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League Board to Pursue Amendments to Possible California Forward Bill

May 1, 2012

Last Thursday, the League board of directors was updated on the ongoing discussions in League policy committees of the initiative in circulation by California Forward that would impose new budgeting responsibilities on cities and other local agencies and state government.


The measure also would require a two-year state budget, payment for major new state programs or tax cuts with new revenues or budget cuts, and that legislation be in print for at least 72 hours before being approved. The board was advised of recent opposition that has emerged to the initiative from labor and environmental groups and concerns from the Governor’s office which has led California Forward to attempt to negotiate an alternative to their proposed initiative to be placed on the ballot by the Legislature. After being briefed on these issues, the League board voted to pursue amendments to remove a new local budgeting mandate and a statewide definition of the purposes and goals of local government.

California Forward is reported to have gathered a sufficient amount of signatures necessary to qualify its initiative measure, but it has held off on submitting the signatures to be counted while Legislative discussions continue. It remains to be seen if they will elect to submit the signatures if a Legislative compromise is not forthcoming.

This initiative has been the subject of much debate during League policy committee meetings since the beginning of the year. While the League has not taken a formal position on the measure, many concerns have been voiced by city officials with provisions which could erode local authority and impose burdensome requirements on local governments. Based on the board’s action, the League will ask the sponsor and authors to remove those provisions from any bill introduced in the coming weeks.

 Three areas of concern with the initiative that emerged in discussions in the League policy committees included:

  • Declarations of “shared purpose.” The initiative declares that “the shared purpose of state and local governments is to promote a prosperous economy, a quality environment, and community equity.” The measure states these purposes are advanced by achieving at least the following goals, as applicable to the local government: increasing employment, improving education, decreasing poverty, decreasing crime, and improving health. While these purposes and goals may seem benign, their very vagueness diminishes their value and they could be subsequently defined by the Legislature in a manner that would erode local authority. There also has been concern expressed that cities and their residents are better suited to defining their purposes and goals than a statewide ballot measure.
  • Requiring performance-based budgets linked to state goals. The measure mandates all local government entities to adopt budgets in a prescribed, performance-based fashion that would require many cities to make major changes in their budgeting processes, reports and accounting at a time when few, if any, can absorb the added costs.  Besides the added expense of this mandate, these budgeting requirements are required to be linked to the statewide purposes and goals outlined in the measure that are deemed applicable by the local agency. 
  • Community Strategic Action Plans. The League understands that provisions related to proposed community strategic action plans will be removed from the bill in response to concerns from environmentalists.  Some city officials had also raised concerns with some of the requirements and conditions associated with these plans.

The League will keep city officials apprised of developments on this matter in the coming weeks.


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