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Legislation Threatens Joint Powers Authorities’ Local Control

Vote Pending on AB 1217; Call Your Senator Today to Oppose

August 9, 2016
A bill to codify a rule already enacted by the Orange County Fire Authority to the effect that members of that specific entity cannot appoint alternates, would set a troubling precedent of state interference in the governance of joint power authorities (JPAs) in general.
 
AB 1217 (Daly) represents state micromanagement of a local agency which under existing JPA law has been set up to be self-governing. It also begs the question of why a state law is necessary to implement a change that a JPA has already made on its own.

Local governments throughout California should be concerned about this measure, and strongly consider opposing it. Whatever the motivation for introducing this legislation, it is precedent-setting and inappropriate attempt to intervene in a local matter that is best resolved at the local government level. The measure is now eligible for a vote on the Senate Floor. Cities are urged to call their senators immediately and voice opposition to this measure.
 
The League has been instrumental in helping coordinate opposition to AB 1217 that has caused the Senate Republican Caucus to switch its vote recommendation from Support to None.
 
Current Law
 
Under current law, local public agencies can enter into a JPA at any time to jointly exercise any power common to the contracting parties for a mutually agreed upon purpose. These agreements are purely voluntary. State law has never before reached down to meddle in the governance affairs of a JPA. The governance structure of a JPA is decided upon by the local agency participants at the time the JPA is formed. The very essence of such entities is local control.
 
If disputes arise about the governance structure or any other aspect of the voluntary agreement that created the JPA, mechanisms are provided under existing law to resolve them at the local level. State legislation is not necessary. Any of the cooperating parties can withdraw from such voluntary agreements if they disagree with the governance or any other aspect of the JPA agreement.
 
With current law providing a mechanism to make any necessary changes to a JPA’s governance or any other aspect of its operations, it begs the question why statewide legislation is necessary — particularly when that legislation is disturbingly precedent-setting in its interference in a matter that clearly falls within the scope of local control.
 
AB 1217 Undermines Local Control
 
Under AB 1217, the Orange County Fire Authority board of directors cannot include alternate members. The agency itself, using its authority under current JPA law, in fact had made that determination and there is no need for the state to codify that local JPA’s action into state law.
 
AB 1217 attempts to undermine existing law and unilaterally interfere in a locally agreed upon governance structure that is part of the valid and voluntary formation agreement of a JPA — an entity that by definition has no relation to matters of statewide concern. 
 
Next Steps
 
Local governments throughout California should be concerned about this measure, and strongly consider opposing it.  Whatever the motivation for introducing this legislation, it is an attempt to intervene in a local matter that is best resolved at the local government level.
 
The League asks all cities to call their senators immediately and voice opposition to AB 1217. The bill can be voted on in the Senate at any time.
 


 
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