Allow us to introduce eight brave members of the California Legislature: The Republicans who had the fortitude to climb out on a shaky political limb by voting to extend California’s controversial cap-and-trade program.
For that, they’ve been outed on conservative talk radio; christened the “Crazy 8,” according to Breitbart; and subjected to speculation about what repercussions they may face.
Local Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham was among the GOP lawmakers who voted to continue the cap-and-trade program, which requires oil producers, refineries and other polluting industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — or pay a price.
Cap-and-trade has been reviled by Republicans, who see it as another unfair money grab and a huge burden on businesses.
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“Personally, I’m very disappointed in (Cunningham’s) vote,” Randall Jordan, chairman of the Republican Party of San Luis Obispo County, told The Tribune. “It’s an extension of a program that hurts small business with regulations, affects our gas prices and energy crisis all in the name of saving the environment.”
Elsewhere in California, conservative critics have been much harsher.
“Bad policy, bad tactics, political malpractice,” Harmeet Dhillon, a member of the Republican National Committee, said of Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes’ decision to buck the conservative establishment on cap-and-trade. She’s among those calling for Mayes to be ousted as leader.
Yet the extension of cap-and-trade is not a total loss for Republicans.
It includes a carrot that conservatives have long demanded: The suspension of the hated fire prevention fee levied on rural homes in fire-prone areas. The fee will go away for at least for 10 years, though fire prevention efforts will continue to be funded with cap-and-trade revenue.
That will have a direct effect locally; owners of about 30,000 “habitable structures” in SLO County’s rural communities are charged up to $153 per year for fire prevention services. Statewide, the fee generates $80 million per year.
Conservatives, including many in San Luis Obispo County, have been fighting the fire fee—which they see as an illegal tax—for the past six years.
Opponents say some property owners are double billed — they pay a local agency for fire protection, yet still have to pay for prevention services. There also have been complaints that because revenue is pooled, there is no guarantee that those paying the fees will directly benefit.
But few Republicans are hailing the demise of the fire fee. There’s been much more focus on calling out G.O.P lawmakers who supported cap-and-trade.
Of course, ostracizing politicians who dare to disagree with their party is nothing new — remember when former state Sen. Abel Maldonado was branded a “RINO” for voting for a tax increase in 2009?
Rarely, though, have we seen so many despicable attempts to punish “disloyalty.” It’s happening in a big way in Washington, D.C., and it’s at play here in California.
This bullying — and that’s exactly what it is — must stop.
If politicians aren’t allowed to vote as individuals, what’s the sense in sending them to Sacramento? If their votes are a mere formality, why not let them phone them in?
Cap-and-trade is not a perfect solution. Some environmentalists oppose it for not going far enough. Air quality control officials at the county level are concerned because it includes a new requirement for more monitoring of industries covered under cap-and-trade—without allocating any funds for that.
But ignoring climate change is far worse in a state already threatened by rising sea levels and worsening wildfires.
Assemblyman Cunningham made the right call.
Republicans won some key concessions — including suspension of the fire fee — in a Legislature dominated by Democrats. That’s not crazy, and it’s not “political malpractice.” That’s political reality.
We commend Assemblyman Cunningham for recognizing that.