It looks like there will be a measure on November’s statewide ballot to block full implementation of California’s greenhouse gas regulations.
Groups supporting the measure they call the “California Jobs Initiative” claim they gathered more than 800,000 signatures, nearly twice what they needed to qualify the proposal as a statewide referendum.
The existing climate law, known widely as AB 32, allows for the Governor to declare an emergency suspension of up to one year. But John Kabateck, who heads the California branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, says small businesses in particular can’t wait to see what the next governor might do; that the measure is needed to “stop the madness.” Kabateck said it’s time to “just push the pause button and please stop loading small businesses with new costs, new mandates and new regulations at a time when we need to crawl out of the hole.”
Studies have reached varying conclusions about what effect the state’s current regulatory path for carbon emissions would have on the California economy. Opponents of the measure have already formed their own campaign, trying to keep momentum behind the three-year-old climate law known as AB-32.
Steve Maviglio, who works for the the pro-AB 32 Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, formed to oppose the ballot initiative, says he doesn’t think all those signatures necessarily signify broad support. “I think what that represents is the travesty of the initiative system and how out-of-state oil companies can buy their way onto the ballot,” he told me, in a telephone interview. The push to get the measure on the ballot has been financed largely by Texas-based oil companies and a somewhat obscure organization called the Adam Smith Foundation, based in Missouri.
“It took them $2 million to round up these signatures” said Maviglio. “And if you look at every single poll, you can see that Californians know we can have both clean air and a strong economy, and that we’re not going to be fooled by Texas oil companies,” he added.
The proposed ballot measure would freeze AB-32 until the state’s unemployment level dropped to five-and-a-half percent—or lower–for one full year. That’s something that’s happened only three times since the mid-1970’s: once in the late 1980s (for about ten quarters), a similar stretch in the late ‘90s, and once in 2005-06. After the deep recession of the early ‘80s, it took the state’s unemployment rate about four-and-a-half years to move from its 11% peak back to the 5.5 percent threshold.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today called the effort to halt AB-32 “the work of greedy oil companies.”