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Citing Climate Issues, Local Solar Processing Mandate Bill Signed

Decision Inconsistent with Subsidiarity Theme

September 23, 2014
On Saturday Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2188 (Muratsuchi), which requires cities and counties to create a separate permitting and inspection process specifically for residential solar installations of less than 10 kilowatts.
While the League supports policies that advance the use of solar energy, it opposed the legislation and requested a veto because of its across-the-board approach, a concern over a precedent for tiered service for the affluent, and the misplaced imposition of this mandate on struggling cities where residents lack income to generate sufficient demand for such products.

Beyond the effects of this bill, the Governor’s signature sends mixed messages on where he stands on local authority. In recent years, the Governor has spoken often of the principle of “subsidiarity,” a term arising from his early Jesuit studies which embodies a philosophy that decisions should be made by those closest to the problem; in short:  local control. 
The press in recent days has returned to the theme of “subsidiarity” when examining the Governor’s veto messages on several minor bills affecting businesses or local agencies. For instance, when vetoing two bills which would have expanded requirements associated with placing baby diaper changing stations in restrooms the Governor said, “…It would be more prudent to leave the matter of diaper changing stations to the private sector.” And when vetoing a bill requiring the development of a model ordinance on mobile retail operations, the Governor said “This is a matter well within the competence of local officials.” 
A veto of AB 2188 would have been consistent with the above themes. In affluent areas, where residents can more easily afford these systems, cities are already responding to demand and expediting these permits; so, for them, the question is why such legislation is necessary? And in poorer communities, residents unfortunately face more immediate economic challenges, such as paying rent and buying food, and cannot afford a solar system, making these additional requirements misplaced.
The Governor announced his signing of this bill as part of a broader press release announcing his participation today in a U.N. panel on climate change. Thus, it appears in this instance the Governor believed that climate issues trumped traditional local control arguments. Fair enough. Even some city officials may agree that the local issues raised with this bill do not match the enormity of the climate challenge. But is this a justifiable exception, or does it reflect a trend? That is still to be determined. 
League-Opposed Bills Remaining Pending on Governor’s Desk
Still pending on the Governor’s desk are other even more significant bills the League has requested a veto on that would impose additional costs and erode local authority. These bills include:
  • HOT AB 1705 (Williams): Public contracts: payment.
    Prematurely extends the sunset date on the five percent cap on retention proceeds for public works projects and places scarce resources for schools, hospitals, parks, fire houses, and other public infrastructure at risk. Extending the sunset date before properly vetting the impact of the retention cap will be problematic when no examples of the need for the cap have been presented.
  • AB 2052 (Gonzalez): Workers’ compensation.
    Increases city employer costs by expanding the listing of peace officers that qualify for various workers compensation presumptions.
  • HOT AB 2126 (Bonta): Collective bargaining: mediation and fact-finding.
    Allows any issue within the scope of representation to be submitted for PERB fact-finding and requires PERB to select mediators if one is not agreed to within five days. This measure would impose significant costs on local agencies and remove balance points in the existing collective bargaining process, by creating leverage and delay mechanisms to the detriment of public employers and their responsibility to make responsible decisions for local taxpayers.
  • AB 2378 (Perea): Workers’ compensation: temporary disability payments.
    Increases costs to local agencies by providing an additional year of temporary disability eligibility to public safety personnel; therefore providing up to three full years of temporary disability payments: one year at full salary (Section 4850 time), and two years at two-thirds salary.
  • SB 388 (Lieu): Public safety officers and firefighters: investigations and interrogations.
    Permits officers and firefighters who are not under investigation – mere witnesses – to have a union representative present when being interviewed about another employee that is being formally investigated.
  • HOT SB 556 (Padilla): Providers of health and safety labor or services: identification.
    Creates costly uniform, vehicle, and badge requirements for local agencies providing health and public safety services through contracted employees.   
As the Governor heads into his final seven days of sign or veto decisions on legislation, his actions will reveal more than words on the principle of “subsidiarity” or local control.

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