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SCV delegation tackles CEQA, higher education

Posted: March 18, 2014 5:41 p.m.
Updated: March 18, 2014 5:41 p.m.
 

Members of a Santa Clarita Valley delegation in Sacramento meeting with state legislators and other officials tackled weighty issues such as higher education, chloride and environmental laws during their second day in the state capital.

Taking center stage Tuesday was CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) which many members of the delegation believe makes it impossible for developers to complete projects in a cost-effective manner because of a large number of environmental lawsuits currently allowed by the law.

Cassie Gilson, lobbyist and lawyer who is an expert on CEQA, said that she is hopeful that there will be action on CEQA reform after the November election when Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to be re-elected and some new legislators may be more receptive to changing the CEQA laws.

Gibson said the main problem with CEQA right now is that developers are unable to adequately plan their projects because they keep getting hit with lawsuits even though they have satisfied all CEQA requirements.

"What it really is about is litigation at the back end," Gilson said. Developers are not environmentally unfriendly, they just want to be treated fairly, she said.

The delegation also met with Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) who backed legislation allowing California community colleges to charge more for high-demand courses during summer and winter terms for students who are having trouble getting the courses they need.

Although more money is going to higher education as the economy improves, access to education is the major problem in the California higher education system, Williams said.

"Affordability doesn't mean a whole lot if there is not a seat for you," he said.

Williams added that officials need to hold the line on fees at CSU and UC schools and one way of solving long-term funding issues for colleges would be for voters to consider supporting a dedicated tax for higher education.

The delegation also talked with Danny Merkley, director of water resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation, concerning the current chloride issue that the Santa Clarita Valley is grappling with.

The SCV is being asked to pay for chloride removal from the Santa Clara River due to what water officials claim is downstream contamination at Ventura County farms.

Merkley said there were pros and cons to as to whether regional water control boards should be elected instead of appointed.

He said that these officials are people in part-time positions who are being asked to
make informed decisions on complicated issues.

The SCV group also met with Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Dana Howard of Covered California.

The delegation's events ended late Tuesday afternoon. Participants either flew back to Santa Clarita or rode a bus which was expected to arrive back home late Tuesday night.

 

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