On Tuesday, Orange County lawmakers confirmed that a bill designed to end a toll extension of State Route 241 through the city of San Clemente would not be passed in the state legislature this year.
COVID-19 and other urgent matters trump SB 1373
Senate Bill 1373, authored by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), would have backed up a promise by the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) to not extend the toll highway through the city itself. The issue has been divisive in Senator Bates district, particularly in and around the city of San Clemente.
Senator Bates had long opposed the extension going through San Clemente and had authored SB 1373 to assuage concerns that the March announcement by the TCA that the highway would not be going through San Clemente wasn’t fully binding or definite.
“SB 1373 does not preclude Orange County from implementing projects that have local support,” explained Senator Bates last month. “As the bill goes to the Assembly, I am committed to working with stakeholders to address their concerns. SB 1373 would help ensure that the TCA cannot extend the toll road through the middle of San Clemente.”
However, despite passage in the Senate, a spike of COVID-19 cases in the state capitol building had halted the return of lawmakers from summer recess by a few weeks. The now-tight schedule, along with a legislative favoring of laws directly tied with COVID-19 and economic recovery, as well as other urgent matters such as housing, wildfires, and law enforcement reform, led many lawmakers to drop or delay bills not having to do with those issues. Senator Bates alone dropped or delayed 2 bills and a joint resolution, including SB 1373.
“Although I am disappointed that there is not enough time this session to hear SB 1373, which was passed by a bipartisan majority in the Senate, South Orange County residents can rest assured that I will continue to fight for transportation solutions that benefit our entire region,” said Senator Bates in her bill announcement. “Although I am disappointed that there is not enough time in the 2020 legislative session to hear SB 1373 and other bills pending in the Assembly, it is understandable that the Legislature must focus on immediate public health, public safety, and economic needs.”
SB 1373, other bills delayed until next year
Senator Bates has now moved the bill to the Senate early next year. SB 1373 and other bills will be updated to reflect new information, with SB 1373 in particular being “tailored” to fit where California stands economically next session.
“We’re going to see a lot of these bills come back in January,” explained “Dana,” a state capitol worker. “We usually see bill rollover from the previous session, but it’s going to be a lot more than usual next year. Especially with those on the way out that want some last bills passed through.”
San Clemente residents and lawmakers have largely said that while many would like the bill to have passed in August to have the TCA not be able to build through the city for good, they are glad that SB 1373 is not dead.
“This will still be on our minds,” said San Clemente resident Alice Parkhurst in a Globe interview. “But the fact that it’s alive, that TCA has backed off, and that both parties want this is good enough for now.”
“We just really want to have this passed sooner rather than later. We fought tooth and nail to keep the 241 out of here. We aren’t giving up now.”
SB 1373 is expected to be heard in the legislature next session.