As part of the unveiling of the May Revision of the 2023-24 budget proposal, Governor Newsom announced nearly a dozen budget trailer bills that, when taken together, purportedly comprise a comprehensive strategy to fast-track critical climate, economic and resources projects. The several budget trailer bills address concerns in often contentious areas of policy such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); the state Endangered Species Act (CESA); environmental mitigation for transportation projects; state contracting and design-build authority; and securing a proportional share of federal funding. While experts have noted the need for reform in each of these policy areas, the Governor’s infrastructure package, by and large, proposes only modest changes to specific sections within their respective bodies of policy.  

The following summarizes key trailer bills in the infrastructure package: 

  • CEQA Administrative Record – Allows public agencies to prepare the administrative record in place of the petitioner, and limits judicial extensions for preparation of the record to only requests that make a showing of good cause. Also excludes electronic agency records that were not presented to the final decision-making body from the definition of “internal agency communications”.

  • CEQA Judicial Streamlining for Select Projects – Expands the list of projects eligible for 270 day expedited judicial review (as feasible), upon certification of the Governor’s Office, to include: renewable energy and electric transmission projects, water supply projects—including the currently proposed Delta Conveyance (single tunnel) Project, Prop. 1 projects, recycling and desalination projects, and canal and conveyance repair projects—as well as a limited number of transportation projects deemed to further state climate policy, and projects for semiconductor manufacture that meet federal requirements under the U.S. CHIPS Act. 

  • Environmental Mitigation for Caltrans Transportation Projects – Authorizes Caltrans to contract for continuing environmental services to mitigate the long-term impacts of state transportation projects, as well as to transfer properties to meet long-term mitigation obligations, and to establish endowments to fund continuing mitigation. 

  • Permanent Waiver of State Sovereign Immunity for High-Speed Rail Projects – By removing a 2025 sunset to the state’s current waiver of immunity, allows for California Transportation Agency to continue to be the assigned certain federal responsibilities under the National Environmental Protection Act for its high-speed rail project. 

  • Direct Contracting for Wildlife Crossings on Interstate 15 Corridor – Authorizes Caltrans to waive competitive bidding requirements for three wildlife crossings that are part of the proposed privately operated project for a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

  • Job Order Contracting for Transportation Projects – Expands Caltrans’ ability to employ ‘job order’ contracting in order to consolidate contract approvals for similar types of roadway maintenance projects. 

  • Progressive Design Build Contracting Pilot at Caltrans and Dept. of Water Resources – Establishes a pilot program that allows both departments to select up to eight projects each to utilize a “progressive design build” contracting model. 

  • Reclassification of Protected Species – Under California law that predates the currently operative version of the state’s Endangered Species Act (CESA), 37 fish and wildlife species are listed as “fully protected”, limiting the ability of state and local agencies to conduct any project that impairs their protected status. This proposal would establish a process to reclassify the 37 listed species under current CESA rules, meaning that some of the 37 species may be downgraded to lesser protections or entirely delisted from protection altogether. 

For more information, please contact RCRC Policy Advocate, Sidd Nag