Government Finance and Operations update 10/3/2014
SB 29 (Correa) – No position
Chapter No. 618, Statutes of 2014
SB 29, by Senator Lou Correa, requires county election officials to count mail ballots that they receive within three days after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day or, if the postmark is missing or illegible, is signed and dated by the voter on or before Election Day.
The bill also allows election officials to begin processing mailed ballots ten business days before the election instead of seven, and also gives them an additional two days to certify the vote after the election, for a total of thirty days.
SB 29 is not an urgency bill, so its provisions do not go into effect until January 1, 2015.
AB 1873 (Gonzalez) – Support
Chapter No. 598, Statutes of 2014
AB 1873, by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, authorizes San Diego County to conduct a special vacancy election entirely by mail as a pilot project. This common-sense approach provides an opportunity to improve voter participation and save money at the same time.
Recent vacancy elections have featured voter turnout in the single digits. Any reasonable change is be preferable to the status quo. Furthermore, special elections are costly, especially when they cannot be consolidated with other elections. County election officials conduct these elections in the same way as other statewide elections, with the parallel process of polling places and poll workers run alongside the increasingly popular mail ballots.
AB 2028 (Mullin) – Support
Chapter No. 209, Statutes of 2014
AB 2028, by Assembly Member Kevin Mullin, authorizes San Mateo County to conduct special elections entirely by mail. This approach provides an opportunity to improve voter participation and save money.
Special elections have embarrassingly low voter turnout. The 2013 special elections were particularly poor in turnout, with turnout rates in single digits in some of the later elections.
Special elections are also costly, especially when they cannot be consolidated with other elections. County election officials conduct these elections in the same way as other statewide elections, with the parallel process of polling places and poll workers run alongside the increasingly popular mail ballots.
CSAC is very interested in exploring new approaches to elections that will result in lower costs to counties and improved voter participation. AB 2028 promises progress on both.
SB 69 (Roth) – Support
SB 69, by Senator Richard Roth, would have provided financial assistance to the four newly incorporated cities in Riverside County that were affected by SB 89 (2011). By establishing a “Vehicle License Fee Adjustment Amount” and replacing lost VLF revenues with property taxes from the schools’ share (as currently exists for all other cities and counties in the state), SB 69 would have restored funds to those impacted by SB 89 and ensured their continued viability.
Regrettably, the Governor vetoed SB 69, indicating that he did not “believe it would be prudent to authorize legislation that would result in long term costs to the general fund that this bill would occasion.”
AB 2119 (Stone) – Support
Chapter No. 148, Statutes of 2014
AB 2119, by Assembly Member Mark Stone, allows counties to propose a transaction and use tax increases only in the unincorporated area of the county. The proceeds from the tax, if unincorporated voters approve it, could only be used in the unincorporated area.
Under prior law, counties could only impose transactions and use countywide, with permission from all the county’s voters. Many cities levy their own sales taxes for the sole benefit of city residents. Those residents are often understandably reluctant to impose a further tax on themselves. AB 2119 gives residents who live outside of cities the same rights as those who live in them.
AB 2170 (Mullin) – Support
Chapter No. 386, Statutes of 2014
AB 2170, by Assembly Member Kevin Mullin, clarifies that joint powers authorities may exercise any power common to the contracting parties, including levying fees and taxes.
The law governing joint powers authorities has always allowed the contracting parties to exercise any common powers, as long as they are specified in the joint powers agreement; therefore, the statement that the bill is declaratory of existing law is important. This bill now clarifies current law so that there can be no doubt that this authority extends to the imposition of fees and taxes.
Joint powers authorities are an important part of California governance, and clarifying the law is an appropriate means to ensure a common understanding of joint powers authorities’ powers to levy fees or taxes.
AB 2231 (Gordon) – Support
Chapter No. 703, Statutes of 2014
AB 2231, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, restores the Senior Citizens’ Property Tax Postponement Program that was eliminated in the February 2009 budget agreement.
The Senior Citizen’s Property Tax Postponement Program offers income-eligible seniors and homeowners with disabilities the opportunity to postpone their property tax payments in exchange for full repayment with interest when their home is sold. The program had a minimal start-up cost and, in most years, generated revenue for the state General Fund. Unfortunately, in large part due to the recent recession and housing crisis, the program failed to pay for itself in 2007-08 and 2008-09, making it a target for elimination.
Subsequent efforts to restore the program resulted in the passage of AB 1090 (Blumenfield) in 2011, a bill that authorized counties to opt to provide the program using local funds. Counties, however, were not authorized to place a priority lien on the property to ensure repayment of deferred property taxes. Without priority lien status, counties are limited in their ability to finance such a program, given their fiduciary responsibilities to taxpayers and other local agencies.
AB 2231 reestablishes the Senior Citizen’s Property Tax Postponement Program at the state level with important modifications to ensure that the state’s General Fund is protected during economic downturns, and keeping the program up and running when these residents need it most.
AB 2618 (Pérez) – Support
Chapter No. 240, Statutes of 2014
AB 2618, by Assembly Member John Pérez, clarifies certain aspects of the laws governing property and business improvement areas.
In the wake of Proposition 26, various aspects of this section of law have required clarification, such as those provided by last year’s AB 483 (Ting). AB 2618 furthers the purposes of property and business improvement areas, ensuring their continued effectiveness.
SB 1129 (Steinberg) – Oppose
SB 1129, by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would have made a number of changes to redevelopment dissolution law, including issues associated with enforceable obligations, long-range property management plans and compensation agreements, and use of 2011 bond proceeds. Because counties have a significant fiscal stake in the dissolution process and these changes directly affect the allocation of property tax revenue from former redevelopment agencies, CSAC requested that the Governor veto SB 1129.
The Governor vetoed SB 1129, noting that the bill contained a number of separate and distinct provisions that must be thoroughly reviewed and discussed by all affected parties. However, the Governor noted that he is “willing to work with the Legislature during the next session to refine redevelopment agency dissolution statutes in a way that will make them operate more fairly and advantageously for everyone.”
AB 2493 (Bloom) – Oppose
AB 2493, by Assembly Member Richard Bloom, would have authorized the use of proceeds from 2011 bonds issued by redevelopment agencies for certain types of projects. Because counties have a significant fiscal stake in the dissolution process and these changes directly affect the allocation of property tax revenue from former redevelopment agencies, CSAC requested that the Governor veto AB 2493.
Citing the costs associated with property tax losses to schools, the Governor vetoed AB 2493, but directed the Department of Finance to develop a plan to address the outstanding debt of these agencies.
AB 2647 (Wagner) – Support
Chapter 826, Statutes of 2014
AB 2647, by Assembly Member Don Wagner, codified an agreement between the City of Lake Forest and Orange County regarding the El Toro Project Area. CSAC supported this measure and the Governor signed it.
SB 1364 (Fuller) – Support
Chapter No. 520, Statutes of 2014
SB 1364, by Senator Jean Fuller, extends the sunset date for the California High-Cost Fund-A (CHCF-A) and CHCF-B until 2019.
California’s two high-cost funds, A and B, subsidize small independent telephone companies and large telephone corporations respectively to provide service in the rural and smaller metropolitan communities. These subsidies, paid for by surcharges on telephone bills, promote universal service by helping to ensure reasonable rates for basic telephone service and internet access in hard-to-reach areas of the state. Affordable telephone and other telecommunication rates are vital to both residential and business customers in counties.
AB 2292 (Bonta) – Support
Chapter No. 783, Statutes of 2014
AB 2292, by Assembly Member Rob Bonta, authorizes infrastructure financing districts to finance facilities related to providing high-speed internet services.
At this point, the fact that broadband provides extraordinary economic development benefits is common knowledge. However, communities have very little say in the level of broadband services they receive. AB 2292 would give local agencies a valuable mechanism by which they could literally lay the groundwork for improved service and give communities more flexibility in the realm of this important utility.
Furthermore, IFDs specifically are a very good match for financing broadband facilities. The statutory language authorizing the creation of IFDs requires that they provide a benefit outside of the immediate area; the general and rippling benefits of broadband would do just that.
Utility User Taxes
AB 1717 (Perea) – Support
Chapter No. 885, Statutes of 2014
AB 1717, by Assembly Member Henry Perea, creates a point-of-sale system for collecting state and local charges on prepaid wireless.
Wireless customers who are billed at home pay and are given an exact accounting of their locally approved taxes and state charges that support 9-1-1 and other services. Prepaid customers currently do not pay these charges, not because they don’t owe them, but because the law does not currently contemplate how to charge them. Instead, counties and cities lose out on tax money approved by voters and the state has been making wireless carriers pay in place of their customers.
AB 1717 implements a new system so that these customers can pay the taxes and other charges they have escaped to this point.
SB 1230 (Committee on Governance and Finance) – Support
Chapter No. 19, Statutes of 2014
SB 1231 (Committee on Governance and Finance) – Support
Chapter No. 224, Statutes of 2014
SB 1232 (Committee on Governance and Finance) – Support
Chapter No. 225, Statutes of 2014
SB 1230, SB 1231, and SB 1232, by Senate Governance and Finance Committee retroactively cure the minor errors and omissions that public officials sometimes make, giving investors confidence in public agencies’ securities and therefore leading to lower interest rates for state and local bonds.
The bills do not correct fraud, corruption, or unconstitutional acts, These “validating acts” are traditionally noncontroversial and receive “aye” votes from all legislators, since with their passage everyone wins.