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Senate Passes Alternate Exhaust Emissions Bill

June 30, 2002|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — The state Senate on Saturday passed a hastily drafted bill aimed at weakening a high-powered lobbying campaign against a plan that would make California the first state to regulate exhaust emissions to reduce global warming.

The bill, sent to the Assembly on a 23-16 vote, is very similar to an earlier global warming bill that has stalled in the lower chamber amid intense lobbying.

At issue is a controversial plan that would empower the state Air Resources Board to devise a strategy to cut back tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, an ingredient of the global warming phenomenon.

The stalled bill (AB 1058), sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council, would give the agency broad powers to impose restrictions on carbon dioxide gases from automobiles.

Opponents charge the powers go too far.

Foes of the bill by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) have mounted an aggressive statewide advertising campaign that has brought the bill to a halt in the Assembly and is threatening to kill it.

The opposition includes a coalition of politically powerful interests, including organized labor, automobile manufacturers, new car dealers, oil companies and major employer organizations. They claim the plan would outlaw the sale of gas-slurping SUVs, increase taxes and reduce the number of miles that Californians are allowed to drive.

Supporters deny these assertions, saying such arguments are falsehoods promoted by an election year advertising blitz designed to derail the plan, which would be the first by any state in the country. The centerpiece of the campaign urges Californians to call their lawmakers and ask them to vote against it.

Last month, the Senate narrowly passed the global warming bill, but it ground to a stop in the Assembly, where moderate "business Democrats," who are the swing votes, are under intense pressure to defeat the measure.

In an effort to soften opposition to the bill, the Senate on Saturday passed a second bill which Senate leader John L. Burton (D-San Francisco) called an alternative to the original bill.

As a result, the Assembly will have two very similar bills to choose from.

Minority Republicans oppose both. Gov. Gray Davis has not taken a position on either.

Burton said the latest bill (AB 1493) was a compromise attempt to satisfy complaints against the original bill, including a prohibition against raising taxes by the Air Resources Board.

He said the new bill, written Friday night and rushed to the floor without normal committee hearings, also would prohibit the board from outlawing certain classes of gasoline-slurping vehicles, such as SUVs.

But Republicans accused Burton of attempting to "sneak" through a bill they claimed was designed not as a compromise but to sabotage the expensive advertising campaign of the business and labor opponents.

Sen. Ray Haynes (R-Riverside) noted that the campaign has made the bill number of the Pavley legislation, AB 1058, a core feature of its advertisements. He warned that the Burton bill would now become the center of attention and opponents would have to redo their advertising and try to instill a new bill number, AB 1493, in the voters' minds.

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