Proposition 23: Suspends air pollution control laws

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California Forward is dedicated to offering nonpartisan, informative, straightforward information about the propositions that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. We will post informational articles on each ballot measure, to help you as you make your voting decisions.

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NOTE: California Forward’s work on governance reform may be affected by several of these measures, although we have not taken a position on them – with one exception. CA Fwd opposes Prop 27. Prop 27 would reverse the landmark redistricting reform plan that was enacted by voters in 2008 as Prop 11. CA Fwd endorsed Prop 11 and has been deeply involved — with many other groups — in supporting successful implementation of the reform since enactment. The opportunity to serve California through the new redistricting commission inspired tens of thousands of highly qualified Californians to apply for the job, which we applaud. We look forward to the new, independent commission taking control of state redistricting in 2011.

Proposition 23 is a reaction to legislation signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 (Assembly Bill 32), which limits emissions from vehicles, curbs greenhouse gas emissions from refineries and other businesses, and imposes fees on companies that fail to comply, in an attempt to protect California’s fragile environment. Prop 23 would suspend that legislation until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters.

The measure requires the state to abandon implementation of its comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program – including the increased renewable energy and clean fuel requirements, as well as mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters, such as power plants and oil refineries – until the unemployment threshold is reached.

Most experts agree that an unemployment rate of below 5.5 percent is not expected to be reached for many years to come. The last time the state’s unemployment rate fell below this level was in the 1970s.

Supporters of Prop 23 say Assembly Bill 32 is a luxury California cannot afford during this economic crisis. It will cost businesses too much to install new equipment and bring their operations in line with the strict standards. They propose the suspension of the landmark legislation until state unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or lower for one year.

Prop 23 supporters also point out that other laws passed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air pollution in California will not be affected by this measure.

Opponents of Prop 23 say suspending AB 32 would increase public health risk, and jeopardize 500,000 jobs and more than $10 billion in private investment. They also warn of the increase in consumer energy costs if Prop 23 is passed.

Governor Schwarzenegger has vowed to fight Prop 23, saying “out-of-state oil companies are providing millions of dollars to fund the rollback measure at the expense of the fast growing green-tech sector and California’s environment.”

Some business leaders are concerned that AB 32’s authors did not account for the economic cost and hope to halt the loss of jobs by only suspending AB 32 through the passage of Prop 23 until California’s economy has rebounded.

The proposed suspension of AB 32 on November’s ballot has gotten attention from advocates around the country and the world, who are watching closely to see how California’s decision might impact their own green efforts.

For more information on this and all propositions on the Nov. 2 ballot, visit the California Secretary of State website,, or


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