In an attempt to preserve the integrity of the California Coastal Commission, Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson will propose a bill to amend a portion of the Coastal Act, which the California 3rd District Court ruled unconstitutional.

The court based its decision on the section of the Coastal Act governing the coastal commissioners’ terms of office. The governor, the assembly speaker, and the Senate Rules Committee each appoint four people to the commission. Presently, the law states legislators may remove appointees at will.

“This goes against separation of powers,” Jackson said. “The legislature is able to appoint and dismiss eight members; this gives it too much power in what is otherwise the executive sphere.”

Jackson’s bill will change the arbitrary nature of the commissioners’ terms to fixed terms of two years. Many feel this will strengthen the commission. The present possibility for coastal commissioners to be dismissed by legislators enables legislators to place pressure on commissioners. Without this pressure, commissioners will be able to vote more freely on issues of concern.

“Fixed terms will provide the commission with independence and give it stability as a whole,” Coastal Commissioner Pedro Nava said.

Jackson expects Gov. Davis will call a special legislative session, during which she will propose the bill, within the next week.

Created by the Coastal Act of 1972, the Coastal Commission strives to protect California’s seaside areas. In the past the commission had encountered legal problems of a comparable nature to what they are presently facing.

“This is the first argument that held any water in courts. Prior courts had rejected similar arguments,” Jackson said.

The commission has asked the Court of Appeals to be more specific in its ruling. If the commission loses another case in the 3rd District, it will appeal to the California Supreme Court.

“I view this as an opportunity to strengthen the Coastal Commission’s ability to carry out the law,” Nava said.