California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, better known as AB 32, was signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2006. AB 32 requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a drop of about 15 percent from current levels. If passed, Proposition 23 would halt the implementation and operation of AB 32 until state unemployment rates remain at or below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. That level has been reached three times since the state began compiling these statistics in 1976. The measure would suspend regulations already adopted under AB 32 and would also prohibit state agencies from continuing to adopt new regulations and related directives.
While Proposition 23 would suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act and its existing regulations, it does not push back or otherwise delay the 2020 aggregate greenhouse gas reduction target contained in AB 32. If Proposition 23 were to pass, the binding target of achieving 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2020 would become effective again once the suspension is removed. In effect, Proposition 23 would reduce the amount of time that businesses, local governments, and state agencies have to achieve the emissions reductions required by AB 32. They would face the same deadline, but the implementation period would be substantially shortened. Because Proposition 23 ties the end of the suspension to unemployment rates, it is unknown when the AB 32 suspension would be lifted, if ever.
Two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, provided much of the funding to qualify Proposition 23 for the ballot. Environmental groups and Silicon Valley technology companies and investors are leading the opposition.
In July 2010, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit alleging that the state attorney general's office used misleading and biased wording in the proposition's ballot description. On August 3, 2010, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and ordered the wording changed.
The original ballot label was written as follows: "Suspends air pollution control laws requiring major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for full year."
The revised description says:
"Suspends implementation of air pollution control law (AB 32) requiring major sources of emissions to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for full year."