In passing the state budget on Tuesday, the Legislature agreed to begin resolving issues associated with the California Environmental Quality Act and global warming. As part of the state budget deal, lawmakers passed SB 97 by Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga). That measure:

• Requires the Governor's Office of Planning and Research to prepare by July 1, 2009 guidelines for how CEQA documents should address the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, and requires the Resources Agency to adopt the guidelines by January 1, 2010.

• Bars CEQA lawsuits over greenhouse gas emissions from transportation projects funded by last year's $19.9 billion Proposition 1B, or flood control projects funded by last year's $4.1 billion Proposition 1E.

Dutton said his legislation ensures that bond dollars are not spent defending lawsuits. "It was clear that billions of dollars approved by the voters were at risk to this type of unnecessary litigation," he said. "I felt it was very important that we get a fix to this problem before the money for these transportation projects was allocated."

Significantly, however, the bill implies that global warming is indeed an issue for CEQA consideration. Attorney General Jerry Brown and environmentalists have begun pressing for CEQA documents to address greenhouse gas emissions caused by new development — an effort strongly opposed by business and development interests.

Although the bill requires preparation of new CEQA guidelines, the measure does not address concerns about the immediate application of CEQA to global warming issues.

Three other potentially significant budget issues for land use:

• The approved budget contains Williamson Act subventions to counties. This money is "backfill" for about $39 million in property tax dollars that counties lose due to Williamson Act tax breaks granted to owners of farmland who agree not to develop their land. Although, Gov. Schwarzenegger in May proposed eliminating the subvention, he has reportedly promised not to blue pencil the funding as part of $700 million in last-minute cuts.

• The budget cuts $1.3 billion from public transit, partially backfilling the cuts with bond funding. Transit agencies and advocates say the result will be service reductions, fare increases and fewer capital projects.

• The budget approves expenditure of $778 million from last year's housing bond (Proposition 1C), as well as $4.2 billion in transportation bond spending.