Government Finance and Operations 09/12/2011
AB 155 (Calderon) – Support
Enrolled on September 9, 2011
AB 155, by Assembly Member Charles Calderon, which deals with the collection of state and local use taxes, was significantly amended on the final day of the legislative session.
One of this year’s budget trailer bills, ABX1 28, redefined which retailers are required to collect sales and use taxes on sales to Californians, and was designed to capture sales made by internet companies like Amazon.com. Amazon filed a referendum against that bill and began collecting signatures to overturn it. Once a referendum is filed, the law in question in suspended until the referendum succeeds or fails. AB 155 then became a vehicle for circumventing the referendum, and the state started negotiating with Amazon, as widely reported in newspapers.
AB 155 now bears the results of those negotiations. The requirement for collecting sales and use taxes return to its pre-ABX1 28 status for the time being. The requirement returns in a year or so, though, if Congress takes no action, or if Congress adopts a law authorizing states to collect taxes on the types of sales in question, but California does not adopt it.
CSAC supports measures that increase compliance with the sales and use tax.
AB 155 now moves to the Governor for consideration.
SB 507 (DeSaulnier) – Support
Enrolled on September 8, 2011
SB 507, by Assembly Member Mark DeSaulnier, would double the time property owners have to file change in ownership statements with county assessors, and would increase the fines for filing them late.
When a property changes hands in California, the Constitution requires the county assessor to reassess the property. To that end, the new property owner must file a change in ownership statement within a certain period after the change in ownership. SB 507 would double that period from 45 days to 90. Changes of possession resulting from a death retain their longer 150-day period for filing these statements.
SB 507 also raises the cap on penalties for failing to respond to a specific request from the county assessor to file a change in ownership statement. The current cap is too often insufficient to urge compliance with the law, especially for large commercial properties.
SB 507 now moves to the Governor for consideration.
AB 187 (Lara) – Concerns
Enrolled on September 6, 2011
AB 187, by Assembly Member Ricardo Lara, would authorize the State Auditor to establish a high-risk local government agency audit program to identify, audit, and issue reports on any local government agency program that the Auditor identifies as being at high risk for the potential of waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement or that has major challenges associated with its economy, efficiency, or effectiveness.
AB 187 creates significant uncertainty as to how an agency is identified as a high-risk agency and the extent of the audit activities. It contains no specific criteria for meeting the high-risk category, which would at least provide local agencies with an understanding of the potential for audit by the State Auditor, especially since the costs of complying with an audit could be substantial.
AB 187 is but one of many bills attempting to provide greater state oversight and transparency for local government agencies in light of the scandal in the City of Bell. However, the Legislature should ensure that the measures that move forward in response are narrowly tailored, reasonable to implement, and internally consistent so as to not create unnecessary administrative burdens for local jurisdictions that could interfere with those jurisdictions’ ability to deliver vital services — especially those in difficult financial circumstances.
AB 187 now moves to the Governor for consideration.
AB 732 (Buchanan) – Support
Enrolled on September 9, 2011
AB 732, by Assembly Member Joan Buchanan, would require the fiscal summary for statewide bond measures to include a table, and for that table to appear in the circulating title and summary and in the ballot pamphlet analysis.
The California Constitution requires voter approval for large amounts of state debt. Current law requires the Attorney General and the Legislative Analyst to prepare summaries that help voters decide whether to place items on the ballot and whether to pass them when they appear on the ballot. These summaries include fiscal effects.
AB 732 would require these summaries to include a table of the fiscal effects, which would provide an easy-to-understand source of information about the bond’s fiscal effects. It is important for voters to understand both benefits and the fiscal effects of bonds when considering them.
This bill was previously enrolled on August 22, but was rescinded to add language so another bill did not accidentally delete the provisions AB 732.
AB 732 now moves to the Governor for consideration.
AB 1021 (Gordon) – Support
Enrolled on September 8, 2011
AB 1021, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, would require voter notification when proposed ballot measures would significantly increase net costs.
Voters love to decide policy using California’s expansive and inflexible initiative system. Current law requires the Attorney General and the Legislative Analyst to prepare summaries that help voters decide whether to place items on the ballot and whether to pass them when they are on the ballot. These summaries include fiscal effects.
AB 1021 would require these summaries to notify voters when a ballot measure would establish or expand a program costing more than $1 million without providing for new revenue or offsetting savings. Many ballot measures impose costs on counties, and many others that cost the state money put pressure on state funding for programs counties provide on the state’s behalf. Voters should be notified clearly of the effects of their decisions.
AB 1021 now moves to the Governor for consideration.