote on the environment.
However, the new Republican Environmental Caucus, E3, may be taking an important step toward environmental leadership and in so doing, changing the political calculus in the State Capitol. As the Assembly worked on a number of bills last week, Republicans added their support and in some cases were instrumental in passing bills to the Senate.
Several bills in particular make the case: AB 1920 (Huffman) will allow homeowners with solar panels to sell excess electricity to their utility. AB 1879 (Feuer) will give the state the authority to protect California from dangerous chemicals and AB 2694 reduces the level of lead in toys.
In many instances these key Republicans did more then just vote. This new brand of Republicans became co-authors, spoke in support of bills and lobbied members on the floor. These bills had significant opposition from powerful special interests.
This new paradigm is important because it finally shows the will of the people of California, both Republican and Democrat, strongly in favor of environmental protections. Additionally, in the face of the Business Democratic Caucus, it creates more opportunities to pass strong environmental laws.
Some may argue that these votes are only intended to bolster the image of some Republicans who are running for higher office. Only time will tell if that is the case. Right now, for the sake of California’s clean air, clean water and open space, it is a good step forward and we all hope the new Republican Environmental Caucus continues to be a positive force for our environment.