Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is hoping that his political relationship with billionaire Ed Roski Jr. bares offspring.
As we wrote on Sunday, the governor signed extraordinary legislation exempting Roski from lawsuits over California environmental law in his effort construct an 80,000-seat football stadium in the San Gabriel Valley town of City of Industry. The stadium would house the National Football League team Roski hopes to bring to the Los Angeles area.
Now as part of his push to help the economy, the governor is urging lawmakers to approve legislation that would authorize his administration and future governors to grant the same sorts of exemptions to 25 projects a year.
The governor contends that these would be projects where environmental impact reports already have been done.
But under this proposal, the governor's secretary of Business, Transportation & Housing would gain significant power to reward developers. The secretary could exempt 25 projects, ranging from roads to housing, from lawsuits questioning whether or not the developers had complied with the California Environmental Quality Act.
Schwarzenegger has not identified the projects. But his proposal gives the geographic spread: 10 in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties; five in Sacramento and other Central Valley counties; five in the Bay Area; and five to be determined.
Schwarzenegger portrays himself as the environment's best friend. But this idea amounts to an assault on the state's strongest environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act.
Many developers are political players. This could be a great way for a governor to reward friends. But that wouldn't happen, at least not under this administration.
The concept raises all sorts of other questions. What happens if a developer doesn't make the list? Could that developer seek special legislation to be placed on the favored list? Could that developer sue to be added to the list.
In his drive to create jobs as his tenure ends, the governor might consider being direct. If there is a problem with "frivilous" lawsuits in which CEQA is cited, perhaps he should focus on that issue.