Friday, August 16, 2013 The CSAC Bulletin
Gut-and-Amend Takes Counties Out of the Action
It is that time of year in Sacramento. Four weeks are left in the legislative session, and that means it’s time for “gut-and-amend bills” -  entire contents of bills are stripped out of legislation and replaced with new content that often has nothing to do with the original language and usually engenders controversy. One such gut-and-amend, if passed, would silence the voice of local governments on vital statewide issues.

Senate Bill 594, by Senator Jerry Hill, a gut-and-amend bill about a week old, would place significant new restrictions on nonprofit organizations that receive public funds and participate in campaign activities. It broadly expands definitions of public resources, expenditures, and contributions in a manner that would effectively preclude CSAC and similar organizations from participating, financially or otherwise, in ballot measure campaigns. Because county supervisors serve as our Officers, Executive Committee members, and Board of Directors members, their participation in CSAC is also caught up in these restrictions.

So why is CSAC being targeted in this bill? Because the proponents are worried that CSAC and other agencies might decide to expend non-public funds to advocate on behalf of local government! CSAC uses great discretion before we jump into political waters, but when we do, it’s important.

For example, CSAC advocated on behalf of Proposition 1A, protecting counties from property tax raids and unfunded state mandates – a huge win and a protection that some in state government would love to roll back. CSAC also fought for pension reform and won. That didn’t set well with some unions who are now proponents of this bill. We also recently supported Proposition 30, securing funding for schools and public safety, but that was a bitter pill for the other main proponent of the bill – the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

SB 594 would stifle local government’s voice. That is why we are joined in opposition by the California State Sheriffs’ Association, California District Attorneys Association, League of California Cities, California Special Districts Association, and many more similarly situated associations. All would be silenced by this bill.

Proponents of the bill have asserted that CSAC and organizations like ours are inappropriately expending public funds for political campaigns. Nothing could be further from the truth. CSAC receives funds from both public and private sources to conduct its business. We receive about 37 percent of our budget from dues and the remainder comes from a variety of sources, including fees for services, rents, and the like – funds that our organization receives as a result of providing goods and services. These funds are accounted for separately, considered non-public, and available for expenditure on ballot measure campaigns should the CSAC’s Board of Directors so decide.

CSAC has in fact scrupulously complied with all existing state and federal tax and campaign laws and consistently discloses its campaign contributions just as other compliant nonprofit organizations do. In fact, in 2009, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) investigated complaints against CSAC and other local agency associations about our use of funds in campaigns and found no evidence that CSAC and those associations had violated the Political Reform Act.

We reject the assertion that we have evaded the law when it comes to our involvement in ballot measure campaigns. And, frankly, it is offensive that this bill is being pushed forward at the last days of the legislative session under false assumptions that only serve to meet the political needs of a chosen few.

SB 594 was heard this week by the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee and Assembly Judiciary Committee where it received no “no” votes. It now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for hearing.

County Supervisors should contact their Senators and Assembly Members immediately and urge them to vote “NO” on SB 594.