Assemblyman Devon Mathis faced harsh criticism Thursday July 27 during a town hall meeting at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.
Asked why he was so willing to face his critics in such an open forum he replied, “I’ll be darned if I am going to see my face up on a billboard along the highway,” referring to a billboard next to the Ben Maddox on ramp featuring Congressman Devin Nunes.
Mathis organized the town hall to defend his vote on extending the Cap and Trade program through 2030. He invited seven panelists comprised of
local businesses and representatives of major industries to help explain the reform bill for Cap and Trade.
California’s AB32 passed in 2006 set in motion a series of policies to return California emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Under Cap and Trade, businesses buy and sell credits in order to pollute, allowing the state to cap overall greenhouse gas emissions while raising money to fight pollution.
The current bill, AB398, voted for by Mathis, reformed the old Cap and Trade AB32 into a more cost effective way for businesses and farmers to cut emissions while continuing to combat climate change.
But the program has been a flash point for Republicans because they say Cap and Trade puts farmers and other farm related industries out of business.
Without the bill’s passage Cap and Trade would have expired.
Two thirds support in both houses was needed to pass AB398. One Republican in the Senate and seven in the Assembly joined a majority of Democrats in supporting the bill.
Assembly Member Devon Mathis was one of the eight Republicans who voted for the measure creating a barrage of criticism from his conservative base in Tulare County.
Business and Industries Voice Their Support for the Bill
Liberal environmentalists were not in favor of this bill because they felt like the emissions restrictions did not go far enough. Three Democrats did not vote for the bill.
Mathis, who has never been in favor of Cap and Trade, faced the reality that it was the “law of the land.” According to Mathis, if the Republicans had not been willing to talk, Governor Brown would have had to work with the far left and make emission standards even stricter.
Governor Brown’s final concessions to the Republicans won a wide range of support. Farm organizations such as the Nisei Farmers League, irrigation districts, dairy groups and major manufacturers all threw their weight behind AB398.
During a power point presentation Mathis pointed out that the new Cap and Trade bill protects 200,000 jobs, lowers taxes and fees by $16 billion, rolls back some onerous regulations and opens the door to restricting Cap and Trade money from paying for High -Speed Rail.
The Assembly Republicans also prevented gas taxes from going up by $1.30 to increasing by 71 cents.
Republicans also gained partial control over how the Cap and Trade dollars will be spent. The Valley will now receive funds from Cap and Trade to remove the millions of dead trees in our parks, for research on dairy digesters, and funds for farmers to trade up to more efficient equipment. In addition, the Assembly may in the future have a say about cutting funds off for High-Speed Rail but not until 2024.
Another concession won by the Republicans helps rural areas and concerns the repeal of the fire tax.
Rural residents were assessed a special tax for fire protection in unincorporated areas of the county and their properties were liened if they did not pay. AB398 repeals this tax, saving rural residents $2.5 million annually.
Dorothy Rothrock, President of California Manufacturers and Technology Association, said that Mathis and other Republicans managed to fix Cap and Trade and make it better for industry.
“This is an example of moderates coming together. The far right and far left were not part of this,” she said.
Western States Petroleum, an oil industry association, said that Cap-and-Trade’s market-based approach provided industry and businesses with more flexibility to meet the new emissions standards.
“The bipartisan support of AB 398 ensured an improved cap-and-trade program with tax cuts, cost containment measures, and significant bureaucracy reduction that will contain costs for all Californians.”
Western States Petroleum also stated that without the reform bill the emissions restrictions would have been at least four times more expensive for every California family and cost the state four times more jobs.
Anja Raudabaugh from Western United Dairymen said that her organization struggled with the Cap and Trade but made the hard decision to support the bill. She said that the reformed bill keeps down the cost of production for dairies and applauded Mathis for voting yes.
Roger Isom from the California Cotton Ginners said that there wasn’t anyone up on the panel that liked Cap and Trade but that we are stuck with it. “This bill is a hell of a deal though I know that’s hard for everyone to understand.”
The Public Speaks
After the panelists spoke it was time for the public to weigh in. Most of the speakers did not have questions but railed against Mathis for extending Cap and Trade.
“You are supposed to stand up for those who voted for you,” said Josh Fulfer.
He accused Mathis of not standing his ground with other conservative Republicans who are against Cap and Trade.
Mariann Hedstrom, a member of the Tulare County Republican Central Committee, claimed that Mathis was lying about his exact reasons for supporting the bill.
“I don’t know what they promised you but I don’t think it was worth it,” she said.
She lamented the fact that Mathis did not pay attention to the emails and phone calls he received concerning this bill.
“We didn’t send him to the Assembly to disrespect us,” Hedstrom stated.
Hedstrom also pointed out that Mathis’ vote spared three Democrats in Republican targeted districts from having to vote for Cap and Trade.
Allowing them to vote no on liberal legislation gave those Democrats a leg up against their Republican challengers.
Mathis responded by saying he was sick of the nonsense going on in Washington DC.
“At some point you have to sit down and talk. If you want to rebuild the Republican Party then you need to be more than the party of ‘no,’” Mathis said. “By being at the table we were able to move it to the right.”
Susan Walsh, a local conservative activist, said she was shocked about Mathis’ vote on Cap and Trade.
“You have solidified the fact that we need new leadership in our Assembly,” she said.
She pointed out that President Trump spoke out against Cap and Trade and if he were here today he would say to Mathis, “You’re fired!”
Between Walsh’s string of vitriolic name calling she told Mathis, “You might as well join the ranks of the Democrats.”
Another frustrated speaker said, “Where are the hard numbers? I haven’t seen it. You got played like a fool brother.”
Mathis said that the easiest political decision would have been to vote no. But he received letters from large employers in the Valley such as Kraft and Foster Farms that the Central Valley will lose 10,000 jobs without his vote.
Some members of the public were there in support of Mathis. Lyle Schlyer from Calgren Renewable Energies said that his company has 50 employees.
“I think Mathis is right. What Mathis voted for is a huge improvement and I am here to thank Mathis.”
A local dairy owner approached the mike to applaud Mathis’ courage on his vote. He said that a lot of jobs would have been lost in the dairy industry. “You have to understand that something worse was going to happen to us. A lot of Republicans won’t stand here and compliment you because the bill was complicated but I want to thank you for saving jobs.”
Another speaker from the food industry said that without the reform bill his company would have had to reduce production to the point of closing. He said that Mathis voted for the alternative and that’s what saved jobs.
“If you want to change the government, don’t go after this man but the next town over to [Assemblyman Joaquin] Arambula who doesn’t give a damn about farmers.
In the spirit of President Trump’s advocating to “let Obamacare implode,” citrus grower Bill Ferry told Mathis that even if the reformed Cap and Trade bill was better for the state he should have voted no and let California crash and burn.
“You should have drawn a line in the sand.”
Mathis replied that he is not only a California representative but a father, and the thought of the state crashing and burning scares him.
“I can’t let that happen without a fight. I said I would put people over politics and I hope people understand how difficult this decision was to make.”