* California’s groundbreaking climate bill, AB 32, will be put to a vote this November, thanks to the work of dozens of organizations and companies that went out and got more than 800,000 signatures for a proposed delay on the November ballot.

To get an initiative on the Nov. 2 state ballot, the main organization backing the delay, the California Jobs Initiative Committee, had to collect at least 433,971 registered voter signatures. According to state records, the main backer of the committee, Valero Energy, and other petrochemical firms and groups put up more than $2 million to fund the signature effort.

Other members of the California Jobs Initiative Committee include the California Small Business Association, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Trucking Association. (I didn’t see AGC of California on the list, but it’s still busy using its resources fighting the California Air Resources Board on off-road diesel emission regulations, as I’ve written about many times before.)

The main thrust of the proposition is to delay the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act until the state’s unemployment rate falls to 5.5% from its current $12.6%. (Are we talking years and years here?)

The act, passed by the legislature in 2006 with the brawny support of Gov. Schwarzenegger, requires that the state cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020. CARB will enforce the law with, among other rules, a carbon cap-and-trade system, which the initiative committee says will be a huge burden on state businesses.

The California Jobs Initiative Committee says AB 32 will inflict higher energy prices (up to 60% higher retail electricity rates, 8% increase in natural gas costs, $3.7 billion in higher gasoline and diesel costs) plus a loss of more than 1.1 million jobs.

* The American Subcontractors Association let off a little steam last week in response to the immigration bill passed by the Arizona Legislature, which you may have heard a little about. The ASA went on record, like many other groups and politicians, that a comprehensive immigration reform bill needs to be passed on the federal level.

The ASA is apparently interested in a preliminary federal bill introduced by
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., on April 28. The proposal would strengthen border security by increasing the number of Border Patrol officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, increase penalties for employers hiring undocumented workers, and establish a program allowing undocumented workers first to earn interim and then to earn permanent legal status to work in the United States. As the federal government increased border security, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would begin identifying, screening, and fingerprinting undocumented workers seeking interim legal status. Once the federal government met border security benchmarks, workers with interim legal status could seek legal permanent residence by meeting citizenship and English requirements, and paying penalties and taxes. The plan would also institute a biometric identification card that would serve as “evidence of lawful work-authorization” and establish the Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment (BELIEVE) System as a means of employment verification.

This proposal makes a lot of sense. Any thoughts on its success in the Senate?

What’s not practical, according to the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, is busing illegal immigrants to the border. All 12 million of them. Or more. And why not, you ask? It would take 166,666 buses, more than 13 billion gallons of fuel, and about 48 million pounds of food (around 195 million meals) simply to transport them to the nearest border. So forget that idea.

* And the AGC finally had some good news to announce last week. It reports that the stimulus and other public infrastructure investments gave a monthly $2 billion boost to national construction spending figures in March.

As Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, puts it: “If it weren’t for public investments in infrastructure and construction, this industry would be in free fall.

“Fortunately, the stimulus is now helping rebuild a construction industry devastated by relentless declines in private-sector activity.”

Simonson notes that the new Census Bureau figures show construction spending at an annualized rate of $847.3 billion, an increase of 0.2% from $845.5 in February. While private sector construction spending still dominates the market, it declined 0.9% between February and March, from $555.7 to $550.8 billion. The largest declines came in communications (12.1%), lodging (4.6%) and power (3.8%) construction.

Public-sector construction, meanwhile, increased 2.3% from $289.9 to $296.5 billion during the same time frame. The largest increases came in publicly-funded power (23.7%), transportation (12.4%) and water supply (5.9%) construction. Simonson notes that these areas and others showing increases received significant funding from last year’s stimulus law.