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Sac'to Bill Lets Cities Avoid 75 Word Ballot Summary, Instead Tell Voters To "See Voter Guide" For Taxpayer-Impacting Details Of Ballot Measures Seeking To Impose/Increase Multi-Level Taxes Or Property-Tax Raising Debt-Bonds; LB Council Silently Lets Mayor Garcia Support It; LB Area Sac'to Lawmakers All Vote For It; If Gov. Newsom Signs It, It'll Apply To 2020 Elections


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(Sept. 15, 2019, 10:10 a.m.) -- LB City Councilmembers (who set City policy) quietly let LB Mayor Robert Garcia (who doesn't have City Charter authority to set City policy) use his office to support a Sacramento bill letting local government bodies (including City Councils) tell voters to "See voter guide for tax rate information" instead of summarizing in a 75 word ballot title taxpayer impacting details of measures that seek to impose or increase taxes with more than one rate or approve debt-bonds that would increase property taxes.

SB 268, advanced by state Senator Scott Wiener (D, SF) and Assemblyman Mark Stone (D, Santa Cruz) was opposed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the CA Taxpayers Association. It was supported by the Mayors of Sacramento, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and Riverside and various groups (listed below in a Sept. 9 state legislative analysis.) LB-area state Senators Lena Gonzalez (D, LB-SE LA County) and Tom Umberg (D, SE LB-west OC), Assemblyman O'Donnell (D, LB) all voted for SB 268.

A copy of the letter voicing Mayor Garcia's support (either a separate letter or a co-signed letter) wasn't immediately available on the City's website. A Saturday evening (Sept. 14) email to Garcia's new Chief of Staff Diana Tang requesting a copy of his support letter is pending.

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On June 19, 2019, veteran Sacramento journalist Dan Walters (formerly SacBee columnist) wrote in a CalMatters) commentary titled "Bill Reduces Ballot Measure Transparency" (at this link:

Last week, Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, did a "gut-and-amend" maneuver on one of his bills, Senate Bill 268. The measure, which had dealt with welfare benefits and already had passed the Senate, was stripped of its contents and a new bill was inserted.

It would allow local officials to remove the required information about tax consequences from the ballot summary that voters read before casting their votes and place it, instead, in the voter pamphlet or another separate statement, where it would get much less attention.

Moreover, the bill declares, "Failure to comply with this chapter shall not affect the validity of any bond issue following the sale and delivery of the bonds," which basically lets local officials entirely off the hook.

SB 268 is just what local officialdom wants -- a new law that purports to give voters vital information about tax and bond measures but ensures that the data will be buried in official paperwork and that failure to provide it won't be penalized.

A Wiener spokesman, however, said the senatorís motive is :to make it clear what they (voters) are voting on," asserting that the 75-word limit on ballot summaries isn't enough space to adequately explain tax consequences of ballot measures and thus voters might reject taxes and bonds they otherwise would support. "A 75-word limit confuses voters," he said.

That rationale parrots what local officials have been saying...

Sponsor

Sponsor

Roughly a week later, Senator Wiener distributed a flier on SB 268 describing it as increasing transparency, reducing voter confusion and listing Mayor Garcia as among its supporters.

A Sept. 12 state legislative analysis described Senator Wiener's arguments as follows:

According to the author, SB 268 fixes a problem with ballot label requirements that were enacted a few years ago, and that fail to take into account the variable rates of local bond measures and the multiple rate categories of local tiered-rate taxes. Under the current law, the ballot label must include the rate, duration, and annual tax revenue. Thatís a reasonable requirement if you are enacting a flat-rate tax, such as a sales tax, but local taxation is often more complicated. In the cases of tiered-rate taxes and bonds, there are several unintended consequences that simply must be addressed for local taxation to function properly.

With the new ballot label requirements in current law, many existing tiered-rate taxes cannot be renewed because the ballot label, limited to 75 words for the efficient administration of elections, cannot accommodate all the rates that would apply. Tiered rates are smart tax mechanisms that help ensure those most able to pay the tax pay their fair share, while providing lower rates to others such as homeowners, low income senior and disabled persons, agricultural lands, or other properties supporting enterprise zones or greenspace. Also difficult to describe in the 75-word ballot label, are bonds secured by parcel taxes which have tax rates that vary over time. These bonds are a primary funding mechanism for the construction of schools, fire stations, hospitals, flood protection projects, roads, and other vital public infrastructure. Attempting to comply with the ballot label requirements, local jurisdictions have to make up what they think bond repayment rates will be 5, 10, even 20 years from now. They will never get that right, and forcing them to pretend they will, is misleading and just plain wrong.

Providing voters inaccurate information using confusing terms like "assessed value" without room for explanation, results in voter confusion. That's the opposite of transparency. Local agencies are not able to place critical measures for public safety and education infrastructure on the ballot when polling shows voter confusion would result in failure of the measure.

SB 268 will provide an option for local jurisdictions proposing a bond or a tax with more than one rate to choose to comply with the current ballot label rules or with a new transparency requirement that smartly tells voters in the ballot label, "See voter guide for tax rate information." The SB 268 option also would require an explanation in the voter guide of the factors that could change the tax amount over time, as well as all the other information required under current law.

SB 268 will provide real transparency, not voter confusion that is suppressing support for local tax measures and preventing them from getting the supermajority voter approval required to pass these measures.

Sponsor

Sponsor

The Sept. 12 state Senate legislative analysis listed SB 268's supporters (as of Sept. 9) as follows:

SUPPORT: (Verified 9/9/19)

AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Council 57
Asian Americans for Community Involvement
Asian Law Alliance
Association of California Healthcare Districts
California Professional Firefighters
California Special Districts Association
California State Association of Counties
California State Council of SEIU
California Teachers Association
California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP
Coalition for Adequate School Housing
Community College Facility Coalition
Community College League of California
Compton Unified School District
County of Santa Cruz
La Raza Roundtable de California
Mayor Darrell Steinberg, City of Sacramento
Mayor Eric Garcetti, City of Los Angeles
Mayor Libby Schaaf, City of Oakland
Mayor London Breed, City & County of San Francisco
Mayor Robert Garcia, City of Long Beach
Mayor Rusty Bailey, City of Riverside
Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California
San Diego Housing Federation
Santa Ana Unified School District
School Energy Coalition
Silicon Valley at Home
Small School Districts Association
State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO
Urban Counties of California
Valley Water

Sponsor


SB 268 doesn't appear to apply to LB's Mayor/Council-sought permanent extension of LB's Measure A sales tax (a single level tax), but it COULD apply to a still publicly-secretive ballot measure -- for which Councilman Rex Richardson has raised over $200,000 for "affordable housing" (LBRPEORT.com coverage here-- IF he ultimately rolls the measure out as some type of multi-level tax or a debt-bond that would raise property taxes (either one of which a City Council majority could put on the November 2020 ballot.)

SB 268 marks at least the second time LB's current Councilmembers have let Mayor Garcia use his City Hall office to take a policy position on pending Sacramento legislation without public discussion in any Council committee or voted approval by LB's policy-setting City Council. City Clerk records show the Council's "state legislation committee," chaired by Councilman Al Austin, held no meetings in 2019.

As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, the Council let Mayor Garcia tell Sacramento lawmakers in 2017 that LB favored inclusion in a proposed 4 a.m. bar closure bill (also authored by Senator Wiener.) The bar closure bill, supported by downtown LB business interests, was vetoed by Governor Brown (2018), reintroduced by Senator Wiener and recently failed passage (SB 58, pared down to 3 a.m.) in the Assembly. LBREPORT.com coverage here)



Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.


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