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Transportation Dominates Policy Discussion in Capitol and Throughout California

August 21, 2015
With legislators back in the Capitol after their month-long recess, the special session on transportation funding was front and center this week with the first committee hearing on specific legislation and several events in Northern and Southern California.
 
The special session is not subject to deadlines imposed on the regular session, but Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders are working to craft a deal before the regular session adjourns on Sept. 11. The League is part of Fix Our Roads, a broad coalition of local government, transportation, labor and business organizations advocating for a seven principle approach to transportation funding that would dedicate $6 billion annually, split 50-50 between the state and locals, in the coming decade.Atkins-speaking-at-LA-Pres-Conference.jpg
 
Press Conferences and Roundtables
 
The Governor joined Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) along with elected and appointed officials from Bay Area cities and counties, transportation agencies and representatives of labor and business on Wednesday morning at the Port of Oakland for a well-attended news conference. Participants all stressed that California can’t wait any longer for a solution to fund the state’s crumbling roadways. There is great consensus that the chronic deterioration of local streets and roads and bridges, along with the state highways, threatens jobs, the economy and California’s quality of life.
 
Members of the Fix Our Roads coalition emphasized the group’s seven principles that focus on the need to maintain and rehabilitate California’s existing system. The coalition believes revenues need to be raised through a broad range of options, with funds divided equally between the state and local governments. Strong accountability requirements are needed to protect the taxpayers’ investment, along with consistent funding levels to ensure reliability.
 
Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney told reporters that her city has an estimated $42 million in shovel-ready road repair projects alone.Oakland-City-Council-President-Lynette-Gibson-McElhaney.jpg
 
When pressed about how to increase transportation funding, Governor Brown declined to offer specifics. He’s quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying: “I’m not going to try to say where the revenue’s going to come from, how we’re going to get it.”
 
Several hours later, Assembly Member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) convened a roundtable discussion in Walnut Creek with Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Member Susan Bonilla (D-Concord). The legislators, labor and business leaders and local government reiterated the message from the morning press conference. Each pressed how transportation funding affects their areas. Clayton City Council Member Julie Pierce represented cities in the discussion. “No one likes to talk about raising fees and taxes. But it’s undeniable that the current funding is insufficient. The gas tax has not kept up with inflation or our local maintenance needs, as cars have become more fuel efficient despite doing the same amount of damage to our roads.” Contra Costa County Supervisor Candace Anderson represented counties.
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Today in Los Angeles two transportation events were held at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce that included leaders from the Legislature, local government, transportation, business and labor. The day began with a news conference with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joining Speaker Atkins, California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Ruben Gonzalez, senior vice president with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, at the podium.
 
The speakers again stressed the ways in which California’s roadways are in dire need of stable and sustainable funding and pressed for a bipartisan solution to adequately fund transportation.
 
A roundtable discussion followed the press conference. The local government panel featured Santa Monica City Council Member Pam O’Connor, Los Angeles County Deputy Public Works Director Patrick DeChellis, Lakewood Public Works Director Lisa Rapp and Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments.
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Several Assembly members representing communities in Los Angeles County participated in the roundtable: David Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Ed Chau (D-Arcadia) Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks), Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles).
 
Legislative Action
 
The Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Development met on Wednesday to consider some of the bills introduced in the special session. Of note, the committee passed League-supported SB x1 1 (Beall), which would increase several taxes and fees to raise between $4.3 and $4.3 billion in new transportation revenues. SB x1 1 is similar to Sen. Jim Beall’s (D-San Jose) SB 16 in the regular session that was supported by the League and many cities. 
 
The committee also passed two other bills introduced by the Republican caucus on accountability. SBx1 12 (Runner) would make the California Transportation Commission, currently under the State Transportation Agency, an independent entity. SBx1 13 (Vidak), which would create the Office of the Inspector General. The Governor would appoint this position, which would be responsible for auditing all state agencies that work on transportation, namely CalTrans and the High Speed Rail Authority. SBx1 13 is one of the accountability proposals put forward by the Republican caucus. 
 
The League supports two additional streamlining proposals from the Republican caucus: SB x1 11 (Berryhill), which would exempt roadway improvements within the existing rights of way from CEQA if certain conditions are met, and SB x1 14 (Cannella), which would remove the sunset date on existing law that allows CalTrans and regional transportation agencies to use public-private partnerships. The authorization is currently set to expire Jan. 1, 2017.

Many special session bills remain to be heard, but hearing dates have not yet been announced.
 
The League will continue to update members as developments occur.  
 


 
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