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Assembly district candidates debate CEQA, business

Posted: April 14, 2014 4:42 p.m.
Updated: April 14, 2014 4:42 p.m.

The importance of promoting business and economic growth was a main topic discussed by four candidates running to represent the 36th Assembly District during a forum put on by Santa Clarita Valley media outlets last weekend.

Three Republican challengers for the seat — Palmdale City Councilman Tom Lackey; J.D. Kennedy, a Marine veteran and former district representative for Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita; and Suzette Martinez, who worked as a district office manager for McKeon and is a board member for the Santa Clarita Valley Latino Chamber of Commerce — said the state needs to make sure it is not impeding business growth.

One way to ensure that, according to Lackey, is by letting businesses “engage the public and be successful without all these onerous regulations that seem to choke out all of our local businesses and are chasing them into another state.”

Martinez said looking at regulations is part of the equation.

“I think that, really, we need to understand that bringing businesses is not just about taxes and regulation, but there’s a third component that includes making sure that we have an educated workforce,” she said. “And what that means is from preschool, through K through 12, through vocational training we need to make sure that our citizens in the 36th Assembly District and California are ready for the modern workforce.”

Incumbent Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, said he has worked during his time in the state Assembly to increase jobs in the 36th District, which includes portions of Canyon Country and north Saugus.

“I’m doing whatever it takes to create jobs right here,” he said.

Kennedy, though, said state regulations have made it more difficult for business owners.

“Mr. Fox and the current super-majority in Sacramento have voted numerous time to dismantle Prop. 13 and add more taxes for our business owners to make it more difficult for them to do business, to grow, to hire more people and to get more people off unemployment, out of the welfare program,” he said.

The four candidates were unified in their belief in the need to reform the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, which lays out statutes and guidelines that apply to construction and development statewide.

Though supporters say CEQA puts necessary environmental protections in place, others have criticized the act, saying it hampers growth and development.

“CEQA definitely needs to be reformed, if not modified,” Fox said, adding the lawsuits filed against projects as a result of the act “stop business, (and) that’s wrong.”

Kennedy said he thinks the regulations in CEQA send the wrong message to business owners.

“CEQA absolutely needs to be reformed,” he said. “The regulations within it, just like everything California does, somehow we find a way to put more red tape in front of businesses in order for them to do construction and expand.”

Lackey said he thinks some have started to use CEQA to stop projects for political reasons, rather than environmental ones.

“Although I believe in the basic premise of CEQA, which is to be responsible with our government and the way that we grow, it has gotten to be the 800-pound gorilla that has become an opportunity to actually become a political tool to stop certain business ventures,” Lackey said. “And I think it’s become way too big, way too complex.”

Martinez said she also supports the original intention of CEQA but thinks it has become an impediment to business activity.

“It’s driven businesses out of California and created too many regulations that don’t allow businesses to prosper,” she said. “I believe that we do need to reform CEQA.”

Saturday’s forum was held in the SCVTV studios in Newhall and put on by SCVTV, KHTS AM 1220, The Signal and College of the Canyons’ Cougar News.

A fifth candidate, Kermit F. Franklin, is running as a Democrat in the district.

The primary election for the Assembly seat will be held June 3.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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