Right to Sue Expanded for Public Trust Lands in Last-Minute Budget Trailer Bill Amendment
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
A last-minute Legislative maneuver on the final day of session amended a cap-and trade bill, Senate Bill 859, to give local governments the right to sue in matters relating to public trust lands.
The bill, which became effective on September 14th as an urgency measure, added a subdivision to section 6009.1 of the Public Resources Code permitting a trustee of public trust lands to bring a lawsuit related to its granted public trust lands, including an action to abate a public nuisance. The last-minute addition to the bill never had a public hearing and prohibited CLTA or other associations the opportunity to lobby against the bill. In fact, the legislation that added the public trust provision was buried in a budget trailer bill codifying the cap-and-trade deal reached between Governor Brown and legislators.
Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee newspaper reported that the legislation was an effort to overturn a federal judge’s decision. The decision, issued nine days prior, ruled that three cities lacked legal standing to sue to make Monsanto Co. pay for poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in San Francisco Bay. The full ramifications of the bill’s very broad language and future interpretation remain unclear at this time.
This sort of last-minute legislative sleight-of-hand has a long history in the State Capitol, and is the subject of a ballot measure, Proposition 54, this November. Proposition 54 would require the final version of legislation to be in print and available on the internet 72 hours before voting, and would also require all public meetings of the Legislature be video-recorded and posted online within 24 hours. The measure is supported by the California Republican Party and a large number of organizations, but faces opposition from the California Democratic Party and California Labor Federation.