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Senate Election Committee Passes SCA 7-Wolk
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June 19, 2013

FROM:            Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
                        Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist
RE:                 News From the Capitol
Yesterday afternoon the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee passed SCA 7 by Senator Lois Wolk, which seeks to lower the current two-thirds voter threshold for local library construction bonds and special taxes to 55%. In her opening remarks, Senator Wolk highlighted the “strong support for the measure from all over the state,” which was reflected in the hundreds of letters in support of SCA 7 notated in the committee analysis. CLA testified in support of the bill, indicating that the state is not likely to put a major infrastructure bond on the ballot for libraries any time soon, yet the construction need continues to compound. Similarly, a 55% vote for special taxes locally could assist libraries who continue to face cutbacks and diminished hours, particularly in light of the deep reductions that the state has made to public library programs. 
Also testifying in support of the measure was Alan Smith, Contra Costa Library Commissioner; Jeffrey Rubin, member of the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library, the California Labor Federation, CSAC, the League of Cities, and lobbyists representing Berkeley, Burbank and Pasadena, and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Business and taxpayers groups, including Cal Tax, the Chamber of Commerce, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Business Properties Association testified against the measure. 
In her closing remarks, Senator Wolk stated, “Libraries have always been the repository of who we are and where we are going. They should be available to all of us…”
The Chairwoman, Senator Norma Torres, was an Assemblymember until a few weeks ago and recently won a special election for a vacant Senate seat. In assuming her new role as Chair of Senate Elections, one of the challenges was trying to determine how she would address yesterday’s hearing agenda which contained 4 different 55% measures (including SCA 7), that seek to lower the vote threshold for various purposes. When it was time to vote, the Chair said, “Today the committee is going to consider 4 constitutional amendments. Each are very important and have huge policy questions associated with them. They deserve the full consideration of the Senate. If they pass out of committee today, they will go to the Senate Rules Committee and we can then have a better understanding of the implication of all of them.” With that statement, the bills passed out on a vote of 3 “ayes” to 0 “noes,” with the Chair abstaining and Republican Joel Anderson absent. 
On Saturday, as part of the Assembly Floor proceedings on the Budget, ACA 8 by Assemblyman Blumenfield (CLA “supports”) passed on a super-majority vote with Democrats voting “aye” and Republicans voting “no.” ACA 8 would lower the voter threshold for local construction bonds for all purposes (e.g. sewers, libraries, roads) to 55%. In his Floor statement, Assemblyman Blumenfield called the current infrastructure “too old and inadequate to support the growth of the state. State bonds can’t be a replacement for the tremendous need.” Like SCA 7 and the other Senate measures, ACA 8 will now likely be held in the Senate Rules Committee where a larger discussion about a combined legislative package will commence in early 2014.