California Democrats Struggle to Change Law to Limit Student Population in an Effort to Reduce Environmental Impact

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    California Senate Bill 118 was introduced by lawmakers to repeal a portion of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This bill exempts all state colleges from enrollment caps.

    The Chronicle reported that both the Senate and the State Assembly “moved at lightning speeds” to approve the bill, and Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill “hours later”. The Chronicle also noted the need for lawmakers to act quickly before the University of California, Berkeley was forced to reject thousands of students.

    The CEQA will instead cover each campus's long-term development plan. This includes the school's total student population, employees, and students. The bill provides that schools will have an 18-month grace period to revise their plans if they are found to have had “significant environmental effects” due to their growing populations. A judge can order the school to reduce its size only if the problem persists.

    Some lawmakers called it the U.C. “train wreck”. The Berkeley situation was created after Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods sued the University of California under the CEQA to force it to stop adding students to its campus without enough housing. While the case is being argued, a judge issued a temporary enrollment limit for next fall. The state’s Supreme Court upheld the cap on March 3.

    National attention was drawn to the state Supreme Court's ruling this month by the university, which announced that it would withhold approximately 5,000 admission letters in order to reduce next fall's enrollment by 2,629 students.

    The Chronicle reported that students spoke out ahead of the vote. Some said, “We're not polluting.”

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