Government Finance and Operations 08/12/2011
As part of this year’s budget, the Legislature suspended essentially all mandates that the Commission has deemed reimbursable over the years. In fact, most reimbursable mandates have already been suspended for years, some since as long ago as 1991. The current list of suspended mandates now numbers 61, while only 13 mandates received funding.
This year, the Legislature added to the list, most notably by suspending mandates related to elections, which until this year were considered untouchable. The only established mandates that remain funded deal with the treatment of criminals, crimes, and property tax administration. The Department of Finance recently sent local agencies a letter listing the suspended mandates; you can find a copy the letter on CSAC’s website. The list of funded mandates is available on pages 714-715 of this year’s budget bill, SB 87.
When the Legislature takes action to suspend a mandate, it makes the reimbursable activities optional instead of required. Therefore, for example, counties can choose whether to spend money to allow citizens to register as permanent vote-by-mail voters, one of the newly suspended mandates. Counties will have to make local decisions as to which mandates are local priorities and which are not.
To see exactly which activities the Commission deemed reimbursable, and therefore are optional, visit the website for the Commission on State Mandates at www.csm.ca.gov and click on ‘Commission Decisions.
All of the mandates that are still working their way through the years-long decision-making process at the Commission on State Mandates are unaffected. The Legislature cannot suspend a mandate that the Commission has not yet found to be reimbursable. When the Commission finally does decide a mandate is reimbursable, counties will be able to claim for all previous years’ costs.