More than 150 city officials from across the state traveled to the two day conference designed to brief city officials on breaking legislative issues. Attendees were also given time to meet with legislators on key issues and were able to participate in two afternoon panel discussions.
Wednesday General Session
During the general session on Wednesday morning League President and Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak discussed the challenges of the redevelopment dissolution process and the League’s dedication to working with the Legislature to find new economic tools for cities, including the work of the its economic development task force.
Kasperzak commended Speaker John Pérez for his leadership in introducing AB 1585, the most developed clean-up bill to AB 1x 26 pending in the Legislature, and urged city officials to talk to their legislators about this critical bill. The bill contains appropriate policy and technical clarifications to provide greater direction to successor agencies, oversight boards and successor housing entities and requires repayment of former loans by cities to former redevelopment agencies, preserves remaining affordable housing funding, preserves asset value, and makes important changes to improve the functioning of successor agencies and avoid bond defaults.
Following Kasperzak’s comments, League fiscal policy advisor Michael Coleman presented information about the state budget, revenues, and financial challenges for cities, including last year’s SB 89 sweep of $130 million in vehicle license fee monies. The report is available online.
League legislative staff also briefed attendees on key issues including cap and trade, enterprise zones, infill issues, and three pending hot bills, AB 2312 (Ammiano) related to marijuana legislation, AB 2231 (Fuentes) related to sidewalk repairs, and AB 1692 (Wieckowski) related to municipal bankruptcy.
City officials were strongly encouraged to lobby on all League hot bills and key issues.
AB 1692 (Wieckowski), one of the League’s hot bills, was also heard Wednesday in the Assembly Local Government Committee. AB 1692 would remove provisions of AB 506 (Wieckowski) related to the mediation process including giving the “neutral evaluator” independent decision-making authority and allowing other parties to create delays by allowing the process to continue without the concurrence of the affected public entity.
Last year the League vehemently opposed to similar provisions in AB 506 because they created obstacles to municipal bankruptcy and resulted in a process stacked against local agencies. The League is opposed to AB 1692 for the same reasons.
Speaking about AB 1692, Kasperzak said: “AB 1692 attempts to create a findings-driven evaluative process that flies in the face of what true mediation is about. The federal court has recognized three types of dispute resolution: arbitration, early neutral evaluation and mediation. They have been very clear in their definitions and they are not the same thing. As a mediator this is very frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is that last year the League worked with the Legislature and Gov. Brown to negotiate a compromise on this issue through AB 506 and now it’s being undone just four months after being signed into law.”
On Wednesday, the Assembly Local Government Committee passed AB 1692 with a vote of 5-3 and now heads to Appropriations.
Next Steps Economic Development Panel Discussion
On Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) and Steve Shea, consultant for Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), discussed the next steps for economic development in a panel moderated by Tony Cárdenas, council member, Los Angeles.
Sen. Huff offered his perspective on the redevelopment dissolution calling last year “an ugly year.” He also highlighted a few of the bills pending in the Legislature such as AB 1585 (Pérez) and SB 986 (Dutton). Steve Shea discussed some of Senate Pro Tem Steinberg’s intentions in introducing SB 1151 and SB 1156.
City officials were given the chance to ask questions of the panel. Those questions included how the Legislature plans to handle legitimate bonds which were issued after December 2010 and how military site remediation will be handled in the future.
Panel on Upcoming Ballot Measures Rivets Audience
Closing out the conference on Thursday, the League hosted a panel discussion on measures headed for the November 2012 ballot. Moderated by former long-time political reporter and current communications consultant Steve Swatt, the panel featured two former gubernatorial advisors and top political consultants. Garry South has more than 38 years of experience managing political campaigns including Gov. Gray Davis’ 1998 and 2002 elections. Susan Kennedy, who served as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff previously served Gov. Davis as cabinet secretary.
Swatt started the discussion by giving an overview of what’s headed to the November statewide ballot. Statewide ballot measures are now required to all be on the November ballot and this year’s election will be the first election following this change. Currently, Swatt reported there are four qualified measures but it’s likely that six or seven will ultimately make it on the ballot, including the two tax measures. There are 62 measures going through the signature gathering process according to the Secretary of State website.
South hammered home the message that California voters can be bipolar because they continually, and on the same ballot, will approve different measures that are either very conservative or very liberal. “On a bipartisan level, California is a deeply blue state. When it comes to ballot measures, it’s divided,” South told the audience.
Kennedy on the other hand considers California a purple state. On fiscal issues voters are conservative. On environmental issues voters are liberal and on social issues they are libertarian. She acknowledged that the problem stems from the fact that voters don’t trust those they elect to office.
“The mood of the electorate is do your job and don’t constantly come back to us (lawmakers) to solve your problems.” said Kennedy.
The panelists spent time discussing the two competing tax measures slated for November. The measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown would provide a temporary sales tax on people earning $250,000 more annually and income tax to stave off $5 billion in school cuts. The competing tax measure is backed by philanthropist Molly Munger and would enact a temporary income tax raise for most Californians. Polling released on Thursday, April 26 by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 54 percent of likely voters would support the Governor’s measure.
The packed panel ended with a discussion on the proposed two-year budget amendment and the measure that makes a modification to California’s term limit law to allow legislators to be able to serve 12 years total in either house.
California’s voters remain angry but split on the initiative system.
All this will make for a very interesting November election.