AEP Legislative Update March 2024

March 2024

Annual AEP Lobby Day

On March 12 and 13, members of the AEP Legislative Review Committee came to Sacramento to participate in our annual Lobby Day. AEP members met with key legislators and staff to introduce them to AEP, highlight certain priority bills, and provide a presentation on pertinent CEQA issues. During our meetings, we emphasized our main high-level priority in the legislature, which is to help ensure new laws are implementable by practitioners and don’t cause unintended negative consequences. We also spoke about several of the main bills we are monitoring and offered AEP as a resource to legislators and staff as they consider the myriad proposals before them.

In addition to the legislative meetings, AEP Legislative Review Committee Chair Bill Halligan and Director at Large Kristin Blackson hosted our annual presentation on Hot Topics in CEQA for over 30 staffers from the Assembly and Senate. We provided staffers with a history and overview of CEQA, as well as a discussion of CEQA and housing, and an overview of the bills that AEP is tracking this year.

During the Lobby Day, we had the opportunity to share the bills that AEP is tracking and hear about topics of interest for staff and legislators. There is a growing focus on fees and permitting. In fact, we met with Assemblymember Buffy Wicks’ office, as she is the Chair of a new Select Committee on Permitting Reform. The Select Committee is not only focused on housing, but climate solutions including EVs, grid improvements, renewable energy, and more. The growing focus on fees is additionally demonstrated by SB 937 by Senator Wiener, which would prohibit a local agency from requiring the payment of those fees or charges until the date the certificate of occupancy is issued and would prohibit the local agency from charging interest or other fees on any amount deferred.

Both the Office of Public Research (OPR) and members of the Legislature are taking a closer look at the implementation of SB 743 (Steinberg, 2013) and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and considering a study on VMT that would be required by Senator Caballero’s SB 768 should it pass. On the topic of transportation, we also discussed Assemblymember Friedman’s AB 2553, which would expand the definition of a major transit stop to have a frequency of services of 20 minutes instead of 15, or to be served by on-demand transit services 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

CEQA exemptions remain a topic of interest, and we discussed Senator Allen’s SB 1234, which would create a CEQA exemption for local entities to implement changes to their local coastal program land use plan that are recommended by the Coastal Commission. Assemblymember Berman’s bill, AB 2199, to delete the sunset clause on the CEQA exemption for infill residential or mixed-use housing, was also of interest to several staff. In our meetings with Assembly Local Government and the Speaker’s housing staffer, both brought up the rise in ministerial approval bills, including ones for community clinics (AB 2085, Bauer-Kahan) and school housing (AB 1835, Muratsuchi).

Finally, there is concern about the impact of the current budget environment on housing and CEQA. Consultants are worried that the state will claw back Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) grants. These grants were focused on integrating housing and climate goals and allowing for broader planning and implementation investments, including infrastructural investments that support infill development. The consultants recommended engagement where possible to keep these grants funded in the budget.

Legislative Update

The Legislature is in full swing, coming up on a busy April in which policy committees will review, amend, and take the first vote on the 2,000+ bills introduced in January and February. While fiscal bills have until April 26 to pass out of policy committees, non-fiscal bills have until May 3 to be heard and pass out of committee; to continue in the process, all bills must pass out of their house of origin by May 24.

Legislators continue to prioritize housing and homelessness, as well as climate and creative solutions to permitting and fees. However, the ongoing budget deficit, projected between $38 billion to $73 billion, will pose a challenge to many policies as they make their way through the process. On March 20, Governor Newsom, Senate Pro Tem Mike McGuire, and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas announced early budgetary action to ‘shrink the shortfall’ by agreeing to budget solutions to cut about $12-18 billion. The Legislative Analyst’s Office has also presented lawmakers with options to claw back some of the money agencies can spend now, beyond Governor Newsom’s higher education and climate change program cuts recommended in January. With this in mind, we can expect that bills with large costs associated will be less likely to make it through the process, and legislators will have to be creative as they develop policies to help reach our state’s housing and climate goals.

AEP continues to monitor bills related to CEQA, permitting, housing, and more. Below is a summarized list of key bills that we are tracking, including those that we engaged on during our annual AEP Lobby Day.

  • AB 1835 by Assemblymember Muratsuchi would make housing on property owned by a local education agency an allowable use for purposes of permitting or other local approvals.
  • AB 2085 by Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan would make the development of community clinics subject to a streamlined, ministerial approval process in a zone where office, retail, health care, or parking are a principally permitted use.
  • AB 2199 by Assemblymember Berman would delete the sunset clause on the CEQA exemption for infill residential or mixed-use housing.
  • AB 2433 by Assemblymember Quirk-Silva is the California Private Permitting Review and Inspection Act, which would require a building department of the county or city to prepare a schedule of their fees and post the schedule on the county or city’s internet website.
  • AB 2940 by Assemblymember Muratsuchi would make transmission projects for renewable energy generation environmental leadership development projects for the purposes of the Jobs and Economic Improvement through Environmental Leadership Act subject to expedited judicial review for any CEQA challenges.
  • AB 2553 by Assemblymember Friedman would revise the definition of “major transit stop” to increase the frequency of service interval to 20 minutes. The bill would additionally define “major transit stop” to include a site in an urbanized area that is being served by an on-demand transit service at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • SB 768 by Senator Caballero would require the California Air and Resources Board (CARB), in consultation with other private and public entities, to conduct a study for the Legislature on the use of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMTs) as a metric for transportation impacts pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by January 1, 2026.
  • SB 937 by Senator Wiener would extend by 18 months the period for the expiration, effectuation, or utilization of a housing entitlement, as defined, that was issued before January 1, 2024, and that will expire before December 31, 2025, except as specified. The bill would toll this 18-month extension during any time that the housing entitlement is the subject of a legal challenge.
  • SB 1234 by Senator Allen would create a CEQA exemption for local entities to implement changes to their local coastal program land use plan that are recommended by the Coastal Commission.