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Session Ends with Possibilities Still Open on Transportation

Progress Made for Cities and Local Control

September 1, 2016
Early Thursday morning the Legislature wrapped up its 2015-16 regular session concluding two years dominated by major issues such as minimum wage, climate change, health insurance organization taxes and more.
For cities, engagement focused on transportation funding, medical marijuana regulation, economic development, housing affordability and homelessness. Much work was accomplished, but at the close of the session two significant issues affecting cities remain outstanding — transportation and affordable housing funding. With the continuance of the special session on transportation, conversations and negotiations will go on with possible action later in the year or early in the 2017 session. Housing affordability is also expected to remain a major issue next year. Progress was made on other issues for cities on local control.

Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Assembly Member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) last week introduced two bills into the Special Session on Transportation that would generate $7.4 billion annually for the state’s transportation network. This total includes $2.5 billion for local streets and roads. Supported by the League, SBx1 1 (Beall) and ABx1 26 (Frazier) mirror each other and offer a carefully balanced approach to funding road maintenance and repair with significant reforms.
While the Legislature adjourned the 2015-16 regular session, the special session continues until Nov. 30 giving legislators an opportunity to return to the Capitol to work on transportation funding in what would be known as a “lame duck” session. The Assembly took an important procedural step on Tuesday night to facilitate that work after the Nov. 8 election when Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) officially became Speaker of the special session. This was an important signal of interest by Speaker Rendon, because former Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) had been listed as special session speaker since convened in 2015. Speaker Rendon will now have the ability to make committee member assignments and assign bills, which will be important between now and Nov. 30.
While there is still further to go, significant progress has been made in getting the challenges faced by local streets and roads onto the agenda of legislative leadership and the Gov. Jerry Brown; all that is needed now is the tenacity and discipline to finish the race.
Cities should remain engaged on transportation and watch for updates from the League. The Fix Our Roads Coalition, of which the League is a founding member, remains focused on working with legislators and stakeholders on passing a workable and sustainable transportation funding package.
Housing affordability dominated a great deal of the 2016 session. Important progress to assist the homeless was made with the No Place Like Home initiative, which the Governor signed into law on July 1. The $2 billion program takes a constructive approach by helping the homeless through housing with supportive services. The measure will create an-estimated 10,000-plus housing units throughout the state, with funding coming from Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act.
Several bills affecting housing planning and approvals were advanced to the Governor, and in most cases the League was successful in obtaining necessary amendments; however, efforts to secure affordable housing funding regrettably stalled. 
An effort by Assembly Democrats, supported by the League, to secure $1.3 billion in excess state General Fund dollars for affordable housing was stymied during the budget negotiations when the funds were instead placed in the state’s Rainy Day reserve fund. Disputes later ensued over the Governor’s by right housing proposal, which sought to expedite certain housing development via the elimination of opportunities for public input and project-level environmental analysis. This proposal was strongly opposed by labor and environmental organizations, as well as the League.
A late-session effort to place housing and park bonds on the 2018 ballot also faded.
Progress Made on Other Issues
While work goes forward on transportation and affordable housing funding, progress was made in other areas: the League was successful in getting numerous bills helpful to cities to the Governor’s desk. Most bills harmful to city interests were either stopped or amended to resolve city concerns.
The League thanks city officials for their continued assistance on the many legislative issues pending during the 2016 session.

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