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AEP Legislative Update January 2022The 2022 legislative session did not get off to the rapid start of years past, due in large part to the spreading of COVID-19 across the state. The Capitol was not immune to such spread, with dozens of legislators testing positive or being exposed to the virus in the first week back. Further complicating this return of the legislature is the dramatic changes made by the CA Independent Redistricting Commission to the state's legislative districts. The decennial redistricting process, done in California by a non-partisan entity made up of volunteers, resulted in district lines changes pretty dramatically in much of the state. This left many legislators with no district or multiple sitting legislators living in the same district. Combined with the large number of Congressional retirements opening up opportunities for CA state electeds to see higher office, major changes are coming to Sacramento. As of now, over 30 current elected officials are either terming out or electing not to run for reelection this year.
These political changes have a significant impact on policymaking in the Capitol. Legislators running for reelection in redrawn districts must be responsive to new constituents while those no longer running for reelection are less likely to be concerned about appeasing various political stakeholders. The Legislature has until February 18 to introduce new legislation for the 2022 session. We expect climate change and housing to continue to be key issues the legislature will try to grapple with.
The California Legislature operates on a two-year long legislative session, broken up into annual processes. In the second year of session - the even numbered year - legislators are allowed to try to move bills that failed to make it out of their house of origin the year before. Asm. Cristina Garcia is attempting to do that with AB 1001. The bill deals with CEQA and environmental justice issues. Specifically, it requires lead agencies to give consideration to environmental justice principles and to ensure that all air and water quality mitigation measures be done in the affected disadvantaged community. The bill has faced significant opposition from the business and development communities. The bill must pass from the Assembly Floor by January 31 to meet a procedural deadline. AEP is monitoring the bill very closely as this is an issue AEP is also focused on. The AEP Institute in 2022 is focused on GHG, air quality and environmental justice.
Arguably the most important job of the Governor and Legislature is to pass the annual state budget and fund the government and its many departments, programs and initiatives. Every year on January 10, the Governor releases the proposed state budget. The Legislature and the Administration then work from that to negotiate a final budget deal by June 15. The Governor's proposed budget for 2022 would be the largest budget in state history at $286.4 billion, even larger than last year's record setting budget. Included in the budget proposal is $22.5 billion in spending related to climate change. This includes $1.2 billion towards forest health and fire prevention, $6.1 billion towards zero emission transportation, $2 billion towards clean energy, and $1.5 billion towards affordable housing development near transit. AEP will be closely monitoring these new proposed pots of money and also keeping an eye out for the many "budget trailer bills" that get introduced every year that make policy changes through the budget. Last year saw three CEQA exemptions passed through such trailer bills.
Looking ahead to 2022, the AEP Legislative Committee will be holding its annual Capitol Day, likely virtual again due to COVID-19 and the Legislature moving into a temporary new building while the Capitol Annex building is rebuilt. While the operations of the Capitol have changed over the last two years, there is never a year without significant CEQA and environmental legislation up for discussion.