In the past fortnight, we’ve seen two interesting developments in pending bills in the California Legislature to expand the authority of the California Coastal Commission. Assembly Bill 203, proposed by rookie Assemblyman (and former commissioner) Mark Stone, would have forbidden the issuance of any new coastal development permit if the site had been subject to an unresolved violation of the Coastal Act. The bill became “inactive” last week, meaning the Assembly will not act on it this year.
Another proposal, Assembly Bill 976, would authorize the Commission to levy administrative fines without having first to prosecute an action in the superior court. Last week, the Assembly approved the bill, and this week the bill had its first reading with the Senate Rules Committee. If enacted, the bill would substantially increase the Commission’s enforcement power. Under current law, the Commission cannot levy fines without first bringing suit; but the Commission’s limited budget precludes it from litigating many enforcement cases. AB 976 would allow the Commission to avoid this enforcement cost. The upshot, I suspect, would be substantially more fines levied. And the Commission would have considerable incentive to fine aggressively, given that the proceeds would help fund the Commission’s other activities.