June 3, 2011
TO: CLA MEMBERS/ SYSTEMS/ NETWORK CONTACTS
FROM: Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist
RE: News From the Capitol
Library “Outsourcing” Bill Passes Assembly Floor After Lengthy Debate
Shortly before noon today, AB 438 by Assemblymember Das Williams (outsourcing of library services) passed the Assembly Floor with the bare minimum amount of votes needed for passage – 41 “ayes” and 25 “noes,” on a mostly party-line vote.
Yesterday we reported that AB 438 had been substantially amended on June 1, to include new amendments pertaining to contract requirements and disclosure provisions. As a result, yesterday afternoon, the Assembly Local Government Committee held a hearing off the floor to discuss the extensive new amendments, and AB 438 was ultimately voted out of committee on a strict party-line vote of six Democrat members voting “aye” and three Republican members voting “no.” Testifying in support of the measure was the lobbyist for the SEIU, with the opposition testimony led by the lobbyist for the League of California Cities. Several individual city lobbyists, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and LSSI also testified briefly in opposition. CLA attended, but did not testify at the hearing, as CLA currently has a “watch” position on AB 438 to respect the concerns of both sides of the membership on this controversial matter.
This morning, the bill faced an early partisan hurdle when, during a procedural motion on the Assembly Floor, Republicans objected to the Democrat leadership requests to “waive the 3 day rule” for a bill to be noticed on the Daily File, so that AB 438 could be taken up today. At first, the motion did not have sufficient votes for passage and remained on call for over an hour and a half. Ultimately, though the motion was approved and Assemblyman Williams was able to take his measure up on the Floor as one of the last items of the day’s session.
Assemblyman Williams opened on the bill, and in a light-hearted nod to the controversy the bill has engendered said, “I bring before you just a little innocuous bill about libraries.” He noted that the June 1 amendments reflect the same kind of contracting out protections that are currently in the Education Code for schools, such as a “fair cost analysis, competitive bidding, identifying the savings to the taxpayers, no job displacement, etc.”
At one point during the debate, two Assemblymembers – Susan Bonilla, the Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, who has been a champion for libraries and literacy programs, and Ben Hueso, a member of the Assembly Local Government Committee, indicated that they will be seeking particular amendments on the Senate side and they pledged to work with Assemblyman Williams.
Assemblywoman Bonilla rose in support and said that she greatly respected local government autonomy. “When I think about the public library system, in this country we used to make people pay for cards and services. Poor people were denied library services. We work very hard to create a free and open system and we need to be careful.” She went on to say that while she felt that the bill “contained very reasonable protections,” she will be working with the author on amendments to state that if a library does not currently receive state funds, then they would be exempt from the measure’s provisions.
Assemblyman Ben Hueso said that he had been working very hard with the author on the measure, but still had a concern about the “30 day out clause.” Mr. Hueso stated that he will be seeking an amendment on the Senate side to add a “failure to perform with the 30-day out clause.”
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, the author of the Public Library Foundation legislation said, “Since I arrived here in the legislature, I have considered myself a steward and an advocate of libraries. Folks, they are in trouble. This bill impedes their ability to contract out and ties the hands of local government. This is an ‘in the face’ to local governments to say ‘we don’t trust you.’” Several other Republican members referred to the bill as the “camel’s nose under the tent” and the start of poor precedent for all other local government contracts, while others wondered if the bill would have the unintended consequence of shuttering struggling libraries.
At the end of the lengthy discussion, Assemblyman Williams prevailed with the bare minimum needed to secure passage on his measure. The bill passed with 41 “aye” votes (all Democrats) and 25 “noes” (all Republicans plus Assemblyman Rich Gordon, a Democrat). The bill will now head to the Senate, where it will be assigned to a policy committee in the next week or so.
Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg has, in so many words, stated that if Republicans in the Legislature refuse to allow voters to vote on the Governor’s proposed tax extension package, then schools and counties should be given local revenue raising authority. Accordingly, SB 653 by Senator Steinberg, as amended May 31st, would authorize a county, community college district, or county office of education to levy or increase by a majority vote, local personal income taxes, sales taxes, vehicle license fees, oil severance taxes, or impose an excise tax on alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, sweetened beverages, and medical marijuana. The bill, which was passed by the policy committee on a bipartisan vote is heavily opposed by business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, who would much prefer the Governor’s tax extensions package be adopted over SB 653.
Yesterday, as the Senate was about to take up SB 653 for a much anticipated debate on the Senate Floor, Senator Steinberg stated: “One of the most significant bills to be passed out (of the Senate) by today’s deadline is SB 653.” The pro Tem argued that the current two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes is a barrier, and he stressed that it was his over-arching goal to protect education, health, and public safety by providing more revenue options. However, he added, “I wanted to reach an agreement on the Governor’s tax extensions. If we are able to reach an agreement in a week, we will not move the bill. I will continue the Budget negotiations and hope to reach an agreement next week”
However, in the event Budget negotiations were to fail, Senator Steinberg announced that he was amending the contents of SB 653 into one of the “Special Session” Trailer Bills, SB 23(X), that, as a “Special Session” bill, will not be required to meet today’s deadline for regular Session bills to pass their House of Origin. As a side note, we have learned over the years not to become too optimistic about the Legislature meeting the Budget deadlines on time.
Senator Blakeslee Expresses Republican Concerns
The current composition of the Senate is 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. As the Senate was about to adjourn around 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, Senator Sam Blakeslee rose to speak “on condition of the file,” a procedure that enables a Senator to speak to an issue not related to a bill.
Senator Blakeslee commended the body for its accomplishment in passing close to 100 of the 151 bills scheduled for debate. However, the Senator continued, “of the 151 bills on file today, only 6 had Republican authors, and by contrast, 12 bills were carried by one Democrat alone.”
He went on to say that next week there would be discussions about the Budget and a potential election to extend taxes but implied that, “there could be strong feelings as we discuss things when almost 40% of the Senate are Republicans, yet only 4% of Republican bills were allowed to come to the Floor.”