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SENATOR DODD’S MEASURE TO LOWER VOTE THRESHOLD FOR LIBRARY BONDS PASSES FIRST COMMITTEE
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March 29, 2017

 

TO:                  CLA MEMBERS/ SYSTEMS/ NETWORK CONTACTS

FROM:           Mike Dillon and Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyists

RE:                 News From the Capitol

 

SENATOR DODD’S MEASURE TO LOWER VOTE THRESHOLD FOR LIBRARY BONDS PASSES FIRST COMMITTEE

Former Senator Lois Wolk attends hearing to lend her support

Today the Senate Governance and Finance Committee heard and passed CLA’s sponsored measure, SCA 3 by Senator Bill Dodd, which seeks to lower the local voter threshold for library construction bonds from the current two-thirds vote to 55%.  Senator Dodd (D-Napa) introduced his measure and called public libraries “vital and vitally important to our communities.”  He argued that “local library jurisdictions are willing to go to the voters with local financing measures, and local library officials believe, as do I, that local library bonds should have the same voter threshold as school bonds….55%.  In many ways, our local public libraries are extensions of our public school system.  SCA 3 would simply ask the voters if they agree that local library bonds should be treated the same as school bonds.  I believe that’s a fair question to ask of our voters.” 

The mood in the room was friendly, with the appearance of the former Chair of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, Senator Lois Wolk. While Senator Wolk was recently termed out of office, she nonetheless felt it was important to support Senator Dodd and the goal of SCA 3 at today’s hearing.  (Of note, Senator Wolk was the 2016 recipient of CLA’s “Outstanding Legislative Achievement Award” for her work on behalf of libraries, including authoring SCA 7 in 2013, a measure similar to Senator Dodd’s SCA 3.)

Senator Wolk testified, calling SCA 3 “long overdue.”  She said that it was essential to “understand what libraries are.  They are community centers.  They are safe community places for teens, tweens, seniors, and toddlers.”  She noted that the last statewide construction bond was passed by the voters in 2000.  At that time, then Assemblywoman Wolk sat on the board that distributed the library bond grant funds.  She called it “one of the greatest experiences I have had,” but she also acknowledged that because there was only $350 million to give to libraries, it was also a frustrating situation knowing how much total need was out there. 

Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon said that Napa County had “made the issue of increased library funding for facilities and operations a priority in our 2017 legislative platform.”  She highlighted the popularity of the current library in American Canyon and how it was “bursting at the seams,” and stated that a larger facility would be desirable.  Finally, Supervisor Dillon said that the nexus between schools and public libraries was very focused in Napa, as the student ID card also serves as the Napa County library card, and suggested that it is important to keep school libraries and public libraries “on equal pairing.”

Approximately a dozen supporters, including SEIU, representatives from Yolo County, Sonoma County, the California Public Library Advocates, and the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors also expressed their support for SCA 3. The only opposition to the measure came from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Senator Hertzberg, a member of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, said that he “had the opportunity to work with Dr. Kevin Starr on the 2000 bond.  [Starr] understood the importance of these institutions.  Libraries are changing from just books and such…They are critical.  As we urbanize more, there are less town squares.  Libraries are pretty critical.”  Senator Hertzberg then asked to be added as a co-author.

The measure passed on a 5 to 2 party-line vote.  (Ayes:  Chairman McGuire, Beall, Hernandez, Hertzberg, and Lara.   Noes:  Vice Chair Nguyen and Moorlach.)

The bill will now head to the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee where it will be debated next.  Once the date has been set for that hearing we will provide you with instructions on how to write to the members of that policy committee.

Thanks to all of you who wrote letters or came to Sacramento today to testify.