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Bill Threatening Local Voter Rights Moves to Assembly Labor and Employment Committee

June 26, 2013
League President and Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard led a coalition of city officials who testified today in opposition to SB 7 (Steinberg).
 
Delivered during the measure’s hearing in the Assembly Local Government Committee, Mayor Bogaard spoke on behalf of the League and his own charter city. He was joined in opposition by Stockton Council Member Kathy Miller, Tulare Vice Mayor Craig Vejvoda and Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich. Dozens of other cities were represented by their advocates who also testified in opposition on their behalf today.

The bill was passed by the committee on a party line vote of 5–3 and now moves to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. The League urges cities that have not yet weighed in on this important issue to personally call their legislators and express their opposition to SB 7. A sample opposition letter is available online.  Comprehensive information about SB 7 is available online, including a growing number of news articles, editorials and op-eds on the issue.
 
The League released Mayor Bogaard’s full testimony in a news release during the committee hearing.
 
His testimony focused heavily on the questionable constitutionality of SB 7 and the fact that the issue at hand is more than the state requiring all cities to pay prevailing wages. “It is an effort, perhaps well-intentioned but nevertheless incorrect, that violates our constitution by compelling the voters of certain charter cities to engage in our most protected and cherished form of speech — how we vote — to vote a certain way to ensure they receive part of their tax funds back. Voters may choose some day of their own accord to make that change, but I hope you will agree that no compulsion should ever be applied to accomplish this or any other illegal end.”
 
Mayor Bogaard in responding to further questioning from the committee remarked that the intensity of today’s discussion demonstrates the legal complexity of the issues at hand. He urged legislators to consider the constitutional question before the bill progresses further.
 
Stockton Council Member Kathy Miller, a member of the League board of directors, characterized SB 7 in her testimony as “heavy handed and punitive.” She stressed her remarks that the city of Stockton is the most economically depressed in the state and that as a council member she is charged with ensuring that local revenues are spent efficiently.
 
Tulare Vice Mayor Craig Vejvoda also reinforced Miller’s comments on how the city needs to spend local revenues wisely. He concluded by stating that the passage of SB 7 would stall many projects because the city could not afford to incur the additional cost requirements imposed. 
 
Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich testified that this is a constitutional question that should be brought before the voters.
 
Committee members engaged in a thoughtful discussion on the merits of SB 7. Assembly Member Gordon (D-Menlo Park) stated that he has two prime directives: prevailing wage and local control. He also requested that implementation be delayed from Jan. 1, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015. Assembly Member Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) asked whether the bill had been sent to Legislative Counsel for analysis of the potential constitutional problem, but did not receive an answer from the author and sponsors. He also asked for information on how the bill would be implemented. The committee was told by supporters and opponents that at least three cities would have to ask their voters to change their charters to qualify for state funds if the bill is passed.
 
Committee Chair and Assembly Member Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) spoke passionately about how four of the cities he represents had personally contacted him to express their opposition and share how the legislation would affect their communities. He stressed how being contacted by his constituents influenced his position of opposition.
 
Assembly Member Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) pointed out that SB 7 would have adverse effects on women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses. Assembly Member Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) engaged in more of a constitutional discussion raising concerns about voters’ rights.


 
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