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Governor Signs Legislation Severely Restricting Charter Cities’ Ability to Address Labor-Related Issues

August 30, 2013
League-opposed SB 311 (Padilla) will become law in January after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure on Wednesday.
Sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council and the California Professional Firefighters this is just one of several labor-sponsored measures headed to the Governor’s desk that propose to weaken charter city and other local flexibility.
Under SB 311 cities will now be restricted on when they are able to put a labor-related charter proposal or amendment before voters. Instead of being able to take any proposals or charter changes to voters in a timely fashion when issues arise, on labor issues cities will be limited to just statewide general elections. Requiring that charter cities wait up to two years means it is impossible to make fiscal and other changes expeditiously, severely hampering cities’ ability to address important issues.
The Governor’s action this week reflects much of Sacramento’s current political climate. The bill creates a different standard for labor issues as opposed to others. Earlier the bill was represented as a measure intended to address low voter turnout. This, however, changed vastly in the Assembly Local Government Committee hearing on June 12 when Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) remarked that the bill was intended to address changes that impacted worker protections.
The League lobbied legislative members extensively, pressuring the author to amend the measure to narrow it. The original version of the bill would have prohibited charter cities from amending their charters at any election except for a statewide general election. The League argued that such restrictions would have significant negative impacts on cities because oftentimes charter amendments deal with very technical issues, are needed to avoid litigation or may put into place cost savings measures and may need to be dealt with expeditiously.   
Although amendments to SB 311 narrowed the scope and gave local agencies more flexibility, the League remained opposed and concerned that charter amendments and proposed adoption of charters were singled out for attack.
The League appreciates the actions by charter cities to oppose this measure. These efforts were vital including opposition from the mayors of the cities of San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Bakersfield. The League thanks these mayors and all of the cities that sent opposition letters and veto requests. 
Given that this bill was signed, with numerous other labor-sponsored bills heading to the Governor that would restrict charter city and other local flexibility, the League hopes he balances this decision when examining other bills.

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