Are New California Laws Reimbursable Under State Mandate Ruling?
November 17, 2016
Californians voted on 17 ballot initiatives last week and some of the additional work local governments must undertake to implement the initiatives that passed may be eligible for reimbursement under the state mandates system. Typically, local government mandates imposed via the initiative process are not eligible for reimbursement, but a recent court case may be signaling a major shift in the world of mandates.
For some context: California voters have long had the power to propose statutes and amendments to the state constitution, and to vote on such proposals. Local governments in California have the ability to seek reimbursement from the State when the Legislature or a state agency mandates a new program or higher level of service from local governments. State law specifies that mandates arising from the ballot measure process are not eligible for state mandate reimbursement.
However, a recent ruling suggests a more narrow view of the exceptions to when mandates may be reimbursed. In other words, the court ruling may broaden the opportunity for counties and other local governments to seek reimbursements. Additionally, the ruling suggests that the burden of proving that an exception applies falls to the state when they assert an exception, rather than placing the burden on local governments seeking reimbursement.
This may have impact on counties quite soon. For example, Prop 64 legalizes recreational marijuana for adults and adds new training requirements for police officers. Yes, this was passed via initiative, so under the previous interpretation, it would not have been eligible for mandate reimbursement. However, the recent ruling suggests that any additional work required on the part of local governments to implement Prop 64 may be eligible for reimbursement.
CSAC’s Mandate Services Committee is closely monitoring the situation, and is also considering previously determined mandates that may be ripe for reconsideration. CSAC will continue to provide updates as this new world of mandates develops. Counties may want to consult legal counsel for specifics.