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League Opposes Legislation Attempts to Undo Supreme Court Decision on Charter City Authority

Effort Conflicts with Governor’s Principles on “Subsidiarity”

March 6, 2013

Yesterday, the League issued an oppose letter on SB 7 (Steinberg), which seeks to compel charter cities to require prevailing wages on projects they construct with local funds on local projects by withholding all state contracting funds from non-compliant cities.


Only eight months ago, the California Supreme Court held in State Building and Construction Trades Council v. City of Vista that charter cities, using city-funds for city-operated projects benefiting their residents, was a municipal affair under the Constitution and not subject to state intrusion. 

Through a strategy of withholding state construction funds from non-compliant charter cities, this measure seeks to use political leverage to obtain an outcome that the Court rejected.

While prevailing wages can be controversial, the opposition of the League to this measure is much more fundamental. If the Legislature is successful in establishing the tactic of withholding funds or otherwise penalizing charter cities for having ordinances that vary with state laws, then the same model can be used to fully harness their communities to the state’s yoke.

Charter cities would be wise to consider the full consequences of such a precedent on their ability to govern their community’s municipal affairs. 

Interestingly, SB 7 also appears at odds with Gov. Jerry Brown’s push for “subsidiarity.” Although Gov. Jerry Brown is arguing the benefits of devolving more authority for local schools, this measure seeks to create a leverage mechanism for more state micromanagement.

SB 7 should be opposed by all cities that value local control. The League’s opposition letter, as well as a sample opposition letter, can be found on the League’s website at www.cacities.org/billsearch by typing “SB 7” into the search box.

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