Key Milestones Ahead in 2012 Legislative Session
Although we’ve passed the halfway mark in the 2012 Legislative Session according to the calendar, things are really just starting to heat up. The lobbying action will intensify through the summer until Sept. 30, the last day that Gov. Jerry Brown can sign or veto bills. League lobbyists are in the Capitol testifying, seeking amendments, attending negotiation meetings, writing letters and taking other actions to protect city interests, but at times they will need city officials to help.
The League’s advocacy efforts comprise every city official throughout the state as well as our lobbyists here in Sacramento. Our advocacy strategy relies on engaging both in the Capitol and at the grassroots level.
While 2011 presented significant challenges for California cities, it’s helpful to take the long view: The League has been working to protect and advance municipal interests since 1898. Working together, we have achieved many successes and overcome numerous setbacks over the past 114 years. There is strength in numbers, and the League’s strength comes from its member cities and local officials’ willingness to participate in the legislative process on behalf of their communities.
The May Revise
This month Gov. Brown releases his May revision to the state budget, also known as the “May Revise.” While the governor’s initial budget released in January did not contain a significant proposal affecting city revenue, cities must remain vigilant. State budget politics have created some unpredictable factors. The governor’s budget relies on a combination of cuts and passing one of two revenue-raising ballot measures in November. Democrats have balked at making some of the proposed cuts for education and social services, but without cuts it’s unclear how the deficit will be closed. Even if the governor’s revenue measure passes, that alone will not balance the budget. Pressure to reach an agreement will also come from Proposition 25, which requires legislators to forfeit their pay if a budget is not passed by the June 15 constitutional deadline. State Controller John Chiang docked legislators’ pay last year when they passed a budget that he deemed unbalanced. Legislative leaders are suing Chiang over whether he has the authority to independently determine whether a budget is balanced. So cities should pay careful attention to the May Revise and the budget process as it unfolds.
Take Action: Your Voice Makes a Difference
This is the second year of the two-year legislative cycle. The Legislature will be addressing not only bills that have been introduced since Jan. 4, but also bills introduced in 2011, known as two-year bills.
One of the most critical periods for legislative action is between now and the first week of July, when legislative committees analyze and debate thousands of bills, and the League takes actions on bills of statewide interest to cities.
You can help by writing letters, making phone calls and communicating to your legislator exactly how these bills will affect your city. Lobbying efforts are most effective when cities tell their unique stories. Be sure to follow CA Cities Advocate, the League’s electronic newsletter that publishes multiple times a week to keep members informed on the latest developments in the Capitol. Stay in regular contact with your regional public affairs manager, who will be sending out action alerts on legislation that the League needs your help in lobbying. The newly redesigned League website (www.cacities.org) has a Member Toolbox feature, where you can access the League’s bill search database to track the League’s position on bills and locate sample letters that you can use to contact your legislators on key legislation. The Take Action tab lets you send a position letter to your legislator directly from the League website.
August Scramble, September Crunch
The extremely busy last month of the session starts Aug. 6, when the Legislature returns from recess, and culminates Aug. 31 when the session ends. During these critical periods, League lobbyists work the halls and offices of the Capitol around the clock. We’ll ask you to call and write your legislators to explain the action they should take on legislation important to cities.
In September, even though the Legislature is officially done with its work, the lobbying effort is not over. The League will continue to advocate to the governor to sign and veto legislation that must be decided by Sept. 30. It’s imperative that the governor hear from cities about the real-life implications of legislation passed by the Legislature. The League will provide sample letters on its website that you can personalize to tell your city’s story to the governor as we make a case for each bill on his desk affecting cities.
Join us in our efforts to make California cities better places to live, work and play. For more information, visit www.cacities.org.