Proposition 23 is a ballot measure that aims to suspend implementation of air pollution control law–AB 32.

In 2006, the California State Legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted an environmental law, AB 32, (also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) which requires greenhouse gas emissions in the state be cut to the levels that they were in 1990–(approx. 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) by 2020.

The greenhouse emission level, last recorded in 2008, was approximately 474 MMTCO2e. The process of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the state is slated to begin in 2012.

At the time AB 32 was signed, the unemployment rate in California was 4.8 percent. California’s unemployment rate has since increased to more than 12 percent making compliance with the law much less attainable. Small companies may have to lay-off employees in order to comply with the new guidelines of the law.

According to the Office of the Attorney General numerous economic studies predict that complying with AB 32 will cost Californians billions of dollars with massive increases in the price of gasoline, electricity, food, and water, which will significantly affect Californians, many of whom cannot afford to pay the increased prices that could be passed onto them as a result of implementing this legislation.

Specifically, if Proposition 23 is passed, AB 32 is suspended until the unemployment rate in California is 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive calendar quarters. The last time that the unemployment rate in California was below 5.5 percent was in 2007. According to the California Employment Development Department, there have been only three periods since 1976, when unemployment in the state remained below 5.5 percent four or more quarters.

Supporters desire to temporarily suspend the operation and implementation of AB 32 until the state’s unemployment rate returns to the levels that existed at the time of its adoption in effort to not put further financial strain on California businesses.

The Black Business Association, and other African American organizations across the state, strongly support Proposition 23. They say by temporarily suspending the state’s costly global warming law, Yes on 23 will save small businesses and families from the electricity, gasoline and natural gas cost increases that would occur, if this flawed law were implemented.

Yes on 23 will also save more than a million jobs by keeping energy costs down, say supporters like the California Small Business Association, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business. These groups say, in order to comply with the rules of AB 32, small firms will have to lay off employees.

A recent study also found that Yes on 23 would save the City of Los Angeles nearly $200 million per year.

There are many who oppose the bill, nicknaming it the ‘dirty energy proposition.’ These people believe that in addition to the potentially harmful effects to the environment (of not implementing the provisions in AB 32, the bill will slow the rise in employment that has been visible in the green jobs sector.

According to the No on 23 campaign fact sheet, two Texas oil companies–Valero and Tesoro, said to be among the nation’s biggest polluters–are spending millions to push Prop. 23, a deceptive ballot proposition that would kill California clean-energy and air pollution reduction standards.

AB 32 holds polluters accountable and requires them to reduce air pollution that threatens human health and contributes to global climate change, the No on 23 campaign. They also say that the law has pushed California to the forefront of the clean technology industry, sparking innovation and clean-energy businesses that are creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

The No on 23 campaign claims the tragic oil spill in the Gulf reinforces the urgent need to reduce our dependence on costly, dangerous oil. But the oil companies’ Prop. 23 would allow polluters to avoid the state’s clean energy standards, kill competition and jobs from California’s clean-technology companies, and keep the state addicted to dirty oil.

The number of clean-energy businesses and clean-energy jobs has increased in California 45 percent and 36 percent, respectively, in the period between 1995-2008. This rate of growth is 10 times more than the state’s average job growth. California has more than 12,000 clean energy businesses and 500,000 people are employed in clean energy occupations.

Opposition to the bill, also say that Proposition 23 is likely to crush the state’s fastest growing clean-technology industry, create a climate of uncertainty for all California business, and put more than 500,000 jobs at risk.

The California Black Chamber of Commerce and local African American business organizations throughout the state announced their opposition to Proposition 23.

African American business groups joining the statewide California Black Chamber of Commerce in opposing Prop 23 include Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce; African American Chamber of Commerce, San Joaquin; Antelope Valley Black Chamber of Commerce and Oakland Black Board of Trade and Commerce.

“Our state’s leadership in clean energy is creating huge potential economic opportunities for all California businesses and workers. Minority owned businesses are getting in on the economic action, with an explosion of jobs and contracting opportunities in the utility sector, construction sector, and more,” said Aubry Stone, President/CEO of the California Black Chamber of Commerce. “Prop 23 will stop one of the only areas of our economy that’s growing right now and we can’t afford to go backward. What’s more, Prop 23 will lead to more air pollution, which hurts minority communities and people of color worst. That’s why I’m joined by many local black chambers and business and community leaders across California who are all opposed to Prop 23.”

Other organizations that have officially opposed Prop 23 include the California State NAACP, Small Business California, Sacramento Metro Chamber, Valley Industry and Commerce Association, Bay Area Council and Sierra Business Council.

The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) believes that suspending AB 32 would “dampen additional investments in clean energy technologies or so-called ‘green jobs’ by private firms, thereby resulting in less economic activity than would otherwise be the case.”

Although attitudes seem to be split and there will surely be a number of votes for each side of the proposition, by the terms of AB 32, the Governor has the power to suspend the initiative whether or not it passes. To date, both candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown have expressed that they are against Proposition 23.