A bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Pete Wilson will exempt businesses in the South Coast Air Quality Management District with fewer than 100 employees from having to establish on-site ride-sharing programs before 1997, but the impact of the legislation is still being debated.
According to the bill's sponsor, state Sen. John R. Lewis (R-Orange), SB1352 will affect thousands of businesses in the South Coast basin, protecting them from AQMD regulations which could have been implemented as early as 1993.
"I'm extremely pleased by the governor's decision to sign SB1352," Lewis said in a prepared statement. "It's a long overdue limitation on the AQMD's power over the economic life of our region."
Sharon Morris, the AQMD's legislative watchdog, said that Wilson's action was expected, and that the agency "had no immediate plans" to implement regulations on smaller businesses.
The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, has a four-year "sunset provision," which means it will lapse in 1997.
In any case, Morris said, the AQMD won't know until 1997 whether state and federal clean air requirements are being met by existing regulations. If they are not, the AQMD will then decide whether on-site ride-sharing regulations for businesses with between 50 and 100 employees will be necessary.
"We know we still have some bugs to work out with larger employers, before we look at smaller employers," said AQMD spokesman Tom Eichhorn.
In the meantime, Eichhorn said, the new law will "give smaller employers some breathing room, which was Sen. Lewis' intent, and give us some breathing room to work out the bugs in the program."