So why not just buy off labor with a backroom deal and get on with reforming CEQA — get on with development and job-creation? Require that any private construction project that falls under CEQA regulation have a labor agreement.
That would be illegal under federal law, says Jennifer Hernandez of San Francisco, a CEQA attorney usually on the developer's side.
But labor is pretty good at bargaining. Surely it could work out some CEQA compromise.
If not, Democrats should dunk right over their behemoth patron, to use a basketball analogy. Should, but inconceivable.
Many union leaders deny there's even a problem.
"We just see another cry by business for deregulation," says Robbie Hunter, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. "The history of deregulation the last 20 years has been horrible."
Change advocates insist they're not trying to weaken environmental regulations — just trying to stop them from being misused for non-environmental purposes.
One union leader — Daniel Curtin, director of the California Conference of Carpenters — candidly asserts: "Everybody has to stop abusing CEQA. It's abused by business, it's abused by unions, it's abused by anti-development people, it's abused by NIMBYs."
Steinberg recently introduced legislation offering a framework for modest reform.
Among other things, it would encourage "infill" developments, reducing urban sprawl. It would expedite the CEQA process for green projects, such as renewable energy and transportation. It would streamline court paperwork and prohibit so-called "late hits" by project opponents.
"I'm getting it from both ends," Steinberg told me, reporting that neither side is particularly pleased. "But people have to decide whether they want to fix the problem or be partisan warriors."
Maybe too many people benefit from the abuse. Maybe the policy is too complex and the politics too perilous for the Legislature. If so, there's no hope — unless the governor starts doing the Lord's work.