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May 30, 2023


05/22/2023 09:06 AM EDT

Presented by Environment California

THE BUZZ: Building in California just got easier.

Well, a little bit.

Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out a plan Friday to streamline the state's construction regulations and permitting in an announcement that was heavy on the superlatives — with the governor lauding the reforms as the most ambitious effort in "half a century" and something that is "on par with the days that helped build the middle class."

Through 11 bills and an executive order, Newsom is looking to usher in a new era of infrastructure creation and appease three groups in one fell swoop: environment, labor and industry. The governor's proposal aims to make it easier to build environmentally friendly projects, like water storage, solar power and transit options — which he says will be critical to meeting California's ambitious climate goals. Newsom made the announcement in Stanislaus County surrounded by union workers, who cheered the creation of what the administration estimates to be 400,000 jobs over the next decade.

Perhaps most noteworthy: Newsom's proposal also opens the pressure valve to relieve some of the frustration around the California Environmental Quality Act, a Reagan-era law meant to protect the state's natural beauty that has since become a favored tool of NIMBYism and a thorn in the side of builders. CEQA has been known to seriously jam up construction — like a Berkeley student housing project that stalled after a state appellate court found the school failed to account for "excessive noise" — but state officials have found workarounds for things like sporting venues.

Now, Newsom is looking to limit the window for CEQA challenges to 270 days for climate-friendly infrastructure.

"We’ve proven we can get it done for stadiums. So, why the hell can't we translate that to all these other projects?" he said Friday.

Not all are tickled about the transformation. Several environmental groups pushed back on the governor's bypassing of CEQA. Critics include Aruna Prabhala, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, who expressed worry that Newsom hasn't considered the "unintended consequences" of fast-tracking infrastructure projects.

This is all hypothetical for now. The only immediate action the governor took Friday was signing an executive order launching a "strike team" meant to work across state agencies on infrastructure projects. The 11 pieces of legislation, which will be introduced as budget trailer bills, will require negotiating with his colleagues on the other side of N Street.

We should also note that these proposals don't include any fast tracking for houses, which are in critically low supply in California. Asked about the omission Friday, Newsom said he's proud of progress made thus far, and he's looking forward to working with legislators on new efforts this year — though he declined to endorse any specific bills.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Monday morning. Happy Harvey Milk Day. Today, Californians honor the life and legacy of the pioneering San Franciscan who was the first openly gay man elected to public office in a major U.S. city.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit us up at [email protected] and [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @JeremyBWhite and @Lara_Korte.

A message from Environment California:

It's time to make oil and gas companies – not California taxpayers – pay for the pollution they cause. California still gives subsidies and tax breaks to big polluters. Oil companies are making record profits, but refusing to clean up their messes. Meanwhile, California proposed cutting $6 billion from the historic climate budget. Instead, California must end subsidies and tax breaks for oil and gas companies, and redirect funding to renewable energy infrastructure and a clean environment.

WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Quite a few folks have reached out to me encouraging me to run for governor." Attorney General Rob Bonta on potentially entering the 2026 race, which already includes Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Controller Betty Yee, via the San Francisco Chronicle.



WE’RE HIRING — POLITICO is embarking on an exciting expansion in the Golden State and looking for another journalist to join our growing team as a California Playbook author. More in the job description here.

PLAYBOOK TRIVIA NIGHT! Think you know a lot about politics? PROVE IT! Compete in California Playbook's inaugural Trivia Night. Grab a drink, kick back, and put your knowledge on display! Join top political power players on Wednesday, June 21st at Fox & Goose Public House for a night of fun and competition that you won't want to miss. REGISTER HERE.

— "A standstill settles in as Democrats fret over Feinstein's health," by The Washington Post's Maeve Reston and Liz Goodwin: "Feinstein's allies say that she has been doing her job since returning more than a week ago — casting votes that are needed to boost Democrats’ narrow majority in the Senate and approving President Biden's judicial picks. But the shock of seeing Feinstein's visibly weakened state — paired with her apparent confusion in some interactions with reporters — has created rising alarm that is rippling across both Washington and California about her fitness to serve."

— "A Bay Area politician returned to D.C. after a major health scare. His approach is a lesson for Feinstein," by Joe Garofoli for the San Francisco Chronicle: "DeSaulnier is one of few people who can provide a window into what it's like to return to Congress after a long illness. DeSaulnier has done it twice. In 2015, the 71-year-old DeSaulnier took time off to recover from cancer. In 2020, he hovered near death after a fall where doctors gave him a 10 percent chance to survive. He spent two months in the hospital."

— "CSU didn't investigate claims that Fullerton president inappropriately touched students," by the Los Angeles Times’ Robert J. Lopez and Colleen Shalby: "The first report, made in August 2019 to the Cal State Fullerton campus, accused President Framroze "Fram" Virjee of hugging a student and kissing her forehead, making ‘her feel very uncomfortable.’ Two other reports, also made to the campus, involved separate incidents while Virjee gave a tour of the school one day in November 2021."

— "Rob Bonta is considering a run for California governor. His actions on housing will determine if he's worthy," opines Emily Hoeven for the San Francisco Chronicle: "Enter Attorney General Rob Bonta, who told me he is ‘seriously considering’ a run for governor in an exclusive interview Friday. ‘Quite a few folks have reached out to me encouraging me to run for governor,’ Bonta said, though he insisted his current focus is ‘on being attorney general’ and a gubernatorial bid isn't "something that I’m making a decision on today."

A message from Environment California:

— "We called 148 affordable properties during a homeless crisis. Only 3 had units available," by The Sacramento Bee's Ariane Lange: "Only three buildings had an immediately available unit. The list and its 145 dead ends drive home the staggering hurdles faced by the county's most vulnerable residents. Two of the limited available options came with significant restrictions. A few rooms were available in an SRO, but only for people who had a referral from a social services agency."

— "California agency paid a state worker six figures to stay home and not work, report says," by The Sacramento Bee's Andrew Sheeler: "Many other departments are called out by name, including California Correctional Health Care Services, which failed to account for a registered nurse's absences totaling 600 hours between October 2019 and November 2021. It resulted in the employee being overpaid by more than $38,000."

— "California to trigger rarely used relief valve on Kern River, diverting flows to state aqueduct," by the Los Angeles Times’ Ian James: "Opening this flow relief valve, known as the Kern River Intertie, is intended to prevent floodwaters from reaching Tulare Lake, a typically dry lake bed that in recent weeks has experienced a dramatic resurgence, replenished by powerful winter storms and, now, heavy spring runoff."

— "‘Deep in the weeds': California counties face unknowns in launching mental illness court," by the Los Angeles Times’ Thomas Curwen: "Seven counties opted for an Oct. 1 rollout of the law that orders each county to create special courts, whose judges have the authority to order treatment plans for individuals with untreated schizophrenia and related disorders. Even though the plans are not compulsory, the courts hope for compliance as the law tries to straddle a line between voluntary and mandated treatment."

— "California sees modest job gains as unemployment rate creeps up," by the San Francisco Chronicle's Chase DiFeliciantonio: "California added 67,000 seasonally adjusted jobs last month, but the state's unemployment rate still ticked up a fraction of a percentage point as continued layoffs in technology and other sectors took a bite out of growth. The unemployment rate statewide climbed from 4.4% in March to 4.5 percent in April, state data show."

— Amid G-7 diplomacy, Biden predicts a debt limit deal will get done, by POLITICO's Eli Stokols: Biden made the comments while in the midst of a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was set to host him and the leaders of India and Japan in Sydney next week. The president just days ago canceled that part of his trip so he could return home and deal with the budget impasse and the looming possibility of default.

— "An unassuming East Bay Congress member has become a key figure in the debt ceiling fight," by the San Francisco Chronicle's Shira Stein: "DeSaulnier, a former Republican, said he is deeply worried about Republicans using the debt ceiling to get what they want. ‘I’ve told Republicans … this is not about leverage, because what you’re leveraging is so disastrous. It's not proportionate to what the risk is,’ he told The Chronicle."

GET READY FOR GLOBAL TECH DAY: Join POLITICO Live as we launch our first Global Tech Day alongside London Tech Week on Thursday, June 15. Register now for continuing updates and to be a part of this momentous and program-packed day! From the blockchain, to AI, and autonomous vehicles, technology is changing how power is exercised around the world, so who will write the rules? REGISTER HERE.

— "S.F. restaurant apologizes after backlash for hosting secretive anti-trans event," by the San Francisco Chronicle's Joel Umanzor.

— "Dodgers shouldn't side with homophobic Catholics — invite the nuns in drag," opines Gustavo Arellano for the Los Angeles Times.

— "Feinstein is not going to quit the Senate. Ever. Just ask her biographer," opines Mark Z. Barabak for the Los Angeles Times.

— "California plans to spend more on Narcan, but it could lose workers who hand it out," by the Los Angeles Times’ Emily Alpert Reyes.

— "USC athletic director Mike Bohn resigns after management criticism," by the Los Angeles Times’ Ryan Kartje.

(Was Saturday): Christina Bellantoni of USC Annenberg … Amazon's PJ Hoffman … Microsoft's Megan O’Neill … Rachel Haurwitz … Katie Lewallen … Wendy Gerrish

(Was Friday): Ian Clay of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

A message from Environment California:

California is struggling to balance its budget and proposing to cut $6 billion from the climate budget. Over 50 groups are urging Governor Newsom and the California Legislation to end subsidies for oil and gas instead. It's time to make oil and gas companies – not California taxpayers – pay for the pollution they cause. While oil companies are making record profits, they continue to pollute our environment, but refuse to clean up their messes. We can't keep paying companies to game the system while they dump higher bills and pollution on Californians. Instead, California leadership must end subsidies and tax breaks for oil and gas companies, and redirect funding to the climate budget. California should take that money and redirect it toward building new renewable energy infrastructure and dealing with the antiquated, fossil fuel-based systems left behind, as well as the polluters’ unwillingness to clean up their own messes. Learn more.

CALIFORNIA POLICY IS ALWAYS CHANGING: Know your next move. From Sacramento to Silicon Valley, POLITICO California Pro provides policy professionals with the in-depth reporting and tools they need to get ahead of policy trends and political developments shaping the Golden State. To learn more about the exclusive insight and analysis this subscriber-only service offers, click here.

Want to make an impact? POLITICO California has a variety of solutions available for partners looking to reach and activate the most influential people in the Golden State. Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness amongst this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected]

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