May 15, 2013
TO: CLA MEMBERS/ SYSTEMS/ NETWORK CONTACTS
FROM: Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist
RE: News From the Capitol
SCA 7-WOLK PASSES FIRST COMMITTEE
Thank you to library community for support letters
Shortly after noon today, SCA 7 by Senator Lois Wolk passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on a straight partisan vote (all Democrat members voting “aye” and the two Republican members voting “no.”) SCA 7 would authorize the lowering of the local vote threshold from two-thirds to 55% for cities, counties, or library districts to issue construction bonds or levy special taxes for library operations. If passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, as a constitutional amendment, it would need to be passed by the voters on the November 2014 statewide ballot.
Today’s committee agenda for Senate Governance and Finance contained 6 constitutional amendments, (including Senator Wolk’s), which each seek to lower the local vote threshold for various purposes including transportation projects, special taxes, education, and others. To give all of the measures a fair and thorough hearing, Senator Wolk, who also Chairs the Committee, scheduled all of the related constitutional amendments for a “special order” commencing at 10:30 a.m. In her overview remarks Senator Wolk stated that the discussion about many of the measures would, undoubtedly, center around Proposition 13, but she said that it would be unrealistic to “suggest that the 35 year old law is perfect.” She said that Proposition 13 ultimately “shifted the financing of key public resources to more unstable options….These measures will increase local flexibility and advance the Governor’s concept of subsidiarity, which brings services closest to the people.” Finally, she closed by asking if an “initiative approved by parents and grandparents should bind voters today. They should have their say.”
After all of the authors had presented their measures (which each similarly passed on a straight partisan vote), Senator Wolk took up her SCA 7. During her presentation, Senator Wolk stressed the importance of libraries to our communities, saying that they “aren’t our traditional libraries anymore. They are offering a host of important services from literacy training to resume building classes, to students who use the after-school online tutoring programs.” Mike Dillon testified on behalf of CLA, noting that the year 2000 marked the last time there was a statewide bond approved by the voters and it quickly was exhausted due to the overwhelming infrastructure need of communities. He explained that it was important to give local governments and local voters the ability to make choices for their communities, such as bond construction, or helping to alleviate some of the drastic cuts that were made to library programs in the state Budget, by levying a local tax for library operations.
Patty Wong, the Yolo County Library Director, member of CLA’s Legislative Committee, and former recipient of Senator Wolk’s “Woman of the Year” award, indicated that the measure had the full support of the Yolo County Supervisors and was much needed for her county. In terms of construction needs, she noted a $5-8 million need over the next 10-12 years and added that the patron satisfaction ratings are “beyond high and we have more people than we can possibly serve. We are the most reliable source for broadband. We are the people’s university and their small business center, and their home away from home.”
Also testifying in support of the measure were two representatives of the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library, the California State Association of Counties, the lobbyist for the cities of Pasadena and Burbank, Alan Smith Contra Costa Library Commissioner - also representing the California Public Library Advocates (formerly CALTAC), the League of Cities, the California Labor Federation, and lobbyists for Santa Clara County and the City of San Jose. CLA members are to be commended for their strong outpouring of letters of support for this measure, which was represented in the lengthy list in the committee analysis. (Please see the link to the analysis for SCA 7
to view the full, impressive grouping.)
The SCA measures were not without opposition, with a group of business interests from the Chamber of Commerce to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, to the realtor and apartment association groups and Farm Bureau, asking the members of the committee to oppose each SCA, based on the “state’s current high tax burden” and various other arguments.
SCA 7 subsequently passed out of committee on a partisan vote, as mentioned. All of the bills are now double-referred to the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, but because they are constitutional amendments, they do not subscribe to the same timeline as a standard bill. They can be taken up this year or early next year. Once SCA 7 is officially assigned to the next policy committee, we will send you the contact information for those Senators and we will be asking you to write letters of support again.