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California Air Resources Board Committee exempted from state open meetings law in secret budget move

California Air Resources Board Committee exempted from state open meetings law in secret budget move

Buried deep in a budget trailer bill is a provision that would exempt a state committee that analyzes the performance of California’s controversial cap and trade program from the serial meeting provision of the open meeting law for state agencies.

The provision was added to SB 85 on June 11, five days before the bill was passed on the floors of both houses of the legislature. Prior to its passage, SB 85 was not heard by a single policy committee and the merits of the bill were never debated publicly.

Section 14 of the bill exempts from the Bagley-Keene Act the Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee (IEMAC), which analyzes the environmental and economic performance of the state’s cap-and-trade program and other relevant climate policies. IEMAC reports its findings to the California Air Resources Board and the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change.

The Senate analysis of SB 85 states the reason for the need to exempt the committee from the serial meeting provision is to provide the committee members with “greater flexibility to communicate with each other when analyzing the effectiveness of the Cap-and-Trade program.”

Apparently, IEMAC members’ communicating amongst themselves with the public present hampers the committee’s important work.

The state budget trailer bill process was designed to be used to make various statutory changes necessary to implement the state budget. The process has, in recent years, been increasingly used to skirt the legislative policy committee process to get measures through the Legislature that would have little chance of surviving scrutiny by a policy committee.

SB 85 as well as the bill containing the state budget and all other trailer bills are on the Governor’s desk awaiting his approval, which is expected to occur this weekend.