What could compel a trio of Senate Democrats as well as environmental and business leaders to come together and start combing through 28,000 pages of state regulations?
"We want to talk about Section one-oh-one-oh-hundred-point-one here today," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said as he scanned one of dozens of binders stacked next to a podium at a morning press conference.
"No, not really," he said, laughing.
The actual occasion? Legislation the sponsors say will create a better business environment by shedding unnecessary regulations from the books.
Senate Bill 366, co-authored by Democratic Sens. Ron Calderon and Fran Pavley , would give state agencies 180 days to review regulations and identify "duplicative, overlapping, inconsistent, or out of date," provisions that should be eliminated. The bill would also direct the the state agency heads to join forces for one year to streamline the business permitting process.
"If we can eliminate the duplication, if we can make government more user friendly, helping people and businesses comply with the law instead of making it more difficult to comply with the law, we can make a real difference in growing jobs here in California," said Steinberg, who had outlined the proposal in an earlier interview with The Bee.
The final decision of what regulations to remove from law would require action from either the Democratic-majority Legislature or Gov. Jerry Brown. Steinberg and the bill's supporters, which include the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the California League of Conservation Voters, pledged to keep in place existing regulations that protect consumers, the environment, health and public safety.
"I wouldn't be standing here today if I didn't think we could do both, maintain a strong healthy, vibrant economy and maintain a healthy environment as well. It's not mutually exclusive," Pavley said.
Metro Chamber President and CEO Matthew Mahood said the legislation and other steps to better the climate for business in California could bring his and other business groups on board to support Brown's proposal to ask voters' to extend temporary tax rates set to expire.
"We want to see this regulatory reform happen in a timely manner and if we start seeing the state legislature move in that direction, our board and our members are willing to support the extension of the sales tax and fees," Mahood said.
He said the Metro Chamber and members plan to "push" legislators to "think big" about overhauling the regulatory system, but did not list specifics.
Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton expressed skepticism about the impact the Democrats' bill would actually have, saying "actions speak louder than words so you'll have to see what happens."
"I'm kind of interested to see exactly what they're talking about, because it sounds good but if they don't really go through and actually evaluate these regulations and their impact, then frankly it's not going to do us a lot of good," the Rancho Cucamonga Republican told The Bee Capitol Bureau this afternoon.
Others criticized the proposal for not going far enough. California Republican Party spokesman Mark Standriff said Democrats should embrace recent GOP-backed proposals that would target regulations that have the most impact, not just duplication or ineffective portions of the code.
"This is regulatory spring cleaning," he said of the Senate Democrats' plan. "What the Republicans in the Senate and the Assembly are looking at is real regulatory reform."
VIDEO CREDIT: Binders containing all the regulations currently on the California books are brought into a morning press conference at the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce office. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.