CSAC Bulletin Article

CSAC Engages in Robust, Remote Legislative Advocacy

May 28, 2020

Under usual circumstances, much of the County Family would have met in person this week for CSAC’s annual Legislative Conference and Board of Directors meeting. However, as counties across California and the nation continue to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, legislative advocacy continued this week — but in a far different form than typical.

Over the last week, CSAC has held virtual advocacy meetings with members of the state Legislature. County supervisors and CSAC staff have had discussions with a number of State Budget Committee members via teleconference or Zoom to share concerns about county priorities, namely a Realignment revenue backfill to preserve the county-administered safety net, juvenile justice and In-Home Supportive Services. These meetings will continue this week and into next to coincide with critical budget conversations happening in the Legislature.

Related to the budget, CSAC has issued an action alert requesting that all counties reach out to State Representatives and Governor Newsom’s Administration as soon as possible to highlight the need to preserve California’s safety net by stabilizing County Realignment funding as outlined in a recent county coalition advocacy letter. CSAC has also been meeting with key reporters covering state politics to share our position and concerns in advance of a budget vote. We continue to urge CSAC members to reach out to representatives and the administration with estimates of lost revenue and examples of possible cuts to public health, public safety, behavioral health and social services programs if revenue backfills or other financial relief are not available.

CSAC held a full day of policy committee calls Wednesday to update and engage the membership with updated policy priorities, needs and concerns. While these meetings normally occur in person in tandem with the Legislative Conference, the virtual meetings held by phone and ZOOM still allowed for robust conversation among committee members. Below is a recap of each meeting. For more information, please feel free to reach out to CSAC Legislative Services staff members.

Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources

Meeting for its first-ever Zoom meeting, the AENR Policy Committee focused on major budget proposals including those sustained for wildfire prevention and safety. Committee members discussed efforts to hold off on final decisions on the Cap-and-Trade expenditure plan, Department of Toxic Substances Control hazardous waste fee reform, and cannabis tax and permitting streamlining. The Committee was pleased to hear from Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (AD-56, Coachella) who discussed the Assembly’s effort to sustain a climate resilience and economic recovery bond on the November ballot. 

Administration of Justice

With agenda topics including a discussion of the Governor’s May Revise, COVID-19 public safety impacts, a legislative update and more, the Policy Committee met via phone on Wednesday. During the COVID-19 presentation, CSAC staff presented on the $0 Bail Judicial Council emergency rule, early releases from state prisons, and the CDCR intake closure and reopening process. Additionally, CSAC staff discussed the latest activity surrounding SB 144, a fee-related bill by Senator Mitchell that CSAC opposes. Finally, participants were offered the opportunity to offer some examples of how these issues have impacted local communities.

Government Finance and Administration

The Policy Committee reviewed state budget proposals including CSAC’s request to backfill for 1991 and 2011 Realignments, the Governor’s sales tax layaway plan, and funding for the November election. In addition, the Committee discussed pressing issues facing county finances, like the distribution of the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. Committee members also reviewed several notable bills on the topics of property tax, elections, and redistricting.

Health and Human Services

Convening by phone, the Health and Human Services Policy Committee reviewed the state’s COVID 19 response and process towards recovery. A presentation by Marko Mijic, Deputy Secretary, Program and Fiscal Affairs, California Health and Human Services Agency, provided detailed information on the state response, with updates on efforts to counteract barriers to testing and contact tracing. His presentation underscored state-county partnership’s role in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the state. Other discussion included an update on federal advocacy by Tom Joseph with Paragon Government Relations. A great deal of discussion centered on the May Budget Revision and the need to backfill realignment revenues for public health, behavioral health  and social services programs.

Housing, Land Use and Transportation

Meeting via conference call, the Policy Committee reviewed the impacts of COVID-19 on transportation funding and estimated revenue reductions in the current year and in the budget year. Revenue reductions to cities and counties are estimated at nearly $500 million, as compared to January 2020 estimates. County-level funding estimates are available online here.

The Committee also discussed CSAC’s approach to advocacy on the Senate’s housing bill package. As indicated in CSAC’s letter with UCC and RCRC to Senate President pro Tempore Atkins, counties conceptually support many key elements of the Senate package, including reuse of commercial properties, creating opportunities for increased density in existing residential neighborhoods, incentives for mixed-income developments, and CEQA streamlining for housing projects. Committee members also discussed positions on pending housing legislation in the Assembly. CSAC will continue to work with authors to resolve county concerns about where and how the bills apply, and keep counties informed as these proposals advance.

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