This year’s event was once again a powerful demonstration of the effectiveness of city officials when they come together.
League President and Rancho Cucamonga Mayor Dennis Michael presided over the morning legislative briefing. He stressed the League’s core values of local authority. “The natural result of the local democratic process is that each of our cities is unique and our diversity is to be celebrated. One size does not fit all. While the goals and character of our communities are all different, we share a passion for the role that local democracy and public engagement plays in the shaping of our cities and a mission to deliver core quality services to our residents.”
Chris McKenzie, League executive director, invited the city officials to return to Sacramento on May 19 for a Transportation Rally. This press conference, he told them, will include hundreds of city and county officials and other transportation advocates that are part of the Fix Our Roads Coalition
. McKenzie stressed the urgency of finding a real solution to California’s transportation funding crisis and the need to adequately fund the preservation and maintenance of the state and local road system.
The League distributed three fact sheets on major issues for city officials to use in their meetings with legislators.
Legislative Leaders Brief City Officials on Priorities
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) addressed the League members. Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) had hoped to brief the city officials but was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
The engagement of the legislative leaders during Legislative Action Day and during the legislative session is reflective of the League’s efforts to build strong relationships with legislators. All three commented on the importance of strong communication with city officials.
Republican Leader Fuller began her remarks by commenting on the fact that she appreciates being invited to speak on important issues facing California and its cities. The Assembly Republican Caucus is focused on a number of core issues pertaining to the state’s affordability challenge. “Affordability for all Californians is one of our (the Republican Caucus) number one issues. We really need to continue to do things to make that better.”
She touched on transportation infrastructure, stating: “We need good roads to make it possible to commute to good jobs.” In addition, the Republican Leader stressed the impact of the drought and explained that California needs to expand what she called the state’s “water savings accounts.”
Speaker Rendon started by acknowledging the nine cities he represents in Los Angeles County. He is very focused on civic engagement and increasing voter participation and confidence. As Speaker, he wants the Legislature to rededicate itself to oversight and spoke about the term limit changes that allow members to serve up to 12 years in one house having a positive impact.
“Being in the Legislature for more time means that we (legislators) have to be more accountable to you, our cities and our constituents.” He closed by stressing his commitment to local government. “I hope that you will invite me next year and ask ‘What did you do for our cities?’”
Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León focused his remarks on the ways in which California’s work to lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and bolster the economy coincide. He told the assembled city officials that he served as a key negotiator in Paris last fall for the state.
De León also spoke about his address to the League last October during Annual Conference. He reported that he met with the cities honored by the Institute for Local Government Beacon Program
, which recognizes achievements at the local level to address climate change.
In closing, Senate President pro Tem de León urged League members to engage with legislators. “I press upon you to work with us. We can learn a lot from you. Talk to us. I will listen and I will learn.”
Legislative Briefing on Transportation Funding
Assembly Member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly, and Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Principal Consultant Manny Leon participated in a panel discussion for League members to discuss the key transportation funding proposals. Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) and Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) who are both important participants in the transportation negotiations were invited to participate, but were unable to attend.
The moderator, San Diego Council Member David Alvarez, welcomed and thanked the panelists for their leadership on this critical issue. Council Member Alvarez provided a snapshot of the problem, detailing the unmet transportation funding needs totaling $78 billion just for local streets and roads, not including the $58 billion backlog in deferred maintenance of the state highway system.
Each panelist was asked a series of questions, ranging from what kind of timeline they expect for a deal to come together, what their priorities are, and what the magic number was.
Assembly Member Frazier explained that if a deal does not come together this year that their window of opportunity for any deal will close. Secretary Kelly shared a differing perspective that things may be easier in a non-election year. Mr. Leon shared that Sen. Jim Beall (D-San José), chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee along with the special session committees on transportation were more optimistic about the prospects for their proposal SBX1 1, getting the support it needs before the end of this legislative year.
On the question of priorities, the transportation chair’s focus was on the size and scope of the problem. Assembly Member Frazier highlighted how much the funding gap has increased in a short amount of time because of deferred action and that any proposal would need to be large enough to have a chance of “putting out the fire” that’s been created. Secretary Kelly explained that Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal was a balanced approach of revenues that would be acceptable to the residents of California while making a significant dent in the problem in exchange for a small investment on their behalf and inclusive of reforms that the Republican Caucus would like to see. Mr. Kelly said that the dollar amount, however, was less significant than the political reality of needing a two-thirds vote, therefore any package that can get 54 (Assembly) and 27 (Senate) votes was more significant than the dollar amount.
Ultimately, there seemed to be a general consensus among the three panelists, that they will all have to work together and that they only have narrow windows of opportunity to strike the right balance for a deal to come together this year. There was a sense of willingness among the three key leaders on this discussion that they’re willing to put everything on the table to strike a deal in this rare instance where the Governor is actually willing to consider a tax increase, along with key Republicans in the Legislature.