Cal Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker kicked off the event underscoring what’s at stake for cities this year and the importance of all city officials advocating on the common interests of California cities.
“The state legislative session is in full swing, and as lawmakers in Sacramento begin to make decisions and vote on legislation, it’s imperative that our voices are heard loud and clear in the Capitol," Viegas Walker said.
Cal Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman provided a broad overview of which bills are the highest priorities for cities this year, "We have our work cut out for us with a healthy package of legislative proposals we support that will help cities recover, as well as proposals that would set our communities back and stall recovery.”
Cal Cities legislative representatives then briefed city officials on the details of the priority areas, including COVID-19 relief, housing and land use, broadband infrastructure, public safety, organic landfill waste, and unfunded mandates, before the dozens of legislator meetings began. Over the coming days, city officials are estimated to attend around fifty meetings with legislators.
Commit $10 billion in the State Budget to help cities recover from the pandemic
During the legislator meetings, city officials are advocating for the State to commit at least $10 billion for cities in the 2021-22 State Budget. Despite the approximately $8 billion in direct fiscal relief reserved for California cities in the American Rescue Plan, many cities still face dramatic budget shortfalls that continue to grow. City governments have lost more than $5 billion in revenue since the start of the pandemic; that number will grow to $6 billion in the coming year. California cities have also expended at least $5 billion in expenditures related to COVID-19.
Faced with an unexpected, historic surplus of $75 billion, the state has the opportunity to create an equitable, comprehensive recovery plan that will allow communities to not just survive but thrive. The $10 billion dollars would go to direct and flexible aid for cities, resources to address homelessness and housing supply, broadband infrastructure, and the implementation of new regulations for organic waste removal.
Priority Housing and Land Use Bills
Housing affordability and homelessness are among the most critical issues facing California cities. Affordably priced homes are out of reach for many people, and housing is not being built fast enough to meet the current or projected needs of people living in the state. Unfortunately, many of the proposed bills in the Legislature include policies that will not help spur much-needed housing construction in a manner that supports local flexibility and decision-making and community input. State-driven ministerial or by-right housing approval processes fail to recognize the extensive public engagement associated with developing and adopting zoning ordinances and housing elements that are certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. As a result, Cal Cities members are asking legislators to vote no on the below proposed legislation:
(Atkins) Increased Density in Single-Family Zones. OPPOSE
(Chiu) Housing Element. Regional Housing Need. OPPOSE
(Gabriel) Housing Appeals Committee. OPPOSE
(Friedman) Residential and Commercial Development. Parking Requirements. OPPOSE
Stop Unfunded Mandates
Cities continue to face rising pension costs and reduced budgets due to the pandemic. As CalPERS determines the discount rate for the next four years, cities must guard against unreasonable cost increases that could threaten stable funding for essential services. Legislation has been revived, as well, that would require public agencies to pay for disallowed compensation, which further threatens cities’ fiscal stability. In addition, proposed costly public meeting requirements with no implementation funding was also introduced this legislative session. Cal Cities members are asking legislators to vote no on:
(Leyva) Public Employees’ Retirement System. Disallowed Compensation. Benefit Adjustments. OPPOSE
(Lee) Local government: open and public meetings. OPPOSE
Reducing Landfill Waste and Pollution
The cost of solid waste disposal and recycling is going up. Cities anticipate rates will increase in the next three years due to new organic waste regulations from SB 1383 (Lara, 2016) and the overall cost of recycling. CalRecycle only finalized its regulations in November 2020, leaving only 13 months for cities to comply with many of the requirements before the Jan. 1, 2022 implementation deadline, and without providing funding to implement the regulations. As a result, Cal Cities members are asking legislators to support the proposed legislation, which would delay penalties for local jurisdictions demonstrating a reasonable effort to comply:
(Laird) Organic Waste. Reduction Regulations. SUPPORT
(Allen) Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act. SUPPORT IN CONCEPT
Broadband: Closing the Digital Divide
California cities need a comprehensive broadband package that would create sustainable funding sources for cities to deploy broadband infrastructure. Others legislative efforts are underway to streamline broadband permitting and implement existing federal regulations into state law. Cal Cities is negotiating amendments to these bills because they undermine local authority and fail to prioritize communities needing broadband service the most. As a result, Cal Cities members are asking legislators to take positions on the following bills:
(Aguiar-Curry) Communications. California Advanced Services Fund. Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program. Surcharges. SB 4
(Gonzalez) Communications. Wireless Telecommunications and Broadband Facilities. SUPPORT
(Muratsuchi) Communications. Broadband for All Act of 2022 SUPPORT IN CONCEPT
(Quirk) Local Permitting. Broadband Projects. Watch – Requested Amendments
(Gonzalez) Local Government. Broadband Infrastructure Development Project Permit Processing. Microtrenching Permit Processing Ordinance. Watch – Requested Amendments
(Dodd) Street Light Poles, Traffic Signal Poles. Small Wireless Facilities Attachments. OPPOSE
Public safety and police reform policy emerged as major priorities for cities and the Legislature this year in the areas of hiring and training, accountability, and modernizing the approach to delivering public safety services in communities. As city officials engage with the Legislature on public safety and reform measures, it is important that this urgent need for change be met with practical and precise modifications to existing law that are data-driven and focused on improving outcomes for all communities. As a result, Cal Cities members are asking legislators to take the following positions on these bills:
(Bradford) Peace Officers. Certification. Civil Rights. OPPOSE
(Skinner) Peace Officers. Release of Records. OPPOSE
(Wiener) Automated License Plate Recognition Systems. Use of Data. OPPOSE
(Gonzalez) Law Enforcement. Kinetic Energy Projectiles and Chemical Agents. OPPOSE
(Cunningham) Peace Officers. Investigations of Misconduct. SUPPORT
Cal Cities is tracking, monitoring, and engaging on 1,885 bills that could impact cities, many of which face fast-approaching legislative deadlines in the coming weeks. Learn more about the priority bills of focus for Legislative Action Days
and other critical issues facing cities in the 2021 legislative session by reviewing the Cal Cities 2021 Spring Legislative webinar slides
Cal Cities is most effective when city leaders join together and speak with one, unified message to ensure city interests are represented at the Capitol. Stay up to date on the latest Cal Cities advocacy efforts by visiting the Cal Cities Action Center